Readersforum's Blog

September 11, 2011

All Hail the African Renaissance: The Storymoja Hay Festival with the British Council in Nairobi

  Ellah Allfrey celebrates the recent explosion in the continent’s populist  novels, from chick-lit to science fiction.

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Next week the Hay Festival will be in Nairobi for the third annual Storymoja Hay Festival with the British Council. The successful extension of the Hay brand to Africa marks an interesting development in what has generally been a good decade for writers from the continent, but it has left me wondering what it means to be an “African writer”, and how the readers and the industry are responding to their success.

A recent article claimed that “Africa has replaced Scandinavia as the ‘capital of Crime’”, pointing to an explosion of crime fiction including Mukoma wa Ngugi’s debut, Nairobi Heat. Ishmael Fofona, his detective, may not as yet have taken over from Kurt Wallander in our affections, but I’m hoping it’s only a matter of time.

Crime is not the only genre that seems to be thriving. There is some science fiction being written (in the Gambian author Biram Mboob’s Harabella, for example, the whole of Africa is colonised by China) and even some chick-lit, with Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. Everywhere new authors are breaking free of the burdensome label “African writers” and for the first time there is a decent body of genre writing not only set in Africa, but written by Africans.

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