African Women Writers

Alifa Rifaat (June 1930-January 1996)

Alifa Rifaat - Egypt

Alifa Rifaat was the pen name of Fatima Abdullah Rifaat, born in Cairo, Egypt in 1930. She used the pen name to prevent embarrassment on the part of her family due to the themes of her stories and her writing career. Her writing was mostly focused in women in a patriarchal Muslim society.

The most popular English translation of her work is of her collection of short stories, Distant View of a Minaret and Other Short Stories (1983), which is translated by Denys Johnson-Davies. Her other works include Eve Returns to Adam, On a Long Winter’s Night, The Prayer of Love, and Who Can Man Be? (said to be very controversial and was not sold in most Egyptian stores).

In 1984 Alifa Rifaat received the Excellency Award from the Modern Literature Assembly. Although Alifa Rifaat wrote in Arabic throughout her literary career, her works have been translated into different languages.

  • More on Alifa Rifaat here

Amma Darko


Photo by Regina Bouillon

Amma Darko was born in Koforidua, Ghana in 1956. She graduated from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and then moved to Germany. She writes in both English and German. Her first novel, Beyond the Horizon, was originally published in German.

Her other works include The Housemaid, Faceless, Not Without Flowers, Spinnweben (Translation:”Cobwebs”; no English version), Verirrtes Herz (Transl.:”Stray heart”; no English version) and Verirrtes Herz, Novel, 2000 (“A Cross of A Kind”; no English version).

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Buchi Emecheta

Buchi Emecheta- Nigeria

Buchi Emecheta was born in 1944 in Lagos, Nigeria. She moved to Britain in 1960 where she studied sociology. Her first novel, In the Ditch was published in 1972 and later its sequel, Second Class Citizen in 1974.

She has published over 20 books including her autobiography, Head Above Water (1986) and two plays A Kind of Marriage and Family Bargain. She has also written for children/young adult; Titch, the cat, Nowhere to Play and the Wrestling Match.

Her other works incude; The Bride Prize, The Slave Girl, The Joys of Motherhood, The Moonlight Bride, Our Own Freedom, Destination Biafra, Naira Power, The Rape of Shavi, and The New Tribe.

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Bessie Head (1937-1986)

bessie-headBessie Head was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa in 1937. She trained as a teacher, taught for a few years then later became a journalist. In 1964, she moved to Botswana as a refugee. She wrote her three major novels, When Rain Clouds Gather, Maru, and A Question of Power, along with other works, during this period. Her early novel The Cardinals was published posthumously.

Head published her first collection of short stories; The Collector of Treasures and Other Botswana Village Tales in 1977. She published a book on the history of the village she settled in called Serowe: Village of the Rain Wind. Her last novel, A Bewitched Crossroad, is historical, set in 19th-century Botswana.

Her other works include Looking for a Rain God, Tales of Tenderness and Power, A
Woman Alone: Autobiographical Writings
and A Gesture of Belonging: Letters from Bessie Head, 1965-1979.

In 2003 she was awarded the South African “Order of Ikhamanga in Gold” for her “exceptional contribution to literature and the struggle for social change, freedom and peace”.

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Chimamanda  Adichie

AdichieChimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria in 1977. She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus (2005 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award), Half of a Yellow Sun (2007 Orange Prize for fiction) and the story collection The Thing Around Your Neck. Her latest novel Americanah, has  won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and The Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction.

Her works has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared in publications including The New Yorker, the Financial Times and The O. Henry Prize Stories. Her other works include Decisions; a collection of poems and For the Love of Biafra; a play. She was shortlisted for the 2002 Caine Prize for her short story “You in America”.

She was named in the Hay Festival’s Africa39 project as one of 39 writers from sub-Saharan Africa aged under 40 with potential and talent to define trends in African literature in 2014.

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Doreen Baingana

Doreen Baingana

Doreen Baingana is a writer and editor from Uganda. She has a law degree from Makerere University, Uganda, and an M.F.A. from the University of Maryland, USA.

She has published two children’s books Gamba the Gecko Wants to Drum and My Fingers Are Stuck
Her book Tropical Fish,won the 2006 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, best first book, Africa Region, and the AWP Award for Short Fiction (US).

She also won a Washington Independent Writers Fiction Prize and has twice been a finalist for the Caine Prize for African Writing. She was managing Editor at Story Moja, and was one of the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize judges.

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Eileen Barbosa

eileen 2Eileen Barbosa is a Cape Verdean writer and advisor to the Prime Minister. She published her story collection, Eileenístic, in 2007. She is currently at work on her second collection.

