We present to you the outstanding personalities, books and events for the past year in our annual JamesMurua.com Outstanding African Literary Awards 2019.
In 2016, we here at JamesMurua.com introduced the “Outstanding African Literary Awards” with a focus on the best in all categories we could imagine. We followed this up with a similar scheme in 2017 and then in 2018.
With 403 posts over the year, the most in our history, 69,000 visitors and over 150,000 page views it was a very active year for this blog. With so much content to choose from, this post attempts to summarise what happened in the past year in a light-hearted way. We now list for you our outstanding players for the year 2019. As usual, it is a snapshot of the year in African literature with us giving a subjective view of what we believe was the best. This list was done with help from others.
While we want to celebrate the best of 2019, we must recognise those who passed on and joined the literary ancestors in the past year. It was a sad year as we said goodbye to Swahili Poet Ahmad Nassir Juma Bhalo, Zimbabwe author and poet Charles Mungoshi, Nigerian writer and academic Pius Adesanmi, Cote D’Ivoire novelist, playwright, and poet Bernard Dadié, Libyan novelist Ahmed Fagih, Nigerian poet and novelist Gabriel Okara, Kenyan writer and activist Binyavanga Wainaina, US novelist, essayist, editor, and teacher Toni Morrison, South African Poet, and activist Sandile Dikeni, and Nigerian Scholar Tejumola Olaniyan. Also passing on as reported by our friends at Arablit.org are Moroccan poet and novelist Mohcine Akhrif, Algerian writer, poet and playwright Aziz Chouaki, and Egyptian critic Ibrahim Fathi.
2019 had a rich vein of form for African writing with many books in all genres imaginable with fiction, poetry to creative nonfiction, biographies and everything in between making their appearance. We cannot in one post list all of the books that came out during the year but some of these included Kinyanjui Kombani’s Of Pawns and Players, Elnathan John’s Be(com)ing Nigerian: A Guide, Mona Eltahawy’s The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls, Donald Molosi’s Dear Upright African, Ladan Osman’s poetry collection Exiles of Eden, Chief Nyamweya’s graphic novel Art of Unlearning, Richard Ali’s The Anguish and Vigilance of Things, Umar Sidi’s The Poet of Dust, Ali Hilal Ali’s Mmeza Fupa, Chege Githiora’s Sheng: Rise of a Kenyan Swahili Vernacular, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s Kenda Muiyuru, Zukiswa Wanner’s Africa (A True Book: The Seven Continents), Namwali Serpell’s debut novel The Old Drift, Tjawangwa “TJ” Dema debut poetry collection The Careless Seamstress, Temi Oh’s Do You Dream Of Terra-Two, Acan Innocent Immaculate’s The Pearl Trotters in Black, Yellow, Red, Nuruddin Farah’s North of Dawn, Lily Mabura’s new novel Remembrance, Chika Unigwe’s Better Never Than Late, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s The Whispering Trees, Toni Kan’s Nights of the Creaking Bed, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Manchester Happened, Fred Khumalo’s short story collection Talk of the Town, Helon Habila’s novel Travellers, Jumoke Verissimo’s debut novel A Small Silence, Titilope Sonuga’s poetry collection This Is How We Disappear, Lauri Kubuitsile’s newest novel Deliver Us From Evil, Billy Kahora’s short story collection The Cape Cod Bicycle War And Other Stories, Lupita Nyong’o’s debut children’s book Sulwe, Hassan Ghedi Santur’s second novel The Youth of God, Sisonke Msimang’s The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela, Maaza Mengiste‘s second novel The Shadow King, Zippy Agatha Okoth’s Oops Zippy! From The Diary of a Divorced Kenyan Woman, Mubanga Kalimamukwento’s debut novel The Mourning Bird, Ngugi: Reflections on his Life