Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Book: Promoting Quintessential African Writing (2013)
Author: Ishmael Mzwandile Soqaga

Isbn: 978-0-620-56898-2

"this is an excellent introduction to the corpus of writing churned
out by black africans over the centuries, including the prolific
authors who now dot the continent in recent times. this is a work that
instils pride and satisfaction into every african who has perhaps
pondered the crucial question: as to what the people and the continent
have contributed to global arts and culture in world history?

the author, ishmael mzwandile soqaga is an essayist, author,
pan-africanist and sports enthusiast based in mangaung, free state,
south africa. this is his second book..."


introduction – by iSHMAEL soqaga

chapter one: early african writers

chapter two: knowledge in africa (africa’s centres of learning)

chapter three: extraordinary literacy in africa (post colonial african

chapter four: case studies of five outstanding african writers
prolific African writers

PAUL LOTHANE has since written the following review of this book:

“Earlier in this work, I expressed indignation at the unfairness that prevails in the world of literature; an African writer or critic on his own part would have to read and study hundreds or even thousands of Eurocentric literature before being given any sort of recognition, but alas the converse is not true – a great Eurocentric writer like Saul Bellow (as we have seen) might know virtually nothing about the countless African books published, and even be proud of this fact!”

Thus writes Ishmael Mzwandile Soqaga in his new book, Promoting Quintessential African Writing. Going through this work reveals that the statement above informed the author in not only doing his research for the book, but also unearthing some fascinating facts about “African literacy and writing” over the centuries. Of course in modern times many African writers from all the continent’s countries have published hundreds of books; thousands actually.

And this is where Soqaga comes into his own element. It is clear that he appreciates the world of literacy and creativity, and he is utterly impressed with the fact that the African continent has produced so many fine writers and countless books too. The lesson for Africans here is that whilst they continue to “worship” Eurocentric authors, they must remember that Africa has many outstanding writers too.

Soqaga singles out “five case studies of outstanding African writers” – Chinua Achebe, Armah, Wole Soyinka, Es’kia Mphahlele and Ngugi. It is an illustrious list, but this might itself spark controversy. The problem is that there are many other outstanding African writers over the decades – for example Zakes Mda and Ben Okri are also among the all-time greats. And what about Nobel Winner Naguib Mahfouz?

There appears to be a general trend among lovers of books, writing, literature, who happen to be Africans. Talk to most of them about their favourite authors and books, and one can be certain they will invariably reel out Eurocentric authors and their books. Many of them will go into raptures over the “classics” without even realizing that there are scores of African classics too.

Come to think of it, it IS shameful that so many of us who claim to love books hardly know anything about African authors and their work. The majority will probably know about Achebe and Ngugi, but will they know more than a couple or so of books they have published? Remember even Achebe and Ngugi between them have published almost 100 books! How much more any knowledge about the many other fine writers Soqaga introduces in his book?

Such prolific African writers Soqaga mentions in his book (including titles of many of their books) include Naguib Mahfouz, Ngugi wa Thiongo Wole Soyinka, Ayi Kwei Armah, Taban Lo Liyong, Kole Omotosho, Meja Mwangi, Buchi Emecheta, Ama A. Aidoo, O. Bolaji, David G Maillu (who has published some 60 books!), Cyprian Ekwensi among others. 

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