On April 24, 2013, the domain name of a new blog, JamesMurua.com, was registered. It was aimed at giving visibility to African writers rarely covered by the mainstream African media. At the time, a few posts written by the site’s principle blogger from 2012 were included and the project commenced.
Over the last seven years, we have endeavoured to cover literary news from a distinctly Africa-centric lens. That meant reportage on book news, launches, literary festivals, author profiles, and more. We have travelled to festivals in East, West, and Southern Africa, even crossing oceans, to give you information about what is happening in African letters. We have also set up a Literary Podcast to hear the voices of African writers and a YouTube channel where you can see the leading African writers in their element at events virtual and physical.
There have been challenges along the way. With one staffer who only speaks English and Kiswahili, it has been difficult to cover the full breadth of African writing from across the different language groups. Reportage tended to follow the English speaking side of the continent with some news from other parts. With minimal funding, only a certain amount of time could be invested in the project.
In spite of this, there have been over 2,100 posts which is a rarity in writing about African literature. The work has seen this undertaking with over 17,000 subscribers dubbed “the leading blog in African literature.”
This could not have been done without the help of all those who freely share information with us here at the blog, invite us to their readings, launches, and festivals. For this, we say thank you and we hope you continue sharing the information and invitations in the future.
The next seven years and beyond.
The death of George Floyd at the hands of murderous police in Minneapolis, USA on May 25 did not come as a shock to anyone with black skin. While #BlackLivesMatter is a mantra many of us live by, we recognise that black bodies aren’t as valued as those of other races. The same applies not just to their lives but the work they produce even in publishing. One does not have to go far to realise that globally, the black writing community has very few spaces sharing their work. Nigerian-American writer Tochi Onyebuchi said it best when he tweeted about the representation of, or rather lack of, Black voices in publishing in the USA.
“When y’all see those publishers’ and agents’ “Black Lives Matter” statements, don’t get it twisted,” said the writer.
The report being referenced by his Tweet states that in the publishing industry, Black people represent 5% of authors, 4% of literary agents, 1% of editorial, 4% of publicity, 3% of sales, and 4% of reviewers. When you consider that Black people represent 12% of that country’s total population, this is very sad to put it mildly.
Anti-Blackness in the publishing industry, by the numbers (most data pulled from our Diversity Baseline Survey, https://t.co/h4SaQ2Yos4): pic.twitter.com/KbJT6O6Az9
— Lee & Low Books (@LEEandLOW) June 3, 2020
Across the pond in the UK, Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo also decried the lack of books from Black Writers in a June 2 tweet stating, “If ‘all lives matter’, then why so few black BRITISH novels published? 10?
If ‘all lives matter’, then why so few black BRITISH novels published? 10? 2015-20? Nor do we want stereotypes or sub-par work. We are all things & everything: from Roman Londoners to mixed-race families to gay septuagenarians to 93 year old female farmers. #BlackLivesMatterUK https://t.co/EFahNUIDXc
— Bernardine Evaristo (@BernardineEvari) June 2, 2020
A report on the UK’s Diversity statistics show that Black Brits in their publishing industry was even direr than the US with only 2% representation where they are 13% of the population.
What changes are coming to JamesMurua.com?
Black is African and African is Black.
The number of spaces reporting on Black news from global writing is minimal and we must do our best to address this. This is why this blog is taking a slight shift in its focus. We shall now be reporting on African, those who represent nations on the continent, as well as Africans whatever nation they come from.
We shall not be changing the style or frequency of content. What you will notice is that there will be more news from the global black community that you haven’t seen in the past. You are likely to see literary news from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and other African continental nations mixed in with Haitian, Brazilian, UK, and US news where available.
The two challenges still plague the blog. With its principal mover still only speaking English and Kiswahili, it is difficult to follow parts of the continent and the global black diaspora. If you have information that you feel would be of interest to our audience please don’t hesitate to contact us.
With minimal funding, the project continues running on a shoestring budget. If you can, consider making donations to this project.
If you wish to be featured, see any errors, or wish to contribute to this blog, please do not hesitate to contact us.
June 4, 2020.
P.S. We aren’t the only one’s covering African literature, this is a handy link to some of the better ones.
Nairobi, Kenya based James Murua is a blogger, journalist, and podcaster who has written for a variety of media outlets in a career spanning print, web, and TV.
His online space www.jamesmurua.com , which focuses on literary news and reviews was created in 2013 and is the number one blog on African literature today. This blog was nominated for “Best Creative Writing Blog” for the 2018 Bloggers Association of Kenya Awards. He was also announced as Best Writer “Theatre, Art and Culture” at Kenya’s Sanaa Theatre Awards and listed as one of the top men in digital in Kenya in 2018.
James Murua has conducted workshops on blogging and social media in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Malawi and has been a media consultant for the Goethe Institut, Nairobi.
He was an editor for The Star newspaper in Kenya for five years and a columnist for nine where he was voted “Columnist of the Year” in 2009. He has also been a contributor to Management Magazine (Kenya), The Daily Nation (Kenya), The Nairobian (Kenya), DigifyAfrica.com (South Africa), Johannesburg Review of Books (South Africa), and Africa Independent (South Africa).
Praise for JamesMurua.com
“James Murua’s Literature Blog has become a one-stop shop for writers, agents and festival organizers looking for information on forthcoming literature happenings – and also his serious but also humorous write ups on recent events. I know this because in festivals that I attend, for example at the Ake Festival in Nigeria, his blog always comes up.
True to form, within hours of our announcing the Mabati-Kiswahili Prize for African Literature, he had spread the news. And this has set the tone for the positive embrace of the prize. I do not think there can be any serious discussion of African literature and popular critical reception without his blog coming up.
Mukoma Wa Ngugi,
Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature,
Author, Nairobi Heat, Black Star Nairobi, Mrs Shaw