of Writing a collection of essays on Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s work, edited by Simon Gikandi and Ndirangu Wachanga, Esosa Kolawole’s Fib and the Axe of Fury, Logan February’s poetry collection In The Nude, Keletso Mopai’s short story collection If You Keep Digging, Alone and other Zambian Stories, a new anthology of short stories by Zambian writers, The Death of An Idea: Malawi Writing Today II, Marie NDiaye’s newest novel The Cheffe, Bassey Ikpi’s essay collection I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying, Makhosazana Xaba’s Our Words, Our Worlds: Writing on Black South African Women Poets, 2000-2018, Tope Folarin’s debut novel A Particular Kind of Black Man, Patrice Nganang’s novel When the Plums Are Ripe, Fred Khumalo’s The Longest March, Goethe Institut’s Water Birds on the Lakeshore, Isha Sesay’s Beneath the Tamarind Tree: A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Schoolgirls of Boko Haram, Tade Thompson’s The Rosewater Insurrection and The Rosewater Redemption, Niq Mhlongo’s first edited anthology Black Tax: Burden or Ubuntu?, Irenosen Okojie’s short story collection Nudibranch, Gerry Sikazwe’s poetry collection Words That Matter, Siphiwo Mahala’s short story collection Red Apple Dreams, Andrew Maina’s Grace Onyango: The Butterfly That Touched The Clouds, Caine Prize for African Writing celebrates 20th anniversary anthology, Dr Walter Nyamori Masiga autobiography The Old Lion of Africa, and Joe Khamisi’s The Bribery Syndrome: How Multinational Corporations Collude with Dictators to Raid Africa’s Natural Resources.
Here are our picks for 2018/19;
Southern Africa: Tjawangwa “TJ” Dema, The Careless Seamstress
West Africa: Titilope Sonuga, This Is How We Disappear.
East Africa: Ladan Osman, Exiles of Eden.
North Africa: Modern Sudanese Poetry: An Anthology (African Poetry Book)
A surprisingly good collection: Kola Tubosun, Edwardsville by Heart: Poetry Travelogue Memoir.
Anthology: Niq Mhlongo’s anthology Black Tax: Burden or Ubuntu?,
Bridecode Whistleblower book: Looters and Grabbers: 54 Years of Corruption and Plunder by the Elite, 1963-2017 .
Biography: Wairimu Nderitu, Mukami Kimathi: Mau Mau Freedom Fighter.
North Africa: Laila Lalami, The Other Americans.
East Africa: Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, The Dragonfly Sea
West Africa: Bernardine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other
Southern Africa: Namwali Serpell, The Old Drift
Diaspora: Colson Whitehead, The Nickel Boys,
Debut Novel: Remy Ngamije, Eternal Audience of One
Historical Fiction: Maaza Mengiste, The Shadow King.
Young Adult: Tomi Adeyemi, Children of Virtue and Vengeance
LBGTQ related novel: Ayodele Olofintuade, Lakiriboto Chronicles
LBGTQ related anthology: As You Like It: The Gerald Kraak Anthology Volume II
Speculative Fiction: Tade Thompson, The Rosewater Insurrection
Speculative Fiction (Young Adult): Temi Oh, Do You Dream Of Terra-Two
Short Story Collection: Keletso Mopai, If You Keep Digging
Anthology: Margaret Busby, New Daughters of Africa
Anthology (Young Adult): Zukiswa Wanner, Renee Edwige Dro and Elias Mutani’s Water Birds on the Lakeshore.
Most hyped/ Most disappointing book: Oyinkan Braithwaite, My Sister the Serial Killer.
- Morland Writing Scholarships 2019 scholars: Gloria Mwaniga Odari, Hawa Jande Golakai, Nnamdi Oguike, Parsalelo ole Kantai.
- Africa Publishing Innovation Fund 2019: Accord Literary, Cassava Republic, OkadaBooks, Positively African, Puku Foundation.
- Nommo Awards 2019: Akwaeke Emezi, Nerine Dorman, Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald, Leonardo Romero.
- ArabLit Story Prize 2019: Najwa Bin Shatwan and Sawad Hussain.
- African Writers Awards 2019: Eme Ogbu, Temani Nkalolang, Andrea B Matambo, Priscillar Matara, Marjorie Moono Simuyuni.
