Out of Africa: Lit Mags Related to Africa and Diaspora
By Rachel Peterson
Held out in that market in Nairobi.
She held it out to me, and it was mine.
It contained colors I loved, colors I didn't know could go together in thick lines: orange, lavender, neon green. Then thin: pink, purple, light blue, cerulean. These colors threaded in and out, dissected only by a paler cross-pattern to create boxes, framing the cloth.
The colors showed off, scintillating like some delicate thing, but the lines told the truth. Solid it was and heavier than the jeans I wore. It weighted me, kept be safe with each press, each fold, the tassel rolled, braided by some sure hand. This was tough, the kind of taunt, bright thing I wanted to be.
More than that, it was a scarf you wore to remind you to do things, it would still be there when you would put out a hand, thinking to secure some stray thread. It always held its shape through deluge and dessert heat. It also reminded me of beauty, like the scent of fresh linen even on dirt paths, safari. The animals are harder to recall, not even the pair of giraffes that blocked our jeep’s escape. Nor the flamingos below the snow-caps of Kilimanjaro.
I remember chai and chapati cupped and savored---and human faces above the colors. Human voices.
Story-telling is in the music, the dramas, dancing, cinema---literature as well. The written word carries these cadences, the longing to be heard, understood, this longing for connection. This emphasis on voice, of sharing as an act of defiance, yes, but also one of solidarity through humor and tragedy.
Note: Africa is a large continent. These links are just a sampling of what is out there in the literary scene. I narrowed this list down just to the sites that are all in English. Also, they share the same aim: to publish literature that comes from Africa, is set in Africa, or from those of Africa descent. These links not only show what is happening now in Africa, but the continuing legacy of the African Diaspora.
African Literature Today. Founded in 1968 by Heinemann Publishers, London, African Literature Today, is the oldest international journal of African Literature in the world. It began as a twice-annual publication but changed with its fifth issue on “The Novel in Africa” in 1971, to a once-yearly publication. For three decades it was edited by one of the most versatile literary critics of the 20th century, the Sierra Leonean-born Professor Eldred Durosimi Jones. In 2000 when Professor Jones retired as Editor Emeritus, the editorship passed on to Professor Ernest N. Emenyonu whose appointment was held as ‘a very good omen for African Literature’ by Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, and by Africa’s legendary leading novelist, Chinua Achebe as, ‘a most appropriate and logical development, and a very happy event for African Literature.’ As an annual publication, African Literature Today covers single topics and extensive book reviews in each issue. Contributions come from literary scholars and critics all over the world.
African Writing Online. This "online literary magazine featuring creative short fiction, essays, poetry, drama and art primarily from African writers and artists." "committed to the literature of continental and diasporic Africa." Writer interviews, profiles, fiction, poetry, tributes, reviews, readers' forum. Has a print edition also. Published by Fonthouse Ltd., Oxford, U.K. e welcome submissions from our readers. Our preference is for new, unpublished work. Our natural constituency of writers and material are African or Diasporan (please interpret boldly) but we will publish any writer who writes into the African Condition (please interpret boldly). We are adventurous in our definition of Africana, but we will also publish good literature generally.
ANANSI. Based in New York, this literary Journal considers original works of fiction by writers of African descent. Our intention is to publish excellent fiction from writers throughout the African Diaspora that appeals to readers of diverse literary interests. Founded in February 1999, ANANSI opened its pages to the new, emerging, and established writers of the African diaspora—and to readers who appreciate a broad range of fiction. published twice a year, ANANSI is a 6" x 9" trade paper literary journal featuring cover art by talented artists. It also takes its name from the trickster/storyteller figure in African and Caribbean folklore. We are seeking original, previously unpublished short fiction and novel excerpts from all genres.
Banipal Magazine. Banipal magazine showcases contemporary Arab authors in English translation, from wherever they are writing and publishing. From the first issue, the three cornerstones of Banipal were that Arab literature is an essential part of world culture and human civilisation; that dialogue between different cultures needs to be continually deepened; and that the joy and enlightenment to be gained from reading beautiful poetry and imaginative writing is an integral part of human existence. These three points have guided Banipal’s translation and promotion of contemporary Arab literature. Literary translation has such an inspirational power to develop dialogue and interaction between cultures; the moment a reader starts to read a translation dialogue begins. Banipal sees itself as a vehicle for intercultural dialogue and exchange that opens a window for UK and other Western audiences on the realities of Arab culture in all its diversity and vibrancy, enabling fruitful discourse to develop, that will lead to further exchange, mutual respect, new writings, deeper understanding, and Arab literature taking its rightful place in the canon of world literature.
