We all have authors who inspire us and fuel our passion for African literature with their use of words, spellbinding narratives and their approach to issues related to African experiences within and outside of Africa. In April, we decided to celebrate remarkable African women writers from the continent and the diaspora who inspire us and whose work was pivotal in our literary journey. Their novels and poems often raise questions on the human condition and explore themes such as identity, social injustice, gender roles, violence, mental health, marriage and self-love.
These African women writers were:
- Nawal El Saadawi, a revolutionary Egyptian feminist, writer, teacher, novelist and dissident. She is the author of several books tackling social injustice toward women including Woman At Point Zero, a poignant novel based on Nawal’s encounter with a female prisoner who agreed to tell her life story before her execution. .
- Alice Walker, an African American novelist, short story writer, poet, and activist author of In Search Of Our Mothers’ Gardens, a womanist prose offering the diverse experiences of black women in a critical and loving way.
- Veronique Tadjo, an Ivorian writer, poet, illustrator, novelist and author of children’s books who wrote Far From My Father, a book which tackles issues of identity, women’s role and the legacy of polygamy and economic challenges in Abidjan.
- Tsitsi Dangarembga, a writer and filmmaker from Zimbabwe, author of Nervous Conditions, a novel named as one of the top 100 books that have changed the world and the first to be written in English by a black woman from Zimbabwe.
- Nontsizi Mgqwetho, a South African poet whose work is the earliest form of protest poetry. She wrote many poems addressing the experiences of confronting African modernity in the midst of Black people trying to build resistance movements. The Nation’s Bounty: The Xhosa Poetry of Nontsizi Mgqwetho is a collection of Nontsizi’s poetry translated by Prof. Jeff Opland from the Umteteli wa Bantu, a newspaper she used to write for in the 1920s. .
- Bessi Head, although born in South Africa, is usually considered Botswana’s most influential writer. She wrote novels, short fiction and autobiographical works that are infused with spiritual questioning and reflection such as A Question Of Power.
- Nayyirah Waheed is an African American poet who describes herself as a ‘quiet poet’ who doesn’t share much of her personal life online. She wrote two poetry books Salt. and Nejma on love, identity, race and feminism.
- Upile Chisala a story-teller and sociologist from Malawi. She is the author of the self-published books of poetry soft magic and Nectar which explore the self, joy, blackness, and love.