At the start of 2021, I was wrapping up my MA in queer Nigerian literature which included a chapter on the digital space being created and upheld by revolutionary platforms, primarily Brittle Paper. I spoke about the work, the people, and both volumes of 14: An Anthology of Queer Art, published by Brittle Paper in 2018/19.
I found out I had passed my MA at the end of May and a few days later, I received an email from Dr Ainehi Edoro, setting up an interview. A few days later, I was offered the position of Submissions Editor, a dream job at a platform I deeply admire and which I dedicated my thesis to just a couple months prior.
When I started work in June, I read daily submissions, curated cover images, edited posts, and corresponded with the passionate and dedicated writers who share their craft with us. From poetry, fiction, reviews, and essays, I am truly proud of the work that has been published during my time at Brittle Paper so far because of the artists who use their work to showcase theirs and others’ voices, and who put their trust and work in us to amplify it.
To wrap up the year, I thought I would share with you some of my favourite published pieces of the past seven months.
June would have to be Ntando Taro Nzuza’s, “The Wedding”, a heartbreaking yet wholesome romantic story about the complexities and difficulties within the queer community.
Mmakgosi Anita Tau’s “Mosadi Galase”, is my July highlight simply for her essay’s unapologetic praise and beautification of women.
August was a difficult month to select from so I picked one of each. Michelle Korir’s essay, “The Cupboard”, felt like a continuation of Tau’s essay, as it showed a woman standing her ground on redefining her place and future within culture and society. Building on the feminist theme is Chioma Sheri’s poem, “Undiluted”, which highlights the beauty of blackness and loving oneself in the blessed skin tones we are given. Finally, August’s highlights end with Enit’ayanfe Ayosojumi Akinsanya’s fiction piece, “Palindrome”, which speaks to healing oneself in order to once again be accepting of and worthy of love and romance.
Henry Ugochukwu’s September poem, “My Original Sin”, stood out for me because it finds a way to make love poetry feel original once more, and that should always be applauded.
October’s essay by Busamoya Modirwa’s, “Obsession”, is probably one of the most relatable essays published this year because it has such whimsical storytelling yet talks to the raw insecurities some of us share and the difficulty in finding the root causes.
In November, I came across an image while curating some collections and I saved it, hoping I could use it soon. When Ugochukwu Anadị submitted “How Do I Carve My Ikenga”, it felt like fate as I could finally use that image, however, Anadị’s words and its themes of subverting masculine strength would have been just as powerful on its own.
December is definitely the month for storytelling and Hallie Haller and Linda Thotho did this beautifully. Haller’s photo essay, “Let the Weak Things Break”, and Thotho’s fiction piece, “Preference”, both feel like the literary equivalent to the movies everyone needs to watch over the festive break. I loved Thotho’s writing so much that I’ve selected her as our Artist of the Month, previously known as Spotlight, which will be published early next year.
This brings us to the projects of the year.
I cannot mention my highlights without including the three campaigns of 2021.
In August, we launched our Spotlight campaign. This campaign is a personal favourite because it allows me to select one artist every month who I have seen put in significant effort with submitting, commenting on others’ work, and exceptional writing that makes accepting it for publication an easy decision. I am extremely proud and in awe of the five Spotlight artists we have featured in 2021, which you already know but who I will gladly reintroduce:
At the start of October, I was surprised by the sudden burst of inspiration our artists had because we received multiple submissions every day that were of remarkable quality and diverse in content. It seemed only right to not limit the number of publications and instead launch a 30 Days of African Writing campaign to try and make room for all the stunning pieces. From 9 October to 7 November, we published new work every day and it was amazing to see the support artists gave to each other via the comments page. With 30 amazing posts, it is not an easy feat to select favourites but there are two poems and two short stories that I found myself reading multiple times. These are Jedidiah Mugarura’s “Obutumwa: A Letter to Atuhwera”, Nasiba Babale’s “How I Wear My Accent”, Sikelela Ndabambi’s “Oledi”, and Seye Fakinlede’s “Healing Hearts”.
As you all must know by now, we held a 12 Days of Brittle Paper Competition to make sure Brittle Paper was giving you the festive feels and, despite the late call for submissions, we received 120 entries! I thoroughly enjoyed reading every single one and although it was not easy, I am proud of the 12 finalists, including our top 3. The range of stories, spanning various cultures, nationalities, and festivities, really created a beautiful hub for celebrations and I am thankful for everyone’s contributions. I have to say that amongst all of the beautiful pieces, my favourite pieces are the ones from earlier this week by Joseph Olofinkua, Lerato Mahlangu, and, Bryan Okwesili.
2021 has been difficult for most, if not all, but the African literary community went above and beyond to ensure there was room for celebration. From Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Nobel, Damon Galgut’s Booker Prize, Mohamed Mbougar Sarr’s Prix Goncourt Prize, Boubacar Boris Diop’s Neustadt International Prize and International Booker Prize, Tsitsi Dangaremgba’s Peace Prize and Pen Pinter Prize, Paulina Chiziane’s Camões Award, all the way to Jennifer Nansubuga’s Jhalak Prize. Beyond the accolades of such great and notable writers, there is also a need to highlight the works of our emerging artists, such as our Spotlight artists, Chioniso Tsikisayi, who came third in the Intwasa’s Short Story Competition, and Omodero Oghenekaro who finished second in BBR’s Book Grant. The Brittle Paper team was ecstatic to hear about their successes, and I am excited to see what they and the rest of our writers do next.
I am truly honoured to be the Submissions Editor at Brittle Paper and to work with every writer who publishes work with us. I hope you have enjoyed the publications of this year so far, and I look forward to what 2022 brings.
Have a safe and wonderful festive season.