Up to now, I have highlighted a few problems within the publishing industry that make our access to African literature cumbersome. It is however not the end of the story, because where there are obstacles, a few will always rise to create solutions.
Writers and literature lovers alike have created wonderful and interesting spaces that sell, discuss, critique, and consume African literature for the benefit of authors and their readers.
To round off this series on African literature I explore some great spaces that promote African literature – an important undertaking in an industry so focused on white European and US American thought. This selection is not exhaustive but should lead you to many more gems.
One of my absolute favourite bookstores to visit is Book Circle Capital in Mellville, run by Sewela Langeni. The independent store is not very big, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in precision. The selection of books on offer is always interesting and exciting. I have often walked in with the intention of buying a specific book and walked out with a selection of books I finally found there after searching everywhere.
The space also hosts authors for singings and launches, which is quite the treat for those who love meeting their heroes. Any book you cannot find can be easily ordered too. The thing I love the most about this store is that it is dedicated to creating a home for the literature that is often moved to the back of the big stores after launch season. Supporting this store is a love letter to African literature.
The Cheeky Merchant, a subsidiary of The Cheeky Natives by Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane and Dr Alma-Nalisha Cele, offers a curated online experience for buying books. Unapologetic about foregrounding Black and Queer writers, books on offer can be couriered to you anywhere in South Africa at your convenience.
The bonus comes with the fact that selected books can be signed by the authors especially for you making it personal and memorable. To have your work hosted by this space as an author is an encouraging experience that reassures one that the work will find its people.
Bookamoso Book Club, founded by Omphile Raleie, says it “aims to establish reading as a fundamental building block to South Africa’s progress, through the acquisition and sharing of knowledge found in books.”The book club is mainly an online based community where members encourage each other to, read, discover books and reading materials, events and reading spaces. An all-round cheerleader for African literature is what Bookamoso is.
Bookworms Book Club, is curated by Lorraine Sithole, one of our finest book mavericks. The book club caters for Black women 25 years and older who “want to foster the love of reading for leisure, are committed to monthly meetups for book discussions, believe in the principle of ‘paying it forward’ and love travelling the country.” The love for African literature drives this club with a deep understanding of the importance of literature in building critical societies.
The Book Lounge, another independent bookstore based in Cape Town, presents A Readers’ Community. The podcast often profiles authors sharing beyond just what is in their books and some conversations about the book world. Bookstore staff also share their recommendations on what to read.
The Cheeky Natives is an absolute feast for anyone caring to engage critically with Black literature. The podcast is “primarily focused on the review, curatorship and archiving of Black literature.”
Some of the most profound, deep diving conversations with authors can be found here. Required listening for any lover of Black literature.
Making waves across the world is Lolwe Magazine, founded by Kenyan writer Troy Onyango. Lolwe is an online magazine that publishes fiction, literary criticism, personal essays, photography, and poetry. Some of the most beautiful stories have come to our attention through Lolwe and the quality of writing is something to be commended. Lolwe is a sister magazine to Doek! Founded by Namibian Writer Remy Ngamije.
Biannually, we can look forward to Imbiza Journal for African Writing. It is “an inclusive publishing platform for creative writing, criticism, academic writing and intellectual engagement for African thinkers, cultural workers and activists”. The platform is a home for both imaginative and scholarly writing, catering to diverse audiences. It is currently based in South Africa but will soon expand into the continent.
The literary community is vibrant and resilient, with a laser sharp focus on innovation that serves both readers and writers. The offerings mentioned above mostly stem from the ethos of being the change we want to see in the world. It is both inspirational and instructive to us, encouraging renewal and recreation in our creative endeavours. The future of African literature is in the best hands.