Monday 4 April 2022


What a remarkably creative writer Sindiwe Magona is! Recently (2021) at the age of 78, she published a new novel, When the Village Sleeps, another already acclaimed work.
This follows on the heels of her brilliant early works like To my Children's Children, Mother to Mother, and Push Push! (short stories). Beauty's Gift is another of her polished works of fiction, and Chasing the Tails of my Father's Cattle.
Yet, incredibly Magona came into creative writing as a mature voice, at least in her mid-forties at the time. Then the flow began, and still continues. She is now one of Africa's most prolific female writers, with a complement of literary quality to boot. "I revere Uma Sindiwe Magona a lot" Tiisetso Thiba, a young SA writer says with great pride and elan. "From the beginning, it was clear that this was an outstanding talent. Some of us start writing early, like myself; or more famously like Ben Okri who began writing wonderful fiction in his early 20s... Magona started as a mature, sensitive, competent wordsmith, and it showed in her early books "
Literary success came fast for Magona, and after her first burst of creativity world scholars were already raving about her varied work. This crystallized in scholar Siphokazi's early book length study of her work titled, Sindiwe Magona- the first Decade. The literary appreciation has become a cascade, as Magona over the years continued to publish new celebrated works, essentially championing the cause of women, their travails, tribulations, challenges, and their roaring successes....

Wednesday 2 February 2022

AMOS TUTUOLA (1920 - 1997)

In many ways the Nigerian writer, Amos Tutuola was a special writer, the first from his country to publish a celebrated imaginative work in the western world. The novel in question was titled The Palmwine Drinkard.
From the very beginning (1952), with the publication of The Palmwine Drinkard, Tutuola was hailed and heralded more or less globally. He would go on to write and publish many other captivating books. Yet, Tutuola was a "semi-literate", though these things can be relative; he had like 6 or 7 years of formal education, but preferred to write his books in English, and western critics were very much enamoured with his "folk-loric" books Tutuola had a long literary career despite a lot of criticism (ironically from his own fellow Yorubas/Nigerians) many of whom found it difficult to appreciate his style of writing, allusions, grammar etc. But the man kept on writing, and the proliferating reviews and literary criticism of his books kept on gathering momentum over the decades.
For some 60 years now, the literary evaluation of Amos Tutuola's works has been a constant thread, not only in the Eurocentric world, but also in Africa. Exalted literary scholars all over the world have been very interested in Tutuola's writings; including "white" reviewers and critics like Dylan Thomas, Kingsley Amis, Gerald Moore, Harold Collins, Ulli Beier, Charles R Larson, and Bernth Lindfors. And not only Eurocentric critics. Top notch African scholars like Emmanuel Obiechina, Chinua Achebe, Omolara Ogundipe Leslie, Eldred Jones, Taban lo Liyong, A Afolayan have written substantial literary essays on Tutuola. And even a young Wole Soyinka evaluated the significance of Tutuola and his books.
Sundry commentary on Tutuola's work has been coming to the surface over the decades. For example, an early writer noted: "Since then this eager author (ie Tutuola after the publication of his second book) has sent some short stories, based on folk lore to the BBC. Three have been broadcast: interesting when you remember that a convention has been established that script writing is quite a different art form from written matter meant to be read silently. Tutuola has succeeded in both fields, using precisely the same technique..." Great wordsmith, the late Tutuola.

Saturday 4 December 2021

MOLARA OGUNDIPE (1940 - 2019)