- Dada Gbêhanzin Literary Grand Prix 2019: Lobé Ndiaye.
- Writivism Short Story Prize 2019: Resoketswe Manenzhe.
- Koffi Addo Creative Nonfiction Prize 2019: Frances Ogamba.
- 9mobile Prize for Literature 2017: Ayobami Adebayo.
- Short Story Day Africa Prize 2018: Adam El Shalakany.
- AfriCAN Author Awards 2019: Octavia Masipa, Linda Nxumalo, Sikhulile Mtsetfwa, Ntimbwe Mpamba, Donald Molosi.
- Brunel International African Poetry Prize 2019: Nadra Mabrouk and Jamila Osman.
- Caine Prize for African Writing 2019: Lesley Nneka Arimah.
- Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry 2018: Koleka Putuma.
- Gerald Kraak Prize 2019: OluTimehin Adegbeye.
- Orange Book Award in Africa 2019: Djaïli Amadou Amal.
- Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2019: Mbozi Haimbe.
- Grand Prix des Associations Littéraires 2018: Jean-Marc Ela, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Yasmina Khadra.
- Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets 2019: Gbenga Adeoba.
- Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature 2018: Zainab Alwi Baharoon and Jacob Ngumbau Julius.
- Quramo Writers’ Prize 2019: Vivian Onyekachi Ibe.
- Poetavango Award for Short Fiction 2019: Kearoma Mosata.
- Prix Aminata Sow Fall for Creativity: Khalil Diallo.
- Somali Literature Awards 2019: Abdirahman Ahmed, Kamaal Abiib, Najah Adan Farah, Abuubakar Duceysane.
- Exclusive Books IBBY SA Award Winners 2019: Lebohang Masango, Xolisa Guzula, Nicolaas Maritz.
- Ghana Association of Writers Awards 2019: Ruby Yayra Goka, Mawuli Adzel, Mawuli Adzei, Ohene B Dankwa, Selassie Mensah.
- South African Literary Awards 2019: Lebohang Masango, Sally Partridge, Bongani Ngqulunga, Ayanda Billie, Tony Ullyatt, Chase Rhys, Sabata-Mpho Mokae, Charl-Pierre Naude, Niq Mhlongo, Johnson Jansen, Lindiwe Mabuza.
- Angola National Prize for Culture and Arts 2019: José Eduardo Agualusa.
- Prix Du Morocco Du Livre 2019: Abdelkarim Jouiti, Omar Walqadi, Ahmed Bouzfour, and Wafaa El Amrani.
- Hohe Awards 2019: full list.
- NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature 2019: Jude Idada.
- Text Book Centre Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature 2019: Mutu Wa Gethoi, Mwenda Mbatiah, Kinyanjui Kombani, Hassan Ali, Jennie Marima, Simiyu Mukuyuni.
- Sunday Times Literary Awards 2019: Siphiwe Ndlovu and Terry Kurgan.
- Nile Prize for Literature 2018: Gaber Asfour.
- Kalemba Short Story Prize 2019: Mubanga Kalimamukwento
- Herman Charles Bosman Prize for English Fiction 2019: Niq Mhlongo.
- Tell Your Own Story Literary Awards 2019: Freeman Mwenge, Uncel Sam, and others.
- Golden Comar Prize 2018: Khairia Boubtane, Ines Al Abbasi, Safia Gam Ben Abdeljelil, and others.
- Prix Ahmadou Kourouma 2019: David Diop.
- Kofi Awoonor Literary Prize 2018: Sheilla Aisha Nelson.
- Accra International Book Festival Awards 2018: Celestine Nudanu and Brooke C. Obie.
- Elder of the Burning Spear (Kenya): Henry Ole Kulet.
- Catalonia International Prize 2019: Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.
- Anthony Awards 2019: Oyinkan Braithwaite.
- Prix de la Littérature Arabe 2019: Mohammed Abdelnabi.