She is the recipient of the inaugural National Pantera Revelation Prize 2005 for Short Stories and the Pantera Revelation Prize 2005 for Poetry.
She is also one of the writers on the Africa39 list, a list of 39 of Sub-Saharan Africa’s most promising writers under the age of 40.

Hawa Jande Golakai

hawaHawa Jande Golakai is a Liberian writer born in Frankfurt Germany. She has lived and worked in several African countries.
Her debut novel, The Lazarus Effect, was shortlisted for the 2011 Sunday Times Fiction Prize, the University of Johannesburg Debut Prize and longlisted for the Wole Soyinka Prize.

She works as a medical immunologist. She is currently completing her second novel, a sequel to The Lazarus Effect.

In 2014, she was named in the Hay Festival’s Africa39 project as one of 39 writers from sub-Saharan Africa aged under 40 with potential and talent to define trends in African literature in 2014.

Ingrid Jonker (September 1933 – July 1965)

Ingrid Jonker

Ingrid Jonker, a South African poet was born September 1933.  Her poems were written in Afrikaans and have been widely translated into other languages.

Although she had her first collection of poems; Na die somer (“After the summer”) before she was thirteen years old and published her first book of poems Ontvlugting (“Escape”) in 1956.
Her Next collection of poems, Rook en oker (“Smoke and Ochre”) was published in 1963. Ingrid Jonker won the Afrikaanse Pers-Boekhandel (Afrikaans Press-Booksellers) literary prize, as well as a scholarship from the Anglo American Corporation for this collection.

She died in July 1965. Kantelson (“Toppling Sun”) was a collection of her poems published posthumously. She was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga for poetry posthumously.

More on Ingrid Jonker here

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Jennifer_Nansubuga_Makumbi._Headshot_jpgJennifer is a Ugandan Novelist and short story writer. She is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lancaster University.

Makumbi won the 2014 Africa Regional winner and the overall winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her story “Let’s Tell This Story Properly”. Her doctoral novel, The Kintu Saga (published as Kintu), won the Kwani? Manuscript Project in 2013.

Her short stories include The Joys of Fatherhood and The accidental sea man.

More on Makumbi here and on Wikipedia.


Kadija Sesay

Kadija George

Kadija Sesay is a literary activist, poet and short story writer from Sierra Leone. She also writes as Kadija George. She set up StableLitMag and is currently the magazine’s publisher and managing editor.

She published her first full collection of poetry, Irki in 2013.

More about Kadija Sesay here.



Karen Jennings

karen jenningsKaren Jennings was born in Cape Town in 1982. She holds Master’s degrees in both English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town.

Her short story From Dark won the Africa Region prize in the 2010 Commonwealth Short Story Competition. Mia and the Shark won the English section of the Maskew Miller Longman short story competition in 2009. Her first novel, Finding Soutbek  was shortlisted for the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature.  Karen Jennings is currently researching her second novel as part of a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

More on Karen Jennings here.

Lola Shoneyin

Lola Shoneyin - Nigeria

Lola Shoneyin was born in Ibadan, Nigeria in 1974. She has published three poetry volumes; So All the Time I was Sitting on an Egg, Song of a River Bird, For the Love of Flight.

Her novel,The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives was longlisted for the 2011 Orange Prize, won the 2011 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award and won two Association of Nigerian Authors Awards. It has also been translated into five languages.

Her other works include Woman in Her Season (a collection of short stories) and Mayowa and the Masquerade (children’s book).
She is the founder of the Book Buzz Foundation and the director of the Ake Arts and Books Festival.

  • Read More about Lola Shoneyin on Wikipeda

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Mamle Wolo

Mamle Kabu

Mamle Wolo is an award winning writer from Ghana. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies and journals. She has written numerous short stories under the name Mamle Kabu.

In 2009 she was nominated for the Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story “The End of Skill” published in Dreams, Miracles and Jazz: New Adventures in African Writing, edited by Helon Habila and Kadija Sesay, Picador Africa, 2008.

In 2011, She won the Burt Award for African Literature for her young adult novel ‘The Kaya-Girl’.

Mariama Bâ (1929-1981)

mariama_baMariama Bâ was born in Dakar, Senegal in 1929. She was a novelist, a teacher and a feminist. Her first novel, So Long a Letter won the first Noma Prize for publishing in Africa in 1980. She died a year later before her second novel, Scarlet Song was published.

Although her novels were written in french, they have been translated into different languages.

mariama 1 mariama 2   More on Mariama Bâ here.





Mary Watson

mary WatsonMary Watson is a South African author born in 1975. She completed her master’s degree in creative writing at the University of Cape Town. She later completed a second masters and a PhD and worked as a lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Cape Town between 2004 and 2008.

