2016: A Reading List

The end of the year is usually chockfull of lists. In going through lists compiled about African writing at the end of 2016, I noticed the omission of many wonderful pieces written by Africans, about africans and for Africa on the internet that, like a proper netizen, had me wondering why they didn’t make it to those lists. So, here is a list of writing on the internet that didn’t gain much recognintion on end of the year lists but are as wonderful as any form of writing you’ll find on the internet.

Wednesday's Story by Wole Talabi

"My story has a strange shape to it.

"It has a beginning and middle and, of course, I need not tell you that it has an end because it is the nature of all things to end, especially stories. But this story . . . well, it bunches up in places and twists upon itself in ways that no good story should. The sharpness of its arcs flare and wane in unexpected places because it is a story made of other stories and there are times when partway through telling it, I could swear I did not truly know it because I am made of so many other stories too. This story is badly shaped, but it is uniquely my story, and the burden of its telling is and always will be mine to bear."

This Image of Bi Kidude by Ndinda Kioko

"Where does one conjure the words to describe this image of Bi Kidude? How does one write of how she looks right into the sun’s eye, threatening it with the fire in her mouth? 

"How does one write about Bi Kidude?"

The Pigeon by Faraaz Mahomed

"Each morning, for about four months now, I am woken by the same foul, fat pigeon. I am certain that he’s the same one, even though I have no means to prove it. In truth, I have no way to be sure he is a he either. It used to occur to me that maybe he had left something at the window or inside, and was hoping that being here to retrieve it would allow him some sort of release. On most Saturdays, I leave the window open. It makes me feel kind, because I am easing his spirit into the next phase or something of that nature. He never comes in, though, and so we converse silently about what it is he might want or why, of all the places on earth, he would choose to be here."

The Rise and Fall of the Floating School by Femke Van Zeijl

"After the collapse, the people of Makoko deconstructed the Floating School plank by plank, re-using the wood as building material. The blue containers that kept the structure above water are now floating in the front yard of the palace of baale Emmanuel Shemede, one of Makoko’s traditional leaders and the headmaster’s older brother. The people of Makoko have always had their doubts about the sturdiness of the construction, he says. The school’s ruin only confirmed their suspicions. ‘We know best how to build for this climate.’"

Johannesburg by Pool by Rosa Lyster

"There are all sorts of other ways to befriend a city, to feel less lonely in it. Some will argue, probably with cause, that no one is better at this than a skateboarder. Walking is fine, too. I know people who have got good results from a sustained assault on a city’s dive bars. I see the value of these approaches, but only up to a point: running is not fun, driving somewhere unfamiliar is scary, I obviously can’t skateboard, walking is boring, and it is impractical to always be drunk. I have my own, superior method of getting to grips with a place. I go swimming in its pools."

The Texture of Joy: A Stowaway Story by Akwaeke Emezi 

"A few days later, when it was time for me to leave Salvador, Sankofa gave me a ride to the airport. He was playing music by Okwei Odili, a Nigerian singer based in Bahia. He had cut his hand the day before while cleaning shrimp, and so his left ring finger was swollen and gouged with stitches. Jo o, Okwei sang in Yoruba, through the car’s speakers. Jowo o. Make you take am easy. Sankofa was in the middle of telling me a story when something he said made me turn my head to stare at him. The sun was setting behind us, and half his face was cast in gold. He wasn’t homeless or hiding in ships or lost or looking for anything. He was tapping his uninjured hand on the steering wheel and the air was beautiful, full of horns."

The Market of Frames by Yinka Elujoba

"As humans, we are always searching between the frames of our lives for the spectacular, for the one frame that is worth remembering. I imagine that this must be one of the reasons for every photograph we take—to record the frames of our lives we think are special. But what is the fate of the banal? If we spend most of the hours of our lives doing ordinary things, why do we hardly consider making memories of them?

"This is not a call to undermine the spectacular; I am writing simply to tell you how valid it is to immortalize your ordinary."

Ghosts of Kuto by Afopefoluwa Ojo

"Tuesdays are for black. I know because I sat down on the steep stairs of the theatre and counted, and seventy and seven people wore black. Black t-shirts, black jeans, black shoes, black dresses, black sweaters. I counted a girl three times because she passed three times, and I counted the policemen that walked around as many times as I saw them. They wore black. 

"My daddy was buried on a Tuesday but nobody wore black."


Wole Talabi, whose story is the reason I started this list on Twitter, created a list of some AfroSFF stories published in 2016 and Brittle Paper also has an extensive list of 31 pieces of good African writing published in the year that aspires towards comprehensiveness.

Featured Image via Flickr by Julian Carvajal

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