Ahead of Africa Writes, which this year hosts a panel on literary magazines that have have shaped the production and reception of African literature and ideas, we thought we’d give you a quick hit of three African literary publications that you really should know about.
Founded in the 1950s, Black Orpheus was one of the most influential literary magazines in the world until it ceased publication in 1975. Writing about the publication seven years into its existence, the leading critic and thinker, Abiola Irele, in the Journal of Modern African Studies declared “The steady development of Black Orpheus over the last seven years amounts to a remarkable achievement. It has succeeded in breaking the vicious circle that seems to inhibit the development of a proper reading public by its continued existence, by its very availability; more than that, it has also gone on to establish itself as one of the most important formative influences in modern African literature…It can be said, without much exaggeration, that the founding of Black Orpheus, if it did not directly inspire new writing in English-speaking Africa, at least co-incided with the first promptings of a new, modern, literary expression and re-inforced it by keeping before the potential writer the example of the achievements of the French-speaking and Negro American writers. Although no longer in publication, Black Orpheus was one of the most influential elements in the development of the modern African literary scene, and its editors and contributors read like a who’s who of African literature.
Taking its inspiration from other pugnacious, and cool magazines like Chimurenga – Bakwa, was founded to counter the absence of literary magazines in Cameroon; with a wide ranging remit that’s broader than the literary, Bakwa – is an eclectic, intelligent take on the dynamic cultural scenes often missed by mainstream, western media.
Founded by Ainehi E. Edoro, a PhD student at Duke University – Brittle Paper is the hip child of the literary magazine and the university common room; combining original stories, and poetry with assiduous coverage of the African literary scene, Brittle Paper offers a distinctly intelligent but breezy take on the world of wordy people; best of all this is a publication that doesn’t shrink from dishing the goss on who has beef with who in the world of books.