In 2011, she published her debut story collection Moss. She was the 2006 winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing for her story “Jungfrau”. She published The Cutting Room, a literary thriller in 2013. Her works have been translated into several languages including Arabic, Italian and Dutch.

In 2014, Watson was named in the Hay Festival’s Africa39 project as one of 39 writers from sub-Saharan Africa aged under 40 with potential and talent to define trends in African literature.

Monica Arac de Nyeko

Monica Arac de Nyeko- Uganda/Ghana

Monica is the first Ugandan writer to win the caine prize for African writing in 2007 with her story Jambula Tree. She has a degree in Education from Makerere University, and a Master’s degree in Humanitarian Assistance from the University of Groningen, Netherlands.

Her personal essay, “In the Stars” won the first prize in the Women’s World, women in war zones essay writing competition. Her short stories include Back Home, Strange Fruit, Grasshopper Redness and October Sunrise.

She is a member of the Ugandan Women Writers Association and is also one of the writers on the Africa39 list, a list of 39 of Sub-Saharan Africa’s most promising writers under the age of 40.

NoViolet Bulawayo

NoViolet 1NoViolet Bulawayo is the pen name of Elizabeth Zandile Tshele, a Zimbabwean writer born in 1981.  Her story, “Hitting Budapest” won the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing. NoViolet’s We Need New Names is the 2013 Etisalat Prize for Literature winner, 2013 Man Booker Prize shortlist, 2014 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award winner

NoViolet earned her MFA at Cornell University where she was a recipient of the Truman Capote Fellowship. She was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, where she now teaches as a Jones Lecturer in Fiction.

More on NoViolet here and on her  official site.


Okwiri Oduor

Okwiri-oduor-cOkwiri Oduor is a Kenyan writer born in Nairobi. She is the 2014 winner of the Caine Prize for African writing for her short story “My Father’s Head”.

Her novella,The Dream Chasers was highly commended in the Commonwealth Book Prize, 2012 and her work has appeared  in Femrite anthologies, Kwani?, Saraba magazine, and Africa Writing Online. She directed the inaugural Writivism Literary Festival in Kampala, Uganda in 2013.

Okwiri Oduor is also one of the writers on the Africa39 list, a list of 39 of Sub-Saharan Africa’s most promising writers under the age of 40. She is a 2014 MacDowell Colony fellow.

Sefi Atta

Sefi_Atta_slickpicSefi Atta is a prize winning author and playwright born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1964. She is a graduate of the creative writing program at Antioch University, Los Angeles and a former chartered accountant. Her short stories have appeared in literary journals such as Mississippi Review and World Literature Today.

She won the final NOMA Award for Publishing in Africa in 2009 for Lawless and other stories, now published as News From Home.

She has written a screenplay, Leaving on Your Mind, and radio plays including The Wake, A Free Day, Makinwa’s Miracle and The Engagement.
Her novels include Everything Good Will Come(winner of the first Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa in 2006), Swallow and A Bit of Difference.

She also has stage plays that include The Cost of Living, The Naming Ceremony, Hagel auf Zamfara and An Ordinary Legacy.
Sefi Atta has a Lagos-based production company, Atta Girl, which supports Care to Read, a program she initiated to earn funds for legitimate charities through staged readings.

sefi3 sefi 4 sefi 2 sefi 1More on Sefi Atta on her website and here

Taiye Selasi

Taiye Selasi , authorTaiye Selasi is writer and photographer of Ghanaian and Nigerian origin born in 1979. She has a BA in American Studies and an MPhil in International Relations.
Her novel, Ghana Must Go was published in 2013 and was selected as one of the ten Best Books of 2013 by the Wall Street Journal.

Her short story, “The Sex Lives of African Girls”, published by UK literary magazine Granta in 2011, appears in Best American Short Stories 2012. Her other short stories include; “Aliens of Extraordinary Ability” (2014) and “Driver” (2013).

Taiye Selasi was selected in 2013 as one of Granta′s 20 Best Young British Writers.

She was named in the Hay Festival’s Africa39 project as one of 39 writers from sub-Saharan Africa aged under 40 with potential and talent to define trends in African literature in 2014.

ghana must  goMore on Taiye Selasi on here on on her website.


Tsitsi Dangarembga

Tsitsi Dangarembga

Tsitsi Dangarembga is a writer and filmmaker born in 1959 in Zimbabwe (which was Rhodesia at the time). She studied Medicine, then later,  Psychology. She worked as a copy writer whilst studying and wrote many plays during this period including The Lost of the Soil. She later published the short story The Letter and the play She Does Not Weep.