CALLALOO, the well-known African Diaspora literary journal, publishes original works by, and critical studies of, black writers worldwide. The journal offers a rich mixture of fiction, poetry, plays, critical essays, cultural studies, interviews, and visual art. Frequent annotated bibliographies, special thematic issues, and original art and photography are some of the features of this highly acclaimed international showcase of arts and letters. Based at Texas A&M University, it has recently been ranked one of the top 15 literary magazines in the United States by Every Writer’s Resource. Ranked among such periodicals as The New Yorker Magazine, Paris Review, The Atlantic, Ploughshares, and Kenyon Review, Callaloo is edited by Dr. Charles Henry Rowell, a professor of English, and published quarterly by the Johns Hopkins University Press in Baltimore, MD.
Chimurenga (‘Struggle for Freedom’) is a Pan-African publication of culture, art and politics based in Cape Town. Founded by Editor Ntone Edjabe in 2002, it provides an innovative platform for free ideas and political reflection by Africans about Africa. Chimurenga, a pan-African publication of writing, art and politics has been in print since March 2002. It was founded by Ntone Edjabe. The journal is published irregularly in print, online and through themed performances called “Chimurenga Sessions.”
Enskyment is a prizewinning anthology of print and online poetry~ now welcomes up to three poems by each invited poet, thanks to an increased archival capacity. Poems by invitation only.
Farafina magazine started in 2004 as an online magazine featuring the early works of such writers as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tolu Ogunlesi, and Petina Gappah. In October 2005, the first issue of the print magazine was published. Publication was suspended, after 16 issues, in September 2009. We now plan to revive the magazine under our non-profit organisation, Farafina Trust. From the very beginning, Farafina was to be intelligent without being pompous, well-researched without being academic, and opinionated without being pedantic. It provided a platform for the wealth of Africa’s literary talent and imperative voices.
Kwani?. ‘It began with a question’, says Tom Maliti, Kwani Trust’s Board Chairman . Are Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Meja Mwangi the only writers Kenyan publishers are interested in? Why aren’t new writers being published in Kenya? Some writers got frustrated with waiting for publishers to just acknowledge they had received a manuscript. One year was frequently mentioned as the waiting period. Others were told no, after waiting a year for some acknowledgement. Many just never heard back. Was textbook publishing so lucrative that general fiction manuscripts were not of interest? Established in 2003, Kwani Trust is a Kenyan based literary network dedicated to developing quality creative writing and committed to the growth of the creative industry through the publishing and distribution of contemporary African writing, offering training opportunities, producing literary events and establishing and maintaining global literary networks. Our vision is to create a society that uses its stories to see itself more coherently.
LitNet aims to provide a robust virtual home for culture lovers and to remain the leading South African multicultural online journal. As a broad cultural journal with an Afrikaans-speaking heart but an openness to a multicultural environment and living space, it also accommodates other languages such as Xhosa, English and Dutch. Now firmly established within the Afrikaans environment, LitNet is committed to growing its English and African languages content. Because of its legitimacy within its niche market, its marriage to established publishers, arts festivals and other cultural institutions, as well as its unique texture and sound and conservative expenditure, LitNet is set to keep growing as a space for new writing and vigorous socio-cultural opinion. Combining popular interactivity with quality content establishes LitNet as a home for both the home-grown philosopher and the more highbrow intellectual.
Matatu is a journal on African literatures and societies dedicated to interdisciplinary dialogue between literary and cultural studies, historiography, the social sciences and cultural anthropology. Matatu is animated by a lively interest in African culture and literature (including the Afro-Caribbean) that moves beyond worn-out clichés of ‘cultural authenticity’ and ‘national liberation’ towards critical exploration of African modernities. The East African public transport vehicle from which Matatu takes its name is both a component and a symbol of these modernities: based on ‘Western’ (these days usually Japanese) technology, it is a vigorously African institution; it is usually regarded with some anxiety by those travelling in it, but is often enough the only means of transport available; it creates temporary communicative communities and provides a transient site for the exchange of news, storytelling, and political debate.
The Medunsa Poetry Club was established February 2004 to encourage and promote the art of poetry in Medunsa. The organisation aims to establish a culture of free expression among the Medunsa students. This will be accomplished through a publication in the form of a student newsletter. The founding members of the club are Neo(chairlady), Vule(secretary), Shadrack(public relations officer, and Victor(treasurer) and they also form the executive commitee of the organisation. The Club continues to grow and will hopefully become one of the biggest organisation in the institution by the end of year 2004. The name of the club will be changed in the year 2005 in line with the amalgamation of Medunsa and The University of the North.
Meskot - An Ethiopian Online Literary Journal is published in Amharic and English. It publishes only the highest quality poetry, short stories, and essays.
