Africa Writes 2012: Speakers

Details about all our speakers and presenters



Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria in 1977 and grew up in the university town of Nsukka, Enugu State. She is the author of two novels, Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. The Thing Around Your Neck, her collection of stories, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book in Africa. Chimamanda was named one of the twenty most important fiction writers today under 40 years old by The New Yorker.

Ellen Banda-Aaku

Ellen Banda-Aaku is a writer from Zambia. She has had three books for children published. Her first book, Wandi’s Little Voice, won the Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa in 2004. In 2007, Ellen won the Commonwealth Short Story competition with her short story Sozi’s Box. Her first novel, Patchwork, released in June 2011, won the 2010 Penguin Prize for African writing and was short-listed for the Commonwealth Book Prize in 2012. Her short stories have been published in anthologies in Australia, South Africa the UK and the US.

Nuruddin Farah

Nuruddin Farah was born in 1945 in Baidoa, in what is now Somalia, and grew up in Kallafo, in the Somali-speaking Ogaden region of Ethiopia. Farah himself was pushed into a self-imposed exile by the dictator Siyad Barre long before the collapse of Somalia’s government in 1976. Currently, Farah co-resides in Capetown, South Africa, and Minneapolis, USA, where he is serving as 2010-2012 Winton Chair in the Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota.

Goretti Kyomuhendo

Goretti Kyomuhendo was born in 1965 and grew up in Hoima, Uganda. She currently lives in London. Her novels include The First Daughter (1996), Secrets no More, which won Uganda’s National Best Novel of the Year award in 1999 and Waiting, published by The Feminist Press in New York in 2007. Goretti helped found FEMRITE and worked as its first Programmes Coordinator for ten years (1997-2007). In 2009, Goretti founded and is now director of the African Writers Trust – an organisation that facilitates interactions between African writers in the Diaspora and writers on the continent by promoting sharing of skills and learning between the two groups.

B. Kojo Laing

Born in Kumasi, Ghana, in 1946, Laing was educated in both Ghana and Scotland. After a decade as a government administrator, in 1980 Laing was made Secretary to the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana. Following a long spell as Chief Executive of St Anthony’s, a leading private school, Laing decided to devote himself to writing full time in 2005. Laing’s first novel, Search Sweet Country, appeared in 1986 to great acclaim. Woman of the Aeroplanes was published in 1988, with Godhorse, his first collection of poems, following in 1989. His third novel, Major Gentle and the Achimota Wars, was published in 1992, and 2006 saw the publication of Big Bishop Roko and the Altar Gangsters. B. Kojo Laing currently resides in Accra.

Lily Mabura

Lily Mabura is currently Assistant Professor of English at the American University of Sharjah. Her literary awards include the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature, Kenya’s National Book Week Literary Award, and the Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award. Her publications include a first novel titled The Pretoria Conspiracy and four children’s books: Oma, Saleh Kanta and the Cavaliers, Seth the Silly Gorilla, and Ali the Little Sultan.

Jack Mapanje

Jack Mapanje is a Malawian writer, poet, linguist, editor and human rights activist. Mapanje studied in England before returning to Malawi, where he rose to the position of Head of Department of English at the University of Malawi – a post he held until he was imprisoned in 1987 for his dissenting views and radical poetry. On his release in 1991, Mapanje went into exile with his family in the UK where he still lives. His published works include Of Chameleons and Gods (1981); The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison (1993); The Last of the Sweet Bananas: New and Selected Poems (2004); The Beasts of Nalunga (2007); and his memoir And Crocodiles Are Hungry At Night (2011). Mapanje is currently Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle.


Miso’shi is a story-teller from Ghana living in Lancashire. She has worked with children in schools for over 20 years. She works through the art forms of story-telling, dance, music & rhythm, and textile art. Miso’shi is known for her enthusiasm and colourful personality and leaves a lasting memory on her participants. Children describe her as “a laughing, energetic and dynamic lady who passes on the chuckle. She never bores anyone”.

Obiageli Okigbo

Obiageli Okigbo is Christopher Okigbo’s daughter. Obiageli practiced architecture in London, Rome and Paris until 1994 when she switched to visual arts. In 1995 she moved to Brussels where she now lives with her two children. As a visual artist, Obiageli has exhibited in Nigeria, the UK and Belgium. Obiageli founded the Christopher Okigbo Foundation in 2005. The foundation’s aim is to keep Christopher Okigbo’s legacy and further the poet’s humanist vision and ideal through the promotion of contemporary creation in Nigeria and cultural exchange worldwide.