Her novel, Nervous Conditions won the 1989 commonwealth writers prize, Africa section. She then published The Book of Not: A Sequel to Nervous Conditions
Tsitsi Dangarembga also studied film direction at the Deutsche Film und Fernseh Akademie in Berlin. She wrote the story for the film Neria (1993), which became the highest-grossing film in Zimbabwean history.

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Véronique Tadjo

veroniqueVéronique Tadjo was born in 1955 in Paris. She grew up in Abidjan and earned a B.A. in English from the University of Abidjan and a doctorate from the Sorbonne, Paris IV, in African American Literature and Civilization. She writes in French and English.
She began writing and illustrating books for children in 1988 with her first book Lord of the Dance, an African retelling. Her second book, Mamy Wata and the Monster won the Unicef Award in 1993 and has been published into 8 dual language editions. It was also chosen as one of Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th century. In 2005, Reine Pokou, concerto pour un sacrifice (novel) was awarded Le Grand Prix Littéraire d´Afrique Noire.

Her publications available in English include; As The Crow Flies, The Shadow of Imana, Travels in the heart of Rwanda, The Blind Kingdom and Queen Pokou. Her books for young people include; If I were a king, if I were a queen and Talking Drums (a selection of poems).

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Warsan Shire

Warsan Shire

Warsan Shire is a Kenyan born Somali poet, writer and editor. Her poems have been published in Wasafiri, Magma and Poetry Review and in the anthology ‘The Salt Book of Younger Poets’.

She published ‘Teaching my mother how to Give Birth’ in 2011. Her poetry has been translated Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.
She is the current poetry editor at SPOOK magazine. In 2013, she was presented with the inaugural Brunel University African Poetry Prize. In October 2013, Shire was selected as the first Young Poet Laureate for London.

More about Warsan Shire on: Wikipedia  and the Warsan Shire tumblr


Yvonne Adhimbo Owuor

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

She was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1968. She studied English and TV/Video development. She worked as a screen writer and was the Executive Director of the Zanzibar International Film Festival from 2003 to 2005.

Her short story “Weight of Whispers” won the 2003 Caine Prize for African writing. Her story, “The Knife Grinder’s Tale” was made into a short film in 2005. She has recently published the novel Dust.

More on Yvonne Owuor here.

 Yewande Omotoso

Yewande_04-236x300Yewande Omotoso was born in Barbados. She grew up in Nigeria with her family and later moved to South Africa in 1992 and have lived there ever since. She currently lives in Cape Town working as an architect, freelance writer and novelist.

Yewande Omotoso’s debut novel, BomBoy was shortlisted for the Inaugural Etisalat Prize, the 2012 Sunday Times Literary Awards and the MNet Film award. It also won the South African Literary Award (SALA) for First Time Author Prize.

Yewande has written several stories, among them ‘The Piano’ (2nd Place, People Opposing Women Abuse, 2005) and ‘Maude Hastings’ (Honourable Mention, John La Rose Short Story Competition, 2007). She has also published ‘Two Old People’ in the anthology Speaking for the Generation: Contemporary Stories from Africa. Yewande’s poetry; ‘Stranger’ and ‘The Rain’ ‘The Rain’ (shortlisted for the Sol Plaatjie European Union Poetry Awards 2012) has been published in the ‘Baobab Literary Journal’ 2009.

Yvonne Vera (1964-2005)

yvonne VeraYvonne Vera is an award winning Author born in 1964 in Zimbabwe. Her works have been published in several countries and translated into languages like Spanish, Italian and Swedish.

Her first publication was a collection of short stories, Why Don’t You Carve Other Animals. This was followed by the publication of the novel Nehanda which was short-listed for the 1993 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.
Her novel, Without a Name, was awarded the 1994 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Africa and the Zimbabwe Publishers’ Literary Award.

Her other novels include Under the Tongue , The Stone Virgins (awarded the 2002 Macmillan Writers’ Prize for Africa) and Butterfly Burning which was awarded German Literature Prize 2002 and chosen as one of Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century in 2002.
At the time of her death in 2005, she was working on a new novel, Obedience.

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More on Yvone Vera here.






Zukiswa Wanner


Zukiswa Wanner was born in Lusaka, Zambia. She studied for a degree in journalism at Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu and has written for a range of South African newspapers and magazines. She currently lives in Nairobi, Kenya. She has written for various newspapers and magazine including Africa Review, Forbes Africa, Afropolitan and The Observer/Guardian among others.

Her novels are The Madams, Behind Every Successful Man, Men of the South (shortlisted for 2011 Commonwealth Prize Africa Region for best book) and London.Cape Town.Joburg.She has also written two Children’s books; Refilwe  and Jama Loves Bananas.

She was named in the Hay Festival’s Africa39 project as one of 39 writers from sub-Saharan Africa aged under 40 with potential and talent to define trends in African literature in 2014.

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