Huza Press was established to expand Rwanda’s publishing industry and literary culture. Founded by Rwandan publisher, communications expert and writer Louise Umutoni, the press has become a mainstay of the African literary scene. In the few short years of its existence, it has amassed an impressive roster of writers and catalogue of books that speak to the richness of African writing.
The press has helped enliven Rwanda’s literary scene through innovative approaches to publishing. In 2018, it launched a multi-media literary project called RadioBook Rwanda made up of text, pictures, and sound. The following year, it published Billy Kahora’s much anticipated short story collection The Cape Cod Bicycle War and Other Stories to critical acclaim.
In a message to Brittle Paper, the press expresses excitement for three new books coming out of its stables:
The first novel Huza Press will publish is by Ugandan writer Anyango Doreen and comes out of a new partnership with Mawazo Africa Writing Institute supported and enabled by University of Bristol. Since 2018 Mawazo have run two online ‘Writing the Novel’ workshops: these form part of their series of online writing courses for Africa-based writers which work long-term to produce high-quality work ready for publication. We plan for this to be the first in a new Huza-Mawazo book series and are honoured to have been first readers for the brilliant novel manuscripts emerging from these initial two workshops.
We will also be publishing the long-awaited Song for Burundi poetry collection. The heart and voice of this anthology of poems by Burundian refugees was shaped through a poetry workshop run in Musanze out of a collaboration between Transpoesis, Huza Press, Jalada Africa and Africa Writes. Finally, we have an exciting collection of short stories currently being edited which emerges from our first collaboration with Saseni! and enables us to publish voices from across Rwanda, Kenya and Somaliland. This publication comes out of a writing workshop run last year at the Hargeysa International Book Fair by our author Billy Kahora and British-Somali writer Nadifa Mohamed.
This rich harvest of books is made possible by the press’s commitment to growing the literary field through prizes, workshops and mentorship initiatives. In 2015, Huza Press launched the Huza Prize For Fiction, Rwanda’s first ever national prize for fiction, which recognizes Rwanda’s rising stars and has provided mentorship opportunities with notable African literary voices such as Taiye Selasi, Jennifer Makumbi, and many others. But it is through workshops that the press has really built its impressive writer base while discovering new voices. Its editors see writing workshops as necessary support for “writers to grow as writers, to cross borders and to reach outside of Rwanda.” These workshops help writers develop their craft and find community in their shared purpose.
Ultimately, the true impact of Huza Press on Rwandan literature has been changing the narrative of a country that many insist on seeing through the lens of its history. As Umutoni notes in an interview with African in Words:
It was the pressing need to reclaim our narrative, which as many of you are aware was being largely told by non-Rwandans. To date any mention of Rwanda is closely followed by the word genocide and, as vital as this is to our history, it is not our only experience.
Huza Press is a gift to the African literary scene, and we are beyond delighted that they are growing in leaps and bound.