Wole Soyinka, Nigeria. Perhaps one of the most recognised faces of African literature. The first African to win the Nobel Prize in literature, but after more than 40 years since he came into the international limelight, Soyinka continues to command respect and admiration, not only for his writing, but his civil rights activism too. As an outspoken critic and implacable opponent to political mismanagement and corruption, not only in Nigeria but Africa at large, Soyinka inspires admiration and respect from his far-reaching audience.
Chinua Achebe, Nigeria
Born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe in 1930, Chinua is probably Africa’s most widely read novelist. He is also the most highly regarded civil activist whose African storytelling has done more to express the African state of mind to the world, than most black novelists.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigeria
She is an acclaimed writer who boasts the legendary Chinua Achebe as one of her biggest fans. Achebe has said of her: “We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers”. And according to one Facebooker, Adichie: “has mesmerised us with her brilliant mind and razor-sharp writing and stories that remind us how important it is to tell our own stories.” She was born in Nigeria in 1977. Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and won the Commonwealth Writer’s Best First Book Prize. Her second book, Half of a Yellow Sun, catapulted her further in the literary world, and won her the prestigious Orange Prize for fiction in 2007. On top of her writing she continues to be an important commentator on African affairs.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Kenya
In a increasingly commercialised world where money is the driving factor in any field, many thought the acclaimed Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o was committing commercial suicide when he decided as long ago as 1977 to renounce writing in English in order to “express himself in a language that his mother and ordinary people could understand.” Ngugi’s courageous and pioneering move is increasingly being popularised as the way to go or seen as an alternative possibility for budding African writers.
Lebo Mashile, South Africa
A poet, performer and actress, as well as presenter and producer, Mashile is armed with a sharp intellect and a belief in social exploration through her creativity. Mashile believes poetry is the best way to reach the human soul and is renowned for her signature themes of gender, identity, love, spirituality and the social-political conditions in post-apartheid South Africa.