Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 5,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

Zukiswa Wanner.

Zukiswa Wanner recently wrote an essay in South African newspaper Mail and Guardian calling out the country’s white-dominated “parochial publishing industry.” Titled “Writings on the Wall for Parochial SA Publishers,” the piece zeroes in on prevailing one-sided narratives: that nonfiction sells more than fiction in the country, that black people don’t read. Recently, Wanner also called out misogyny in South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Read an excerpt below.

As a writer published in South Africa, I work in an insane industry.

Elsewhere, problems might arise because of the writers and their “feeling misunderstood” artsy attitudes. In South Africa, it’s because of a parochial publishing industry.

Twenty-seven years after Nelson Mandela walked out of prison, the South African publishing industry’s articles of faith still remain that middle-class white women are the biggest readers and buyers of books, and that nonfiction sells more than fiction.

Sadly the insistence to hold onto these beliefs, while not likely to kill the industry, is bleeding it in the same way that traditional churches that refused to transform became less popular than the newer, shinier prosperity gospel churches.

The only difference being that, in the transformation happening in literature, there is a depth that perhaps is not seen in grass-eating, petrol-imbibing churches.

Many years ago, I was visiting our family home built on land we don’t own in Orlando West Extension, for one of those “one of ours who’s made us proud” homecomings that many of us dream of. The reason for all the love stemmed from the fact that many people in the street had read my first novel and enjoyed it. Or they said they had enjoyed it.

Conversations ekoneni even went something like: “Vuyo’s mother’s home maZuki, is that …” and “Zooks mfethu, you put me in there, and my joint. That’s me, akere?”

It was music to my ears. And the glow continues 10 years later as I write this, although I would find out later that day that everyone on the street had read and circulated just one copy of my book.

Thando Mgqolozana calls it travelling books. One person buys it, reads it and says: “Tjo. Maar this book.” Then passes it on to another who passes it on to another and so forth.

So the first mistake that the publishing industry makes is to believe that only a certain demographic is not reading. Not buying books is not the same as not reading.

But even the book-buying dynamics have changed.

In my own family it began with one of my cousins asking me for some cash. “I don’t have any,” I answered. But why didn’t I since I had just had a book out? Well since she was sharing the one copy I bought for her with the whole street, where was I supposed to make money from?

Now she tells the neighbours to buy books and when I walk in the hood and am told about a book, it’s because someone wants to know how long I am at makhulu’s so that they can come and get their copy signed.

I think part of the disconnect between writers and white publishers has been very much ingrained in this fallacious belief that a certain demographic of people does not read.

Read the full essay HERE.

Tags: ,

Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize and the 2019 Miles Morland Writing Scholarships. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Shailja Patel Rejects $87,070 Court Ruling in Sexual Assault Defamation Suit by Tony Mochama, Leaves Kenya on Self-Exile

Shailja Patel - Festival Internacional de Poeisas - graph

A week following the awarding of Sh9 million ($87,070) to Tony Mochama in his sexual assault defamation suit against Shailja […]

How to Join Narrative Landscape’s Illustrator Competition for Nigerian Women

Narrative Landscape Press

PRESS RELEASE Brief Narrative Landscape Press is pleased to announce this illustrator competition for Nigerian women illustrators. The winner of […]

Saraba Magazine Will Be Appointing a New Editorial Team | How to Apply

Saraba_22_Open

APPLY TO JOIN SARABA MAGAZINE EDITORIAL TEAM: PRESS RELEASE Saraba, the acclaimed literary magazine based in Nigeria, calls for applications […]

The Thing in the Blood | Vuyelwa Maluleke | Fiction

go the way your blood beats - graph

Vuyelwa Maluleke’s “The Thing in the Blood” is taken from Go the Way Your Blood Beats: New Short Fiction from […]

Agbowo Magazine’s Visually Stunning Second Issue Features Work by JK Anowe, Sarah Lubala, & Efua Traore

Agbowo - graph

The Nigeria-based Agbowo Magazine, which “collect[s] great literary and visual African art,” has released its second issue, themed “Limits”: a […]

Nigerian Journalist & Presenter Arit Okpo Is New Host of CNN’s African Voices

Arit Okpo - image by Guardian Nigeria

The Nigerian journalist, TV presenter, documentary filmmaker, producer and voice-over talent Arit Okpo is the new host of CNN’s “African Voices.” […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.