Mirabilia Review is an online carnival of the world’s storytelling traditions, a bazaar of diverse and variegated narratives which celebrates the unities and divergences of experience in the contemporary global space. Mirabilia is internationalist in bent. We are looking for stories from all parts of the globe which illuminate critical experiences in our increasingly (and selectively) globalized world. Mirabilia does not favour any particular aesthetic style or literary school. We place premium on fiction of burning contemporary relevance, so don’t bother sending historical narratives without a clear thematic connection with contemporary issues. Send short stories of between 4,000 and 12,000 words to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions should be sent as attachments in .doc or .rtf file types. A short biographical sketch is required. The subject line of the e-mail should follow this format: “Submission: Story’s Title by Author’s Name.” Failure to respect these guidelines could lead to a delay in the assessment of your submission.
Munyori Literary Journal. On-line poetry journal. Includes an interviews and poetry of Zimvbabwe writer, Zvisinei Sandi and Ghanaian writer, Prince Mensah. Munyori Literary Journal is currently a non-paying market, but it guarantees you a world-wide readership. Munyori also participates in contest nominations. If we decide to nominate your work for a contest, we will inform you in writing.
Queen: a Journal of Rhetoric and Power was dedicated to critical inquiry and analysis of the rhetorical function of power in any and all contexts. For over 10 years, it was the electronic publishing arm of the Centre for Rhetorics and Hermeneutics, which was dedicated to interdisciplinary exchange on transdisciplinary subjects of real and lasting import.
SABLE. The first issue of SABLE LitMag featured Linton Kwesi Johnson who epitomised what we are about – art, activism and social cohesion. The website features our printed back issues and our future print and digital issues. We will print a special limited edition print issue at the end of each year and two themed digital issues each year. Although we do a number of programmes and projects, the litmag is at the heart of the work that we do. From the current issue, you will start to notice some changes as we have recreated SABLE from a solely literary magazine to a cultural magazine, underwritten by literary factors. By this we mean, when we write about ‘theatre’ for example, our ethos is one of social consciousness and cohesion, which leads us to focus on the type of productions that feature.
SierrArts. An Online Magazine featuring Sierra Leone Writers, Arts and Culture. Launched in 2012, SierrArts explores and showcases the literary arts by Sierra Leonean writers and artists. SierrArts is currently the only online literary journal established by Sierra Leoneans. Several years ago there was an attempt to develop a similar journal called Mabayla Review; although it sustained for a while, we discovered that discovering local writers from across the ocean was challenging. Now that SierrArts is operated from within Sierra Leone we can boast of a pool to have raw and fresh creativity in a unique blend of interviews, book reviews, and arts and culture. SierrArts is a nonprofit arts organization that supports the literary arts through education, creative thinking, and new media.
Sweet Magazine is an online platform for the expression of almost unheard of desires: flash fiction, essays, poetry, reviews and all other matters of substance.
Transition. Accelerating revolutions in telecommunication, digital conversion, economic speculation, and social dislocation are rapidly transforming the conditions and activities of Africans and African-Americans. The new forms and tempo of change compel deep reflection and novel approaches to the representation of black life. Accordingly, to the magazine’s traditional focus on the condition of Africa, race, and cultural identification, we add an emphasis on creativity and innovation in social, economic, cultural, and political life. In full recognition of the porous membranes of black belonging, we will pay special attention to the ever-fluctuating social geography of the black world, surveying developments throughout the Americas, Europe, and Africa, while glancing at times across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. We will attempt, in other words, to make Transition a pivotal medium for discussion of the global predicament of the African Diaspora in an age that demands ceaseless improvisation.
Wasafiri has always transcended the boundaries of established canons and cultures, whether academic or political, and played a pioneering role in bringing new voices to light. Wasafiri was a place where you could find reviews of the first novels and early poetry of writers who are now considered part of the mainstream, from Hanan al-Shaykh to Biyi Bandele, from Andre Brink to David Dabydeen, from Mimi Khalvati to Rohinton Mistry. Many writers published in Wasafiri have been nominated for major literary awards, not only Abdulrazak Gurnah (shortlisted for the Booker in 1994) and John Haynes (winner of the Costa Poetry Prize in 2006 and the Troubadour Poetry Prize in 2007), but also Segun Afolabi who won the Caine Prize for ‘Monday Morning’ (published in issue 41) and later Orange Prize nominees Bernardine Evaristo and Kamila Shamsie. Significantly too, Wasafiri has started to expand the space it has always provided for dialogues across different literary constituencies and local neighbourhoods. Clearly many of the writers Wasafiri has published now belong to a recognisable global and international literary scene. Wasafiri is Britain’s premier magazine for international contemporary writing. Published quarterly, it has established a distinctive reputation for promoting work by new and established voices across the globe.
Born in Bloody Harlan, Kentucky, Rachel teaches college near Springfield, Ohio. Her academic adventures have led to an MFA in Poetry and MA in Religion. She also has had the good fortune to travel widely and participate in service work both in the US and abroad. A poem from manuscript is featured in Literary Imagination. More poems can be found in Arsenic Lobster, Midwestern Gothic, and The Los Angeles Review. “Elegy of the Gun,” published by LAR, was just nominated for Best New Poets.