Jalada’s Afrofuture anthology is coming; be afraid, be very afraid

Jalada’s Afrofuture anthology: Jalada Africa has announced that their newest anthology with the “Afrofuture” theme will be unleashed on an unsuspecting public on January 2015. They have given a sneak peek of the anthology with a non-fiction piece on visual artist Wangechi Mutu and her career by Binyanvanga Wainaina.

The hottest new thing in the African prose field is Jalada Africa which has been doing amazing things with membership from across the continent. The group, which is like a Wu Tang Clan of African writers, specialises in publishing their work online where folks can access it gratis at their official website The collective has two anthologies which I loved for the most part; their erotica edition and their inaugural one earlier in the year.

Philip, It is hereThe collective announced that the next anthology shall be coming out in January next year on Thursday. The new anthology with “Afrofuture” as its theme promises to shift perceptions and to enhance realities. It will make you think a new thought and feel a new emotion. Poems and stories from an Africa no longer afraid of its imagination. A generation of young minds willing to co-create their future. It will fizzle and pop in the mind: a titillating addition to our literary landscape.” This is according to Kiprop Kimutai the fiction editor. There are many other positive noises about this new anthology that whets the appetite for the reader.

So what is “Afrofuture?” Your guess is as good as mine. I have heard it discussed in the African literary scene as the new big thing in our storytelling across the continent. To show this brave new world, our friends from Jalada decided to give an example of what the anthology will have with a non-fiction piece from Binyavanga Wainaina.

Binyavanga “shine your fucking eyes” Wainaina for those who might be living in a rock somewhere is the Caine Prize winner who set up Kwani Trust a bit over a decade ago as well as the man who long listed the Africa 39 authors. His piece is called, “Wangechi Mutu wonders why butterfly wings leave powder on the fingers, there was a coup today in Kenya.” I had a read of the piece and I have to say that I was confounded by it. It recounts the tale of Wangechi Mutu one of the most celebrated visual artists from Kenya from her childhood until she lands in the US and the growth in her career. The piece is jarring to me as it uses numbers to tell the tale. Here are number 1-5 (there are 137 numbers)

  1. We are made by our archives. Each of us is Ourselves, too.
  2. This is A Short Biography of Us Inside Wangechi Mutu.
  3. Wangechi Mutu is born. In Kenya. In a hospital run by Catholic order called Nyeri Discipline of The Blood.
  4. They are nice to babies.
  5. The first few days her parents considered calling her Susan. Anne. Ruth. An Aunt from Nyeri strongly suggested the name Purity Scholastica to sit next to Wangechi on the birth certificate. A family friend was sure Jackie Onassis Mutu would have worked much better.

While this might look clever, one has to remember my intense hatred of math. This means that to enjoy this piece I have to endure one of the topics I have tried to avoid most of my life. Even with this issue, which for me is a major one, the piece reads well. A young woman who grows up in Kenya and then moves to the US to get her space in the world of art. Now if only there was a way for me to enjoy the story of quirky Wangechi Mutu without having to deal with 137 numbers… Hmmm… Wait, I’ve read something more coherent like that before. Aha. It was a brilliant piece by Teju Cole in the Guardian that brought out the quirkiness of Mutu where I didn’t have to deal with numbers.

So the piece that has been unveiled by Jalada could either be a warning to those who want to read the next anthology or brilliant plug using one of the more well-known folks in African lit right now. It’s probably the latter but I am a bit nervous with what editor Moses Kilolo and his team will give us.

We wait with bated breath.

By James Murua

This blog is run by James Murua a Nairobi, Kenya based lover of books.

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