We could not possibly know and cover the thousands of brilliant literary spaces thriving in various countries on the continent and in the diaspora. By highlighting this short list, perhaps we can learn of more when readers engage. Here are some of the best sources for all things literature, black and African. All Images sourced from the subjects.
An excellent resource which archives literary news, events and provides a record for the publishing world, readers and writers alike. For a young magazine, Open Country have established themselves with featured interviews of leading African writers and black writers globally.
The first four covers featured Tsisi Dangaremba, Maaza Mengiste, Teju Cole and Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie. Open Country has put the building of literary networks on the continent at the top of its agenda by doing rather than talking. They regularly feature news and articles to publicise other literary magazines including 'Doek!' or 'Lolwe'.
This is the place to start for your literary bearings: who has filed a piece, who has recently published, who has been recognised with an award or which events are coming up. James Murua's space provides a comprehensive outline of what is happening in publishing and the world of books. At James Murua the focus is on African writing and black literature. Never miss a submission deadline again. Bookmark this page, read it first thing and let the day begin !
"A story happened here." This is how the Namibian literary magazine announced its first issue in August 2019. Doek Literary Magazine has built its audience and gained recognition, making it one of the mainstays of the literary culture in Africa. Issue 6 was released in July 2021 and the future is bright. Doek is wholeheartedly dedicated to promoting Namibian writers first, or writers living in Namibia, creating the space for all to be represented. Have other countries followed yet? Founded by the Rwandan-born Namibian writer Remy Ngamije, Doek publishes powerful, readable pieces which invariably grow as stories or other forms of art readers meet years later. 'The Eternal Audience of Once' is a prime example.
The Kwani space appears to be less active these days but we include them for their achievements in launching a successful literary magazine, hosting various literary events in Nairobi, and providing the spark for the writing careers of many authors and poetry enthusiasts. Books like 'Kintu' by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi were first published in Kwani. The record of Kwani's work stands for itself.
Kwani's publishing was ground breaking, fresh and uninhibited by old norms and led them to publish magazines which are now collectors items. Kwani's literary series introduced us to the possibilities open if we stopped following others and admiring in confusion, but invest instead in finding our own path and ourselves. Kwani gave us what a Granta subscription 'looking in' could not ! Look at those covers !
Founded by Troy Onyango, Lolwe is one of the best Literary magizines to emerge from Kenya recently. Most readers regularly visit the clutter-free literary pages of Lolwe Literary for photography, a short story, a poem, essays and many other forms of writing in the short format. Lolwe is one of the best blogs for the African literary professionals and enthusiasts.
Instead of reading constant news and gossip, head to Lolwe for well thought out pieces, original writing and high quality editing by the team. A large number of debut novelist and poets have been published at Lolwe first.
Brittle Paper is an online literary magazine with news features of upcoming events, books and what people of African letters are talking about. Known for their catalogues and commentary, Brittle has recently released a much read review of the most anticipated books for 2022 in African literature. Their pieces through their newsletter are shared widely on social media given Brittle Paper a central voice in the literary world.
Brittle Paper's database of African novel reviews is a benchmark for lesser known works. The reviews database covers the period 1900 by decade to 2010. There is no need to always chase the newly released books which will suit readers who shy away from bestsellers and the runaway successes by sales.
In spite of the diminished freedoms of expression, the literary scene from Zimbabwe thrives with new excellent writers and poets finding a way to put black in on paper. Carnelian Heart publishing based in the UK is one of the leading publishing houses to emerge and give voice to a new generation of writers.
The distinct publishing portfolio of poetry anthologies, collections of short stories and debut novelists grows with new audiences on the continent and in the diaspora. Destined to be one of the main publishers for African writers, Carnelian Heart was founded by Samantha Rumbidzai Vazhure, author of multiple works.
Masobe books, meaning 'Let us read' have emerged as one of the leading publishing houses for fiction in Nigeria. The old challenges of representation, lack of access to publishing resources with the resulting high prices for local books compared to international imports has finally been cracked ! Masobe are part of the explosion in publishing, book clubs and higher books sales.
