Following on from last week’s Mandela retrospective, here are some posts readers may wish to revisit – or discover for the first time from the AiW 2013 archive.
If you’re a fan of the ‘best of’ lists that dominate publishing at this time of year, our Caine Prize posts may suggest some new authors for your ‘to be read’ pile. Why not start at the beginning of the AiW contribution to the ‘blog carnival’
Festively, as AiW Guest Lexzy Ochibejivwie wrote about Chinelo Okparanta’s short story
As different issues and ideas push and pull at the body of the narrative, it comes across as a nice piece of parcel which one opens, only to find out that another exists which needs to be opened in order to appreciate the first.
It was Tope Folarin who won the competition for 2013. AiW Guest Gbemisola Abiola reviewed Folarin’s use of the prosperity gospel to drive his narrative, a ‘story strewn with signposts of hope’.
‘Ghana Must Go’ seems a timely antidote to the festive season’s relentless emphasis on the immaculately happy family. Emylia Hall reviewed the novel for the blog in June:
In Ghana Must Go, Taiye Selasi gives us a cast of characters who pull apart and come together to tell a story with an immaculate sense of truth, tenderness, and severity. As far-reaching as the novel feels, at its heart it is the story of one family; their sorrows and rupture, and their attempts at healing.
If your resolutions for 2014 are to go beyond those novels that make it onto the Western publicity machine, may I recommend the blog’s Q & A Series. These interviews highlight exciting and new authors and publishers working across Africa. Reflecting an internet phenomenon, Stephanie interviewed Mike Maphoto of ‘Diary of a Zulu Girl‘:
For a while the blog was number one in South Africa. Even now, I don’t think there’s anything that enjoys such numbers in the country. I’m averaging about 45,000 readers per day
If you prefer non-fiction, perhaps Rebecca’s interview with Pelu Awofeso author of travel literature, but with goals that go far beyond this
I came into writing and to journalism knowing I wasn’t just going to be writing for today; I wanted to be writing for tomorrow. I want to now go from travel writing to becoming a political activist, because I’m really very angry now.
2013 was a major anniversary for Paul Gilroy’s influential book The Black Atlantic, and AiW marked this through a series of interdisciplinary posts. Nara’s post ‘Lagosian Print Culture’ demonstrates how Gilroy’s challenging ideas of connection and networks continue to inspire her exciting research.
Diaspora, however, cannot explain the cultural exchange between Rio de Janeiro and Lagos in the late nineteenth century. The connections were multiple and in both directions. Not only did Brazilian returnees arrive in large numbers in Porto Novo, Ouidah and Lagos, but there were people, goods and ideas travelling between both sides of the Atlantic. These exchanges may not have been regular, but this did not diminish their contribution to the Atlantic network. Gilroy uses the concept of (dis)continuous cultural exchange to describe this process. Moreover, he argues that these connections, despite their inconsistency and fragility, were bound together by common experiences that define the black Atlantic.
As AiW guest, Armin Fardis noted, Gilroy’s legacy is also political:
The Black Atlantic, for me, was an anticolonial model, a way of mapping the history of the African diaspora in terms of colonial resistance. For Frederick Douglass—his travels to Ireland illuminated the commonalities between the Irish liberation movement and the black abolitionist struggle. This transnational connection remains enshrined in Falls Road, Belfast where a mural is dedicated to Douglass and the African American struggle for freedom…. Thus, if we are to invoke The Black Atlantic as Gilroy did we must struggle to highlight the connections between the legacy of slavery and the acceleration of global capitalism as perhaps the greatest threat to the oppressed populations of our planet.
What will 2014 bring? AiW guest Emma Shercliff’s discussion of the British Library’s ‘Digital Futures’ event gave us a glimpse, reflecting her own experience as digital publisher. Her post made clear the diversity in the field, from start-ups supporting quick publishing, moves to digitise the iconic Heinemann series, and educational innovation. For Emma, the pace of change is fast:
Although lack of access to credit cards and secure payment systems remain challenges, digital initiatives are already starting to increase readership, and the fact that African consumers are using the mobile devices already in their pockets rather than waiting for the technology to arrive is the revolutionary factor. Problems that have bedeviled the African publishing industry for decades – poor road distribution networks, high printing costs, customs and trade barriers, the dominance of the large multinational publishers, territorial rights – are rendered irrelevant in a digital world.
Wishing all our readers and contributors a happy new year!