- Sharjah International Book Fair 2019 best international fiction prize: Cheluchi Onyemelukwe
- Kirkus Prize 2019: Colson Whitehead.
- Global Pluralism Award 2019: Deborah Ahenkorah.
- Ottawa Book Award 2019: Kagiso Lesego Molope.
- Pius Adesanmi Memorial Award 2019: Kagiso Lesego Molope.
- Booker Prize 2019: Bernardine Evaristo.
- PEN Pinter Prize 2019: Lemn Sissay.
- Nobel Prize for Literature for 2018 and 2019: Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke.
- Graywolf Press Africa Prize 2019: Noor Naga.
- Lee Hochul Literary Prize for Peace 2019: Nuruddin Farah.
- BOA Short Story Fiction Prize 2019: EC Osondu.
- Arthur C. Clarke Award 2019: Tade Thompson.
- Prix Les Afriques 2019: Elnathan John.
- Society of Authors’ Awards 2019: Nadifa Mohamed.
- Lambda Literary Awards 2019: As You Like It: The Gerald Kraak Anthology Volume II
- Erich-Maria-Remarque Peace Prize 2019: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.
- Nebula Awards 2019: Tomi Adeyemi.
- Prix Voltaire 2019: Khaled Lutfi.
- Accessible Books Consortium Accessibility Awards 2019: eKitabu.
More aggressive use of Twitter
North Africa: Mona Eltahawy
West Africa: Akwaeke Emezi
East Africa: Shailja Patel
Southern Africa: Novuyo Rosa Tshuma.
Like we promised last year, we have committed more resources to tracking translations that have been happening in African writing. Translations are important as this is how writers can access new markets as readers can now access their art.
This year we tracked only two texts translated between African and European languages in Ken Walibora’s popular Kiswahili novel Siku Njema in English and Bontle Senne’s Shadow Chasers translated from English to isiZulu. The other books we tracked were written in English and then translated into other European languages like Italian, French, German, Portuguese, Danish, Catalan and the like. There was one book which was translated from English to Tamil.
A list of books which was translated from English to other languages includes Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Matigari into Portuguese; Koleka Putuma’s poetry collection Collective Amnesia into Spanish, German, and Danish; Ayobami Adebayo’s Stay With Me into French; Ayesha Harruna Attah’s The Hundred Wells of Salaga into French, Dutch and German; Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater into Italian; Chibundu Onuzo’s The Spider King Daughter into Italian; Diekoye Oyeyinka’s Stillborn into French; Yewande Omotoso’s The Woman Next Door into Italian and Catalan; Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, The Serial Killer into Portuguese; Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing into German; Lesley Nneka Arimah’s What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky into Portuguese; Chinelo Okparanta’s Happiness Like Water into Italian; Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun in French; Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s Season of Crimson Blossoms into German and Tamil; Ben Okri’s The Freedom Artist into Italian; and Chibundu Onuzo’s The Spider King Daughter into Italian.
We weren’t the only ones doing this work of tracking translations. You can also follow some of the best in translation news from Arabic to other languages from our friends at Arablit.org.
East Africa: (Anglophone and Somali) Hargeysa International Book Fair 2019, Hargeisa, Somaliland and (Anglophone, Portuguese) Macondo Literary Festival, Nairobi, Kenya.
West Africa: (Anglophone) Ake Festival 2019, Lagos, Nigeria and (Francophone) Foire internationale du livre et du matériel didactique de Dakar (FILDAK) 2019.
North Africa: International Book Fair of Algiers (Salon International Du Livre d’Alger), Algiers, Algeria.
Southern Africa: Abantu Festival 2019, Soweto, South Africa.
New Literary Festival: Feminart Arts and Book Festival 2019, Lilongwe, Malawi.
Poetry Festival: Poetry Africa, Durban. South Africa.
Local language: Swahili Festival 2019, Mombasa, Kenya.
African themed festival in the diaspora: Crossing Borders Literature Festival 2019, Cologne, Germany
Overall Literary Festival of the year: Ake Festival 2019, Lagos, Nigeria.