Ouida books have an impressive and growing catalogue of successful books. The management team includes the poet Lola Shoneyin whose hugely successful novel 'The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives' is being adapted into a screenplay. Ouida is also the home of author Nnedi Okorafor whose science fiction and magical realism book series 'Binti' was a runaway success.
Cassava Republic were founded in Abuja and have a UK base. Their goal is to change African writing by taking control of publishing all stories and not just through the an external gaze. Authors who have published works with Cassava Republic include Ayesha Harruna Attah, Chigozie Obioma, Malorie Blackman and many more successful writers. Unquestionably one of the powerhouses in publishing in Nigeria.
Jahazi Press, Nuria Books, Kibanga Books
In our humble view Kenya has one of the leading literary spaces globally. Some of the best publishing houses, literary magazines and debut authors who go on to publish full volumes emerged from the Nairobi literary scene. Writers from this market go on to achieve great success, and the cycle never loses its momentum in Kenya. In this blog entry of top sources for literary news, the keen-eyed reader will notice that most of the highlighted ones are based in Kenya, perhaps because we know that market better you might suspect. But, it is simply because of the varied and level of output. Jahazi Press, Nuria Books, Kibanga Books, Soma Nami Books, Prestige Books and many others make their contribution in Kenyan publishing.
South African Publishing:
Modjaji, Xarra Books, Jacana
The South African publishing market remains the most opaque and the slowest to change with the times. New publishing brands are launched regularly but when walking around Johannesburg, Durban or Cape Town, the bookstores paint a picture that could be any city, anywhere. The books on show could be in a New York bookstore. Modjaji, Xarra and Jacana have large portfolios of books by Africans which other publishers still have to match. The stated publishers are the main source for all works of literature out of South Africa.
Collection of Publishers and Bookstores:
Mkuni Na Nyota Publishing (Tanzania), Booknook Store (Ghana), Bakwa Books (Cameroun), Book Fantastics (Zimbabwe), Book Circle Capital (South Africa)
Mkuki Na Nyota are one of the oldest publishing houses in East Africa. From their Tanzanian base, they are the standard bearer for works published in Swahili and have increased their output of English books. Their extensive archive is available through distributors globally.
The Booknook Bookstore is a central resource for local independent authors and is well-known for access to Ghanaian writing. Bookshops have a responsibility to promote their local authors whilst reading as widely as possible. Booknook are the leading books space for news on the literary scene in Accra.
Bwaka books was founded in Yaounde in 2019 to expand the presence of the Bakwa Magazine which created a space for independent writers. Bakwa's aim of promoting African writers globally also focuses on translation rights for works in French bringing them to markets in the US and UK.
Diaspora UK: Jacaranda Publishing, Afrori Books, Nataka Books, Knight.Of Publishing, New Beacon Books, Bad Form Magazine
Valery and her team at Jacaranda were the among the early entrants in to the UK publishing industry which was very much closed to anyone except those inside. Jacaranda enabled Black and African writers with other marginalised communities to find a voice on paper. Jacaranda continues to be a welcoming publisher for independent authors who portfolio has grown.
Founded by Aimee Felone, the team at Knight.Of.Media publish books through the 'Round Table Books' brand and run bookstores aimed at expanding the availability and access to books by Black authors in the UK.
Afrori Books featured prominently in the media to highlight their launch in Brighton of a space dedicated to books by African and Black writers globally. Afrori is already well-known as the oen of the leading suppliers of books for children of all ages and they are involved in promoting independent authors.
New Beacon Books is one of the earliest bookshops to open in London dedicated to books by Black writers. New Beacon holds a prominent position in their community where they host a variety of events and are the centre of the Literary world in North London.
Bad Form were launched a few years ago with the similar aim of promoting diverse books for all under represented communities. They have very quickly become the voice on new authors, new books and their book reviews are closely followed. Bad Form's review of 2021 appeared to pick the Book of The Year ahead of the industry announcement of the Costa award in 2022. They are not 'Bad Form', they are 'Bad Ass' ! The future of publishing in the UK is bright.
Nataka Books was formed to promote African books globally. Working with other readers, writers, publishers and bookstores has allowed a wider dissemination of news about published books and anticipated literary events in various cities including Accra, Nairobi, Harare, Lagos, Johannesburg, Windhoek and London.