What do you get when you throw in greats like Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi, Steve Biko and many more great African Writers? Over 200 works of literary excellence.
The African Writers Series was started to ensure that great African Writers had a voice in the International market and why shouldn’t they? At first, it was restricted to just West African authors but as African countries gained their independence, authors started to carve out a niche for themselves. There was also a need for African schools to have books from contemporary African writers and while this also helped to fill the gap. While not much is said about it right now, it would please you to know that this series is of great importance in African literal and cultural history.
The works included modern African Fiction, poetry and storied which mirrored what was going on in Africa both before and after colonization.
‘Things fall apart’, for instance wove the tale of an Igbo leader and wrestling champion (Okonkwo), known for his masculinity and hatred of seeming weak, he did all to prove himself till things in his life started falling apart in his life and was exiled. Accustomed to the customs and traditions of his land, he begins to struggle when he finds out the ‘white man’ has invaded his village and brought their ways and religion after returning from exile. He tries to lead his village to revolt In the end after realizing that things were no longer the same, he killed himself. This story of resistance is not new as alot of people in those times went through similar times, the difference however is that this is told from our point of view not what our colonial masters would like portrayed.
If you look at South African Author; Peter Abrahams, his book ‘Mine Boy’ tells a tale of the kind of stereotypes that working class Black Africans went through. From politics to struggles, the book shows us the kind of issues and castigation caused by colonial rule but most importantly the resilience of people during tough times.
These series are important not only because they are written by one of us but because it tells us of our history. It makes us cry, laugh, think and so much more, but at the end of the day we are reminded of what has happened and how we have managed to claw our way up.
It also tells us (especially for those who are not old enough to have experienced it), of the customs and traditions which are slowly being dropped or modified to suit the modern times.
These are books that should be found in the library of schools and also in the syllabus so that these tales that were put together do not go extinct. While they may just be words, they are a way of preserving the African culture as they can be passed down from generation to generation.
The collection isn’t meant for just Africans alone, but it was intervened that everyone around the world would read it which is why Alan Hill of Heinemann got involved with publishing these stories. He understood the need for these stories to be told and read on every continent.
Why not take take time out reading your John Grishams and Sidney Sheldons and pick up a book by Cyprian Ekwensi, Ngugi Wa Thiongo’o or Awoonor Kofi. You might just be surprised by what you find between those pages.