Anyone familiar with African literature is likely to have read one of Maaza Mengiste books. If you’re looking to delve deeper into the world of African literature, look no further! In celebration of African literature, here are some African authors, some whose work holds a revered place in African literature, and others who are at the advent of their literary careers.

Ngugi Wa Thiongo

Ngugi wa Thiongo, currently Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine, was born in Kenya, in 1938 into a large peasant family. He was educated at Kamandura, Manguu and Kinyogori primary schools; Alliance High School, all in Kenya; Makerere University College (then a campus of London University), Kampala, Uganda; and the University of Leeds, Britain.

Best-known as a novelist, he also wrote plays, literary criticism, and essays on cultural and political topics.

 “Why did Africa let Europe cart away millions of Africa’s souls from the continent to the four corners of the wind? How could Europe lord it over a continent ten times its size?” – Ngugi wa Thiongo

Maaza Mengiste

Why Maaza Mengiste Threw Away the First Draft of Her Second Novel

Maaza Mengiste is an Ethiopian author and Fulbright scholar. Her novel Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, was named by the Guardian as one of the 10 best contemporary African books and appeared on our list of 10 African novels you need on your bookshelf. The novel tells the story of a family in Ethiopia during the last days of the monarchy and amidst the civil unrest that follows. She was a co-writer for the 2013 Girl Rising documentary directed by Richard E. Robbins.

“I’ve had certain writers who are now on their third or fourth book tell me things like, “Oh, just get it done. Don’t even worry about the second book. Just get it out there. Just do it. Just get it done. Your third book is going to be the book that you’ll really like. The second one is always horrible.” I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to accept that.” – Maaza Mengiste

Abdulrazak Gurnah

The Nobel Prize for literature has been awarded to the novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah, for his “uncompromising and passionate” portrayals of the effects of colonialism.

Gurnah was born in Zanzibar, Tanzania, in 1948, but now lives in Britain. He is the first African to win the award — considered the most prestigious in world literature — in almost two decades.

“I speak to maps. And sometimes they something back to me. This is not as strange as it sounds, nor is it an unheard of thing. Before maps, the world was limitless. It was maps that gave it shape and made it seem like territory, like something that could be possessed, not just laid waste and plundered. Maps made places on the edges of the imagination seem graspable and placable.” – Abdulrazak Gurnah

Okwiri Oduor

Kulturaustausch: Archive

Okwiri Oduor is a young Kenyan author and winner of the 2014 Caine Prize for African writing for her short story, My Father’s Head. The story sees a narrator coping with her father’s death as he struggles to remember the shape of his head. One quote from the story demonstrates the writing that earned Oduor the Caine Prize: “Bwibo had an explanation as to why I could not remember the shape of my father’s head. She said, ‘Although everyone has a head behind their face, some show theirs easily; they turn their back on you and their head is all you can see. Your father was a good man and good men never show you their heads; they show you their faces.’”

Binyavanga Wainaina

Binyavanga Wainaina, one of Kenya’s most famous writers passed away on May 22. In 2002 he won the Caine Prize for African writing.

In 2003 he became the founding editor of African literary magazine, Kwani?, the first literary magazine in east Africa since Transition Magazine. In 2014 Binyavanga was named one of Time magazine’s 100 “Most Influential People in the World”.

“There’s no point for me in being a writer and having all these blocked places where I feel I can’t think freely and imagine freely. There just really is no point. ” – Binyavanga