Since the turn of the millennium the boom of “new Nigerian writing” has inspired multiple special issues, including of prominent journals like English in Africa and Research in African Literatures, and has contributed to the celebrity status of authors such as Adichie, Abani, Habila and Adebayo as representatives of this new generation. At the same time, comparatively little attention has been paid to the continuities and networks of production which span this globally-consecrated body of new Nigerian writing with the longer histories of literary activism and print cultures in Nigeria. In this essay, I attempt to draw out some of these connections, exploring the inter-relationality between so-called “local” literary ecologies and their more prominent global counterparts. I focus in the final section on one case study: the magazine Farafina, which began its life as a digital publication in 2004 before publishing sixteen print issues from 2005 to 2009. Here, my interest is twofold: first, to trace the multilateral networks of influence and practice which operate across these interlocking scales of literary production, in a manner which exceeds without escaping the centre-periphery model of world literatures; and second, to foreground the formal and aesthetic networks, arcs and axes which emerge through this.
Since the inception of African literature as a visible category circulating in the international publishing market, Nigerian literature has held a particularly outsized share of critical and commercial attention. Due in no small part to the importance of writers such as Chinua Achebe, Amos Tutuola, Wole Soyinka, Christopher Okigbo, Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta and others in the consolidation of an internationally-legible conception of African literary writing, writing from Nigeria has commanded a considerable level of critical visibility, matched only, perhaps, by South African writing in terms of its volume of attention and publication. From the turn of the millennium and the rise of so-called “third generation” African literature, this situation has amplified. If, that is, African literature in the twenty-first century has experienced a “boom,” as commentators have claimed, then Nigerian literature has occupied a particularly visible space, characterized by the commercial and critical success of writers including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (arguably the African literary celebrity par excellence of the twenty-first century), Teju Cole, Helon Habila, Chris Abani and, more recently, writers such as Akwaeke Emezi, Ayobami Adebayo, Nnedi Okorafor and Tomi Adeyemi. The continued visibility of Nigerian literary writing in the contemporary landscape of the so-called “boom” is itself amplified by the increasing importance of digital media in the platformization of African literature, marked by the increasing importance of publications such a…
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