Malawi’s Chikoti, Kenani among Africa’s 39 best promising writers

Malawians writers Shadreck Chikoti and Geneva-based Stanley Onjezani Kenani were Tuesday named some of Africa’s most promising writers under the age of 40 in a list published by Africa39 project in London.

The two have been listed alongside big names in Africa’s present day literature such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Monica Arac Nyeko, Nii Parkes, Jackee Batanda, Chika Unigwe and Rotimi Babatunde, among others.

“I must say I’m lost of words. This is something I wasn’t expecting. It is like you’re upgrading to a new level in a game. It is an honour,” said Chikoti in an exclusive interview with Nyasa Times.

Kenani: In it
Kenani: In it

Chikoti added that the development has “totally encouraged me, and has put a lot of confidence in my writing.”

The youthful writer, who last year won the 2013 Peer Gynt Literary Award for his futuristic novelAzotus the Kingdom, said he plans to take on science fiction and fantasy writing to greater heights.

He observed that their nomination is historical in Malawian writing.

“This will bring hope to Malawian writing which has recently received all sorts of criticism,” he said.

Chikoti is the founder of The Story Club Malawi, a gathering of all passionate about literature which he launched last year using his prize money. He also is vice president for the Malawi Writers Union (Mawu) as well as executive director for Pan African Publishers LTD – a house he co-owns with renowned Danish author Trine Andsen.

And Kenani, who has twice been shortlisted for the Caine Prize for Short Fiction, said “it’s a major milestone.”

The author of For Honour And Other Short Stories said he “looks at it more as a challenge for me to do more, to try harder than ever before.”

He added: “I think whatever small steps we take, someone somewhere gets inspired in some way. Eventually, I hope there will be a trickle-down effort of our efforts to contribute to wider national strategies for enhancing the reading and writing culture.”

According to information Nyasa Times sourced, over 300 submissions were received for consideration from across Africa.

Binyavanga Wainaina, Kenyan author and intellectual, made a shortlist of 120 authors from the pool of 300 submissions.

A panel of competent judges selected the 39 writers from 120 shortlisted writers.

The writers will meet in Nigeria at the Port Harcout Book Festival next October. In addition, there will be events in London and New York, at or around the same time, in partnership with Arts Council of England, the British Council and Literature Across Frontiers, among others.

The outcome of the project will be the publication of an anthology of short stories by the 39 writers in English, which will be promoted internationally to increase access to contemporary literature from the region. Hay Festival will encourage as many translations as possible of this anthology.

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