Remember when successful Nigerian authors first gained recognition abroad, yet weren’t really acknowledged on the home front? Gladly, times are changing. Nigerians are finally cozying up to literal arts and Nigeria is becoming a more receptive platform for authors at home. There is an increasing interest in writing that addresses contemporary issues which is a win for both talented authors and society.
In recent times, there has been an increase in global focus on Nigerian literature thanks to the success of acclaimed writers like the late Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Chimamanda Adichie.
While Chimamanda may be the best known of the contemporary bunch, there are a good number of authors who are broadening our mindsets with their creative work. These authors have carved a niche for themselves through their unique work and are changing the narrative of contemporary arts in genres ranging from mysteries to romance to fantasy.
We have compiled a list of 5 contemporary Nigerian authors whose individual writing techniques are remarkable and sharp-witted and whose work you should bless yourself with.
1. Chibundu Onuzo
Born in 1991, Imachibundu Oluwadara Onuzo is a multiple-award winning novelist and the youngest author to sign to Faber & Faber. We love her story because she broke the literary glass ceiling that exists for women and the scepticism that comes with being a writer at such a young age.
Chibundu’s first novel, which she started writing at age 17, The Spider King’s Daughter, won a Betty Trask Award, was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Commonwealth Book Prize and was long-listed for the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Etisalat Prize for Literature In 2013. It didn’t come as a surprise when Onuzo was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in its “40 Under 40” initiative in June 2018. With so much talent and potential to change the norm in African literature, she’s one author to look out for.
She advises aspiring young writers; “Don’t let anyone tell you that your youth means that your perspective of the world is not valid.”
2. Ben Okri
Ben Okri was born on 15 March 1959 in Minna, Niger State. We are grateful for his Notting Hill flat which he claims to have been when he rewrote; The Famished Road, his novel which won the Booker prize for fiction in 1991. This flat also gave birth to his book of short stories; Stars of the New Curfew which was shortlisted for the 1988 Guardian Fiction Prize.
This author had very tough times in his earlier days, which he calls very crucial moments of his story. He is a perfect example of embracing pain and burning it as fuel for your journey. Today, he has a secured reputation as an acclaimed author and you cannot mention Nigerian fiction authors without his name coming up.
3. Sefi Atta
We admire the subtle yet firm revolutionary approach which Sefi Atta expresses in her art. Born in 1964, Atta’s work throws light on African culture and tradition. She also touches the subject of feminism in her novel titled; Everything Good Will Come, where she mildly disapproves the subjugation of women.
Atta has won awards like the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa, Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa in 2006 and was also shortlisted in 2006 for the Caine Prize for African Writing. In 2010, she was a juror for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.
Atta’s remarkable body of work ranges from novels to children’s books to screenplays, stage plays, short story collections and play collections. Some of her short stories and stage plays have been performed and published globally. Through her production company, ‘Atta Girl Supports Care to Read’, Atta earns funds for licit charities through staged readings.
4. Helon Habila
Born in Gombe State in 1967, Helon Habila Ngalabak intrigues us with his works on crime fiction which was heavily influenced by reading popular pan-African fiction mostly about crime in urban areas.
He worked as a lecturer and journalist in Nigeria before migrating to England in 2002, where he was a Chevening Scholar at the University of East Anglia, becoming the school’s first African Writing Fellow. In 2005, on Achebe’s invitation, he became the first Chinua Achebe Fellow at Bard College, NY. He now works as a professor of Creative Writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
He noticed the need for more entertainment books in the industry and that’s the aim of Cordite Books, a publishing company which he jointly owns with Parrésia Publishers. Their main aim is to fill the gap in crime fiction.
His most recent works include, Oil on Water –a 2010 novel, The Granta Book of the African Short Story (2011), and The Chibok Girls, published in 2017.
5. Tolu Akinyemi
Born in Ondo State, Toluwalope Akinyemi studied Architecture and Design but life had other plans for him. “Poetolu,” as he is fondly called, is now award-winning author who writes extraordinary stories about the everyday life of Africans. He was named one of ‘100 most influential Nigerian writers under 40′ in 2017 and 2018.
He has a unique way of blending humor and sarcasm in his works and we totally dig it. He won the Nigerian Writers’ Award (Poetry writer of the year) for his poetry collection “I Laugh At These Skinny Girls.” One of our faves is his ‘Halima’ series which he started in 2016; this encapsulates pop culture and relationships. We are also anticipating his Children’s Book Series which he reveals would feature black characters.
Photo credit: IG| As captioned
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