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Kwei Quartey. Image from Ghana, I Love You tumblr.

In a new essay for Crime Reads, the Ghanaian novelist Kwei Quartey argues for the vitality of the spiritual in crime fiction from the continent, on the basis that “the importance of curses, the ancestors, and the gods in African daily life cannot be overstated.” He uses instances—the trokosi tradition in Ghana’s Volta region, a 1945 ritual killing in Elmina, and the sakawa, for Yahoo Boys—to establish a background for the supernatural phenomena in his own novels.

Quartey, a physician, is the author of the novels Wife of the GodsChildren of the StreetMurder at Cape Three PointsGold of Our Fathers, and Death by His Grace, which constitute the Darko Dawson series, and of The Missing American, which begins the Emma Djan series.

That they do not “fit with the otherwise precise and logical evolution of a murder mystery” is why “the introduction of magic, juju, and the supernatural has a special place in crime fiction.”

“Crime fiction out of Africa, a relatively new phenomenon, may contribute a new aspect to the genre, i.e. the part spiritual or mystical beliefs can play in crime, more specifically murder,” he writes. “Perhaps it’s time to add a new sub-genre category: African.”

Do read the essay and tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, journalist, & Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. The recipient of the inaugural The Future Awards Prize for Literature in 2019, he is a judge for The Gerald Kraak Prize and was a judge for The Morland Writing Scholarship in 2019. He is Nonfiction 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 Curator at 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 work in queer equality advocacy in literature has been profiled in Literary Hub. 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 has an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies/English & Literary Studies, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English in a private Nigerian university. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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