A recent Los Angeles Review of Books essay offers an overview of the ways that digital literary culture is being shaped by the work of African creatives.
The essay was written by Bhakti Shringarpure, associate professor of English at the University of Connecticut and editor-in-chief of Warscapes. She observes that “the dynamic digital impulses of African creativity have not only changed African literature but have also fundamentally altered literary culture as we know it.”
Shringarpure points out that in the early days of the pandemic, it was Zukiswa Wanner, alongside James Murua, who initiated the idea of an online literary festival. “Many aspects of digital literary culture that we take for granted have originated in or have been tried and tested in African countries,” she says.
In tracing the connections between digital culture and African literature, Shringarpure recalls Teju Cole’s observation that “Twitter is an African City,” and Binyavanga Wainaina’s that “digital spaces have become micro-utopias for queer populations.”
Shringarpure recognizes that credit for this goes to the work of numerous cultural producers on the continent and across the world who have launched platforms, journals, presses, and literary festivals that promote and publish African literary work. She acknowledges Brittle Paper as one such platform and the courses titled “Social Media Fiction” and “How Social Media Works” which our editor-in-chief, Ainehi Edoro, teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also gave a shout out to magazine and journals like Saraba magazine, Kwani?, Jalada, Doek!, and Lolwe; publishing houses like Cassava Republic Press and Huza Press; as well as events like the Ake Arts and Book Festival, Hargeysa International Book Fair, Afrolit Sans Frontières, Gaborone Book Festival, and the African Book Festival in Berlin.
The essay concludes with a consideration of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s role “at the frontlines of this new and exciting digital literary culture.” Shringarpure notes that in the case of her recent novella, Zikora, “Adichie chose to publish online [with Amazon Original Stories], and this decision should not be glossed over.”
Congratulations, Bhakti, on the publication of this piece! We look forward to future work on this angle from you.
Read the full essay here.