Africa has produced many remarkable female literary critics and academics over the decades - like Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghana), Assia Djebar (Algeria), Menan Du Plessis, Zoe Wicomb (both South Africans) ... Nigeria's Molara Ogundipe-Leslie, like Aidoo, was one of the Black women literary pioneers from west Africa.
Leslie contributed a lot to the growth and promotion of African literature, from inception. She appreciated the early established African wordsmiths - males - but was never afraid to criticise them. She had early respect (her writings reveal this) for the greats like Wole Soyinka and Ayi Kwei Armah, but if she felt they should be censored, she did so in her earnest manner. Hence if she found some aspects distasteful in their disparate writings, she would pount this out, be it suggestions of "chauvinism" or "narcissism". In her many critical essays her intellectualism and nous stood out, with the broad canvas and striations all grist to her mill. Omolara Leslie's style of writing/criticism was direct, lucid and passionate. And well researched. Her message and thrust was delivered quite simply and made a lot of sense. She knew what she was all about and essentially basked in the writings of assorted writers and books. Early on, Leslie began to write splendid reviews for journals and magazines, including Okike from the early 70s. It was clear that she could not stand women being undermined. Her books are also a testament to her. She was born in Lagos, and attended Queen's School, Ede, and went on to become the first woman to obtain a first-class BA Honours degree in English at University College, Ibadan, then a college of the University of London. She also studied at Leiden University which has extensive studies/material on African Writing. She became a globally recognised scholar and writer. As a scholar, critic, educator and activist, Ogundipe is of course recognized as one of the most prominent and innovative writers on African women and feminism. Her works creatively capture most the nuances and complexities of African life. She died in 2019.
Published works Sew the Old Days and Other Poems, 1985 Re-Creating Ourselves: African Women and Critical Transformations, 1994 (ed.) Women as Oral Artists, 1994 (ed. with Carole Boyce Davies) Moving Beyond Boundaries, April 1995 (two volumes). Gender and subjectivity. Readings of "Song of Lawino". Dissertation Leiden University. Leiden, CNWS, 1999

Wednesday 13 October 2021




By I. M Soqaga


Every time when the Nobel Prize winner in literature would be announced the news will invariably arouse great interest to literary pundits and literary aficionados.  Consequentially, in Africa news of the Nobel Prize winner in literature is welcome with an ambivalent feeling.  For the fact that this year 2021 Nobel Prize in literature has been awarded to an African writer from Tanzania, Abdulrazak Gurnah, certainly Africa is very ecstatic about the news.


Abdulrazak Gurnah whose indigenous language is Swahili evaded the soil of Africa when he was a teen and opted to live in England.  He essentially writes in English and his proverbial writings are generally popular abroad where he lives.  Although he had been writing for many years now and his first novel, Memory of Departure (1987), would give a conspicuously picturesque that Professor Gurnah is indeed a well-established writer.


Nevertheless, he is a known Zanzibar refugee whose current home is England, after receiving the prestigious Nobel Prize in literature he described the winning of the award as ‘truly remarkable’, and said that it was a great honour for him to be given an award that had been given to so many talented writers worldwide.


The Nobel Committee lauded Gurnah: "for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fates of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents''

Fundamentally to the surprise of African critics and literary pundits, the Nobel Prize Committee in literature remains in essence a Western Political committee whose discretion on selections for the ultimate winner remains questionable.  Over the years and even this year 2021 outstanding African wordsmiths like Kenyan Ngugi waThiong’o and Somalia’s Nuruddin Farah were shrugged off when there was an explicit prospect that surely, they should be the recipients of the prestigious Nobel Prize.  Moreover, Wole Soyinka himself emphasised on receiving the Nobel Prize in 1986 that “he would not to accept the prize on a personal level... but as a tribute to the heritage of African literature, which is very little known in the West.'

Indeed, a robust Nigerian critic, Chinweizu has already ridiculed the Nobel Prize when he strongly expounded that “the conceit that a gaggle of Swedes, all by themselves, should pronounce on intellectual excellence for the whole wide world.  The Nobel Prize, is neither a world prize rather it is a Western European reward for those rendering a specific kind of service to Western power and Western global hegemony… A Nobel award to any African, therefore, is not a matter for rejoicing.’

Nevertheless Gurnah is a top notch writer whose works over the years include:

Memory of Departure (1987)

Pilgrims Way (1988)

Dottie (1990)

Paradise (1994)

Admiring Silence (1996)

By the Sea (2001)

Desertion (2005)

The Last Gift (2011)

Gravel Heart (2017)

Afterlives (2020)

Yet one must point out that Africa has many great veritable writers who even write in indigenous languages.  It is a fact that Africans whose literary lives are basically in Europe and America will to some certain be recognized and adored by the Western Institutions like the Swedes famous Western Europe control Nobel Prize. But let us still congratulate the polished man of Letters, Gurnah!!

