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Things African writers should know

There is an ongoing revolution where Africans are finally learning to place value on their reality and knowledge. This tectonic shift is being witnessed in different sectors in the continent and from Africans in the diaspora. The literary scene has not been left behind. People are starting to embrace their writers, who, for a long time, had been disregarded, writes Cynthia Mukanzi. They don’t need Western media for validation

The idea that a review by Guardian, Financial Times or New York Times makes your work more credible is rubbish. Western media does not add value to your literary expression. Seeking this form of validity downplays your ability. If they want to call you for interviews and review your book, then that is okay. But it should not be a fixation as a selling point.

2. We want to read, but books are expensive

There is a rising wave of reading culture, with an interest in African literature or literary compositions by African authors but we just can’t afford to do it as much as we would love to. Books written by African writers are the most expensive in bookstores and so people opt for Western authors.

The latter are cheap and can also be easily picked up even on the streets. This is crippling African writer’s attempts to break out. Having said that, we still try to buy a few copies every now and then.

3. Western writers have nothing on you

Just because people read a lot of Western books doesn’t mean that they are better than you. These books float around in plenty because they are easily accessible and cheap. See my point above. You offer so much more and we are here for all of it.

4. For film adaptations, Africa has the talent

If your story is based on an African context and you intend to make a film adaptation out of it, there is more than enough and sizzling prowess in the continent’s film industry. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s film creation of her book Half of A yellow Sun was such a disappointment.

The main roles were handed out to African Americans yet Nigeria has some of the best thespians. Renowned Nigerian actress Genevieve Nnaji was slapped with a negligible role that was inconsequential to her already mature career.

5. We see you

There is an amazing growth in the number of writers with substance in the continent. They are stepping out of the shadows of the domination enjoyed by golden age writers such as Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and Chinua Achebe. They are attracting attention because they have the art the fingertips and have taken the lead. We notice the shimmer.

6. Create platforms for upcoming and aspiring writers

Writer and poet Mutendei Akhaya Nabutete once said in an interview with Spice that the golden age writers failed to lay a foundation for growing talent and only cared about being the best. Good things happen when you play as a team.

If possible, holding more of workshops and trainings for young writers, something which is already happening, would be a great start to an endless indomitable literary transition and growth.

7. We crave more of our stories

During and probably immediately after colonialism, most of our stories were not adequately narrated after being shamed and ridiculed for our culture that was coined “barbaric” by the white invaders.

We were brainwashed and became ashamed of our own and adopted their ways and read more of their books. We didn’t tell our stories sufficiently but that is changing because we are going back to the roots. We want to reconnect with our identity and hear more about this continent that has triumphed through so much. Write and we will read.

8. Targeting more than your country

When writing, target a bigger audience that transcends your national or regional borders. Discard provincialism and like a palette of colours, offer as much as you can for all.

9. No shame in being called an African writer

If you haven’t heard; there has been a debate over what being an “African writer” means and some people have gone out of their way to say they do not want to be labelled as such. I honestly don’t see any fault in being called an African writer. Some labels are positively powerful and why not embrace your identity while at it?

You can be an author from Africa who writes about various topics or themes that resonate with a worldwide audience. Some say they are international writers from Africa, and I’m like — okay, but Africa itself is international since it houses more than 50 countries with diverse political, social and economic dispositions. So doesn’t that count as international, or should the European countries be part of the equation to make it acceptable for you?

10. Timelessness is an open secret

The likes of Grace Ogot, Chinua Achebe and Ngugi wa Thiong’o still dominate the literary scene because their books have carried with them a sort of eternal reverence. They are incredible. Writing is an art, and any form of art should stand the test of time or seasons.

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