In celebration of recent African literary history, here’s a list of the top five most influential African writers you need to know.
Africa has no shortage of influential writers though, so the five chosen here are in now way an exhaustive list. Feel free to add your favorite African writer in the comments!
Frantz Fanon was born on July 20, 1925 in present day Martinique – a Caribbean French territory. He served in the Free French Army and later became the head of an Algerian hospital, tending to both Algerian and French soldiers. During this time, he observed the psychological effects that colonial violence had on his patients.
Fanon established himself as a leading intellectual in the Negritude movement, as well as an outspoken academic on the effects of colonialism on racial consciousness. His most famous works are The Wretched of the Earth, and Black Skin, White Masks.
Buchi Emecheta was born on July 21, 1944 in Lagos, Nigeria. Although born in Nigeria to an Igbo family, she spent most of her time in London. She wrote extensively about the maltreatment of women in immigrant and African societies. Her most influential works are: The Rape of Shavi, Second Class Citizen, Adah’s Story and The Bride Price.
Yvonne Vera was born September 19, 1964 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Her mother and father were supportive of her skill, enabling her to jump start her writing career in Canada. Her works deal with the oppression of colonialism, the realities of the maltreatment of women during times of social upheaval. Her most influential works are: Without a Name, Butterfly Burning and Under the Tongue.
Tsitsi Dangarembga was born on February 4, 1959 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. She spent some time in England, receiving education at an English high school and then studying medicine at Cambridge University. However, due to racism and isolation, she returned to Zimbabwe. Her most famous work is Nervous Conditions, which received the Commonwealth Writer’s prize and is regarded by many as one of twelve best African novels.
Alex La Guma was born on February 20, 1925 in Cape Town, South Africa. He lived through the oppression of apartheid. He grew up in a family that was active in the liberation movement, finding himself in prison several times for his activism. His works emphasized the harrowing effects of apartheid on his characters. Because of the controversial nature of his works, the South African government banned his works. Try reading A Walk in the Night, and Time of the Butcherbird.
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