Monday 23 August 2021

CAMAGU SOMANA (South Africa)

Many readers - Africa in mind here - find short stories in particular tantalising and gripping.  Such creative works are much easier to read and follow  compared  to novels. And some writers are specialists in this genre. A world class example that easily comes to mind is Katherine Mansfield.

Many, if not most of Africa's best writers, including novelists over the decades, published a lot of short stories too. Like Achebe, Mphahlele, Ekwensi, Marechera, Ngugi, Mabel Segun etc. Among the younger generation many literary pundits associate short stories with the polished Lesotho writer, Leseli Mokhele. He began to write short fiction from a young age.

So did CAMAGU SOMANA, whom those in the know would dub a born writer. He was barely 20 when he was publishing fiction of the shorter variety in South Africa. The flow was remarkable to the extent that very early in Ntate Somana's career, the late critic Peter Moroe wrote and published a fine critique of his work.

Literary critic Pule Lechesa, who has published many books on Literature, authors, and literary appreciation, says: "I read many of the early fiction of Camagu Somana.  It was glittering talent from a very young age. It seemed to fizzle out... ? At the moment, one can describe him as a marmoreal wordsmith but brimming with promise.  Will he fulfil his literary potential?"

And Camagu writes a lot of poetry too, quite polished poetry, an astonishing amount of it accessible on the internet.  A cerebral, sensitive, vivid character, his works cover a large canvas.


A selection of stories published by Camagu Somana

Thursday 8 July 2021




By the mid 80s - decades ago Festus Iyayi was already ensconced as a major imaginative writer thanks to 3 superb novels published within a short time: Violence, The Contract, and Heroes.

The writer was famed for his treatment and denunciation of immorality and corruption in his native country. It was mind boggling, even more disturbing as the situation has if anything got even worse over the decades!!

Why was it that the country was enmeshed in endemic horrifying shameless corruption? Why were women ruthlessly exploited in the process? Could any "decent" person go against the system? The author was occupied with these posers amidst a welter of others. 

In his books, we can see the whole nauseating picture against the background of convincing characters and plots. Obviously the author flinched at the unedifying situation too, as we see from his works.

Here is an extract from one of Iyayi's major novels, Violence, which touches on the situation;

 "Not far off were the houses where which sweat and labour had already erected... labour had left its positive mark, the labour of hundreds and thousands of workers, working either in the intense sunlight or in the biting cold or in the blinding rain, piling the blocks higher and highet and wiping the salt and sweat from their eyes and their forehead s with the backs of their hands, and all underpaid, underfed and treated no better than slaves - the highest form of violence maintained and jealously guarded by a greedy, unfeeling class of exploiters, greedy moneymakers, conservative and reactionary public officers took all the credit for the achievements of (cheap) labour..."

To his credit also, Iyayi in his books also often infuses some women with special characteristics, noble, heroic even if they be poor. Women are living enviable beings in his work 

Books by Festus Iyayi



The Contract

Awaiting Court Martial 

Wednesday 19 May 2021



By I. Mzwandile Soqaga (South Africa)

When we think of Kenyan Literature our minds often automatically go to outstanding writers like Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Meja Mwangi, David Maillu.

All men? Yes. But then again there are revered female literary voices from the country, like Grace Ogot. And in recent times we have new female voices from Kenya like the outstanding DORA OKEYO.

Dora is a quintessential bibliophile, a prolific reader, writer, review et al. Some have dubbed her as a one-woman literary industry.  And it is not even an exaggeration.

She had published many books herself- see a selection of her works at the end. She writes on many genres. She might remind you of Walter Scott because of her penchant for historical writings.

She also writes a lot for children.  In South Africa the likes of Gcina Mhlophe are revered for this; just like Mabel Segun in west Africa. So Dora is in good company!

Dora’s sheer enthusiasm and passion for the world of writing is extraordinary (to put it mildly). She regularly performs endearing services to Literature (including African Writing) by presenting and reviewing sundry books for the literary world.

What a lady!


A Selection of Dora Okeyo's Books


I love you This Much


Choose Me

Say You Love Me


Roses and Lies



The Crown of the Sea

You and I