Three Ugandan female writers were early this month named among Africa’s most promising authors in a list published by Africa 39 Project.
Jackee Budesta Batanda, Glaydah Namukasa and Monica Arac de Nyeko were among the 39 most promising fiction writers from Africa (south of the Sahara) under the age of 40.
The list was announced at the London Book Fair. The list included writers like: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nii Kwei Parkes, who has been in Uganda a number of times at the invitation of African Writers Trust to train young writers in Uganda, Dinaw Mengistu, Chika Unigwe, Lola Shoyenin, and Taiye Selasi.
Writers from East Africa include Kenyan’s Clifton Gachagua, Ndinda Kioko, Okwiri Oduor, Stanley Gazemba and Gohil Mehul and Tanzanian’s Mohamed Yunnis Rafiq.
Africa39 is an initiative of the Hay festival, a premier of literature and arts held in Wales which has previously worked with the World Book capitals – Bogotá (2007) where it launched the Bogotá 39 and Beirut (2010), the Beirut 39, to highlight the local talents and languages with the potential to define the literature of the future.
Monica Arac de Nyeko
Arac de Nyeko was shortlisted for the Caine Prize in 2004 and she won in 2007 for her short story, Jambula Tree. She is currently working on her first novel.
She started writing more seriously in 1999 when she joined Femrite. Before that, she had been scribbling stories on notebooks.
After obtaining a degree in Education from Makerere University, Arac taught Literature and English language at St Mary’s College Kisubi for two years.
She then completed an MA in Humanitarian Assistance at Groningen University in the Netherlands, and now she works for an international organisation in Accra, Ghana.
Arac says, “I am interested in exploring violence generally in its different dimensions, intensities and its general capacity to scar and destroy. I come from Kitgum and I have seen the effect of the conflict on homes, my relations, my history, and my everything. Scenes like that never leave you”.
Namukasa is a student at Makerere University and her novel, Voice Of A Dream, won the 2005/2006 Macmillan Writers Prize for Africa-Senior Prize.
She has also been a visiting writer in residence at City of Asylum Pittsburgh, and Ledig House International writers’ residence, Hudson, New York. Currently she is working on her third novel.
“All the hard work and devotion I have put in to develop my writing has paid off. And I am sure that this is only the beginning of yet more rewards because the hard work still continues,” she said.
Namukasa’s short stories have been published in anthologies in Uganda, South Africa, UK and Sweden. She has written three books for children, all published under Pan-African, Macmillan.
Her novel, The Deadly Ambition won her the 2006 Michael and Marilee Fairbanks International Fellowship to attend the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference in Ripton, Vermont, USA.
In March 2013, she was a writer in residence at The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Centre, Milan, Italy. She was awarded the title of Honorary Fellow by the International Writers Programme (IWP), University of Iowa, USA in 2008.
For her being on the list means: “I am one of the best writers on the African continent. It means my written word is strong and impressive to have caught the eye of the judges and all the others who participated in the selection.
Being on this list is yet a fresh form of inspiration for me; I see it as some kind of new motivation to release that great novel,” Namukasa says.
An extract from her novel will be included in the anthology.
I believe that it will increase my chances with international publishing, literary agents, marketing internationally. And it brings me close to meeting some of the great African writers who inspired my journey like Elechi Amadi and Wole Soyinka.”
Jackee Budesta Batanda
Batanda is an independent journalist, author, speaker and entrepreneur. She has always been passionate about writing and her short stories have been published in various anthologies.
Her articles have appeared in publications of various media houses, including The New York Times, Boston Globe, The Global Post, The Star- Africa Edition, The Mail & Guardian, and The Guardian.
In 2004, Batanda was highly commended for the Caine Prize for African Writing. She has been shortlisted for Macmillan Writers Prize for Africa. She is also a regional winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Competition in 2003 and thrice selected as fellow on the Crossing Borders African Writers’ Mentoring Scheme run by British Council.
Between 2011-2012, she was IWMF Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Centre for International Studies, while in 2012, she was featured in the London Times alongside 19 women shaping the future of Africa.
She is also a recipient of the Ugandan 2010 Young Achievers Awards.
For Batanda, being on the list means, “it is a way to cement our brands and introduce us - for me and the other selected writers - to a new crop of readers, who might never have read our work before.
Batanda is currently working on a series