Noo Saro-Wiwa

Noo Saro-Wiwa was born in Nigeria in 1976 and raised in England, but nearly every summer of her childhood she was reluctantly dragged back to Nigeria for the holidays. When her father, activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, was murdered there, she didn’t return for 10 years, except for two brief trips for his official and unofficial funerals. Noo has written travel guidebooks on several African countries for Lonely Planet and Rough Guide. Five years ago, she decided to rediscover the country her father loved and come to terms with it. This rediscovery produced her first novel, Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria.

E. E. Sule

E. E. Sule is the pen-name of Dr. Sule E. Egya, who teaches in the English department of the University of Abuja, Nigeria. Besides published academic work and essays, Dr. Egya is the author of the short story collections Impotent Heavens and Dream and Shame, and the poetry volumes Naked Sun, Knifing Tongues and What the Sea Told Me. His poems, short stories, and critical work have appeared in numerous journals, anthologies and literary magazines.

Shortlisted writers for the 2012 Caine Prize

Rotimi Babatunde

Rotimi Babatunde’s fiction and poems have been published in Africa, Europe and America. His plays have also been staged and presented internationally by the following institutions: the Halcyon Theatre, Chicago; Riksteatern, Stockholm; the Royal Court Theatre, the Institute for Contemporary Arts and Churchill Theatre Bromley, all in London; and the BBC World Service. Rotimi is a winner of the Meridian Tragic Love Story Competition organised by the BBC World Service and was awarded the Cyprian Ekwensi Prize for Short Stories by the Abuja Writers Forum. Rotimi lives in Ibadan, Nigeria.

Billy Kahora

Billy Kahora is the managing editor of the Kenyan literary journal Kwani? and the author of The True Story of David Munyakei (2009). His writing has appeared in Granta, Kwani?, Chimurenga and Vanity Fair. His short story, Treadmill Love, was highly commended by the 2007 Caine Prize judges. He is working on a novel titled The Applications and is writing a book on Juba.

Stanley Onjezani Kenani

Born in 1976, Stanley Onjezani Kenani is a writer from Malawi. Love on Trial is one of the short stories in his debut collection, For Honour and Other Stories, published in 2011 by Random House Struik in South Africa. In 2007, he was second runner-up in the HSBC-SA PEN award, judged by JM Coetzee, for the title story of his collection, which was also shortlisted for the Caine Prize in 2008. A poet who is also an accountant, Kenani lives and works in Geneva, Switzerland. He is currently finalizing his debut novel, Drama Republic.

Melissa Tandiwe Myambo

Melissa Tandiwe Myambo is the author of Jacaranda Journals (Macmillan South Africa, 2004:, a collection of short stories set in Zimbabwe. Her work has also been published in Prick of the Spindle, The Montréal Review, The Journal of African Travel Writing, 34th Parallel, Opening Spaces: an anthology of contemporary African women’s writing and Wasafiri (forthcoming). La Salle de Départ is part of her new collection tentatively entitled Airport Stories.

Constance Myburgh

Jenna Bass, writing as Constance Myburgh, is a South African filmmaker, photographer, writer and retired magician. Her award-winning, Zimbabwe-set short film, ‘The Tunnel’, premiered at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals and continues to screen internationally. She is currently engaged on her debut feature, ‘Tok Tokkie’, a supernatural noir set in Cape Town. Jenna is also the editor and co-creator of Jungle Jim, a pulp-literary magazine for African writing

Chairs and Contributors

Ellah Allfrey

Ellah Allfrey is Deputy Editor of Granta magazine. She has also worked as Senior Editor at Random House and Assistant Editor at Penguin. She sits on the board of the Writers’ Centre Norwich and is deputy chair of the Caine Prize Council. Allfrey and has been on the judging panel for various literary prizes, including the Caine Prize for African Writing, the David Cohen Prize and the BOCAS Prize for Caribbean Literature. Her introduction to Woman of the Aeroplanes by Kojo Laing was published by Pearson in February 2012. In 2011, she was awarded an OBE for services to the publishing industry.

Ike Anya

Ike Anya is a Nigerian writer and public health doctor currently working in the NHS in central London. Founding Secretary of the Abuja Literary Society, he was contributing editor to Farafina magazine and co-edited the Weaverbird Collection of Nigerian Fiction (Farafina, 2008). His essays, poetry and interviews with Nigerian writers have been published in the US, the UK, Nigeria and India. Co-editor of the blog Nigeria Health Watch and co-founder of the TEDxEuston event, he is an honorary lecturer at Imperial College and a TEDGlobal Fellow (2007).

Jacqueline Auma

Jacqueline Auma is the founding member and organiser of the London Afro-Caribbean Book Club, which has over two hundred members and has been running since 2009. She organises regular events relating to culture, books and literature in and around London. She is also co-editor of A Lime Jewel: An anthology of poetry and short stories in aid of Haiti. During the day, Jacqueline is a legally qualified Senior Product Specialist at Thomson Reuters where she is responsible for the management and development of one of the company’s flagship online legal research databases.

