The 2024 fellows for the Literary Laddership for Emerging African Authors are Habiba Dokubo-Asari from Port Harcourt, Nigeria and Chimezie Chika from Onitsha, Nigeria.

The fellowship aims to support, elevate, and connect emerging fiction authors of Black and/or African descent, based primarily on the African continent and writing in the English language. It was started by author Suyi Davies Okungbowa to allow underrepresented emerging African authors an opportunity to access professional support and infrastructure.

For three months starting in June, the winning fellows will receive $500 to buy time, space and/or resources to create new work or complete their existing one. They will be given access to a private community of practice including emerging and veteran authors sharing craft lessons, best practices, and insider publishing knowledge. Upon completion of their work, fellows will be provided with the necessary guidance and education to navigate the publishing industry and aid submission and publication of their work.

Founder Okungbowa said that this year, they received 29 applications from writers in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda. The reader-judges reviewed the applications with a focus on storytelling, language and structure, style/approach/themes, and genre:

While we received many impressive, interesting and exciting submissions from clearly talented applicants, we could only award the fellowship to two candidates, and the two fellows selected above have demonstrated a penchant for high quality prose, unique storytelling approaches, a strong commitment to the writing practice and the promise of similarly impressive work in the future.

Habiba Dokubo-Asari is a Niger Deltan writer. She is the winner of the 2024 Stephen A. Dibiase Poetry Prize and has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Stories Prize 2023 and the Climate Change Poetry Prize 2022. Her work has appeared in FIYAH, Strange Horizons, Fantasy Magazine among others.

The reader-judges commented on the immersive nature of her winning text:

The fantastical premise of this excerpt breathes new life into familiar themes, such as adaptation, loss, change, and the fragility of life. Moreover, the descriptions of human-to-tree transformations cleverly portray distinctive personas/personalities of different characters. The dialogue feels natural and realistic; it blends with the exposition to reveal the characters’ interactions and their relationships with the world around them. The point of view (“I”; “I” + “we”) effectively immerses the reader in the protagonist’s experiences. The tone is suitable for the gravity of the characters’ circumstances, while the descriptions and imagery vividly depict a surreal and nightmarish world without overwhelming the reader with sensory details.

Chimezie Chika is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. His works have appeared in or forthcoming from, amongst other places, The Shallow Tales Review, The Republic,, Lolwe, Iskanchi Mag, Isele Magazine, Efiko Magazine, and Afrocritik. A Runner-Up for the J.F. Powers Prize for Fiction (2024), he was a 2021 Fellow of the Ebedi International Writers’ Residency in Iseyin, Nigeria. He is presently the Fiction Editor of Ngiga Review and currently resides in Nigeria.

The reader-judges remarked on the imaginative potential of his winning text:

…the writer demonstrates a strong sense of setting, and their sense of imagination plays a huge role in keeping it alive, the specificity of details, the descriptive verbs. The points of view—one, first-person; the other, third-person limited—are also well understood by the writer. They evidently demonstrate, at least, an above-average understanding of rhythm, various sentence styles and types, and properly deploys them for lyrical, emotional and, in some cases, economical appeal. Their understanding of punctuation, and proper use thereof, is commendable.

Congrats to the two fellows!