Margaret Busby

Margaret Busby OBE was born in Ghana and educated in Britain. She was co-founder and editorial director of the London-based publishing company Allison & Busby Ltd, and later editorial director of Earthscan Publications. For the past twenty years, Margaret has worked independently as a writer, editor, critic, consultant and broadcaster. She has been a judge for several literary awards, has contributed to many publications and conferences in the fields of literature, art, music and theatre, and has written drama for BBC radio and the stage. Margaret edited the pioneering volume Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writing by Women of African Descent.

Nana Ayebia Clarke

Nana Ayebia Clarke MBE is a Ghanaian-born award-winning Publisher specializing in African & Caribbean writing. She was Submissions Editor of the Heinemann African & Caribbean Writers Series at Oxford for 12 years. In 2003, she founded Ayebia Clarke Publishing Ltd with her husband David as a way of looking to new directions in African & Caribbean writing and publishing. Ayebia’s aim is to bring talented fresh voices from the African and Caribbean perspective to a wider audience by targeting schools, colleges and universities internationally.

James Currey

James Currey was Editorial Director at Heinemann of the African Writers Series from 1967 to 1984, during which years he added some 250 titles to the Series. In 1985 he founded James Currey Publishers which, by co-publishing with publishers in Africa and the USA, rapidly achieved dominance in the field of African Studies. In 2008 he was appointed as adviser to Pearson in their revival of publishing new titles in the African Writers Series, which takes off in this 50th anniversary year. James Currey talks about his role as publisher of the Heinemann African Writers Series in his book ‘Africa Writes Back’.

Richard Dowden

Richard Dowden is Director of the Royal African Society. Previously, he was Africa Editor of The Economist and worked as Africa Editor at The Independent and Africa correspondent at The Times newspaper. His critically acclaimed book Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles is published by Portobello. Richard continues to write regularly for international press including the BBC, Guardian and Wall Street Journal.

Dr Mpalive Msiska

Dr Mpalive Msiska is a Reader in English & Humanities at Birkbeck College, University of London. His principal research focuses on the problem of identity in theory and in literature, particularly Post-Colonial African theory and literature. He is the author of several books, including Post-colonial Identity in Wole Soyinka (2007) and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (2007) (co-author).

Lynette Lisk

Lynette Lisk is Commissioning Editor for the African Writers Series at Pearson where she also commissions educational material for East and West Africa. Lynette has a Masters in African Literature from SOAS University where she explored diverse literary representations of African diasporic experience and taught at the Department of African Languages and Culture.

Hannah Pool

Hannah Pool is a British-Eritrean journalist, author and curator. She was born near the town of Keren in Eritrea during the war for independence from Ethiopia. At the age of six months, she was adopted by a British scholar working in Sudan. She was then raised in Khartoum and Norway before finally settling in Manchester, England. After leaving University, Hannah worked for the Guardian newspaper where for several years she wrote the fashion column ‘The New Black’. Her memoir, My Father’s Daughter, was published in 2005 and is an account of her journey back to Eritrea, aged 29, and her encounters with her family.

Fiammetta Rocco

Fiammetta Rocco grew up in Kenya and read Arabic at Oxford University. Her journalism has won awards on both sides of the Atlantic. She has been the literary editor of The Economist since 2003. Her book, The Miraculous Fever Tree: Malaria, Medicine and the Cure that Changed the World, was published by HarperCollins.

Dr Wangui wa Goro

Dr Wangui wa Goro has served as a public intellectual, translator, editor, writer, researcher, and human rights campaigner in Africa and Europe in public, private and voluntary capacities over the last thirty years. She is the translator of award-winning authors including Ngugi wa Thiong’o through whose work, Matigari, she broke new ground for a new generation of African translators. Wangui wa Goro is also a writer in her own right and writes poetry, short stories, fiction and non-fiction. Her book, Global Feminist Politics: Identities in a Changing World, co-edited with Kelly Coate and Suki Ali, has been significant in shaping debates about human rights, identity and location.

Tricia Wombell

Tricia Wombell is an avid reader and founder of the blog Black Book News ( Alongside book reviews and interviews with authors, the blog features news and forthcoming events of interest for anyone with a passion for black literature. She recently compiled the first ever list of the best 50 Black British authors. Since 2010, Tricia has been the co-ordinator of the Black Reading Group – London’s longest running black book group, now in its twelfth year. Tricia is a chartered marketer and is the Director of Marketing & Communications for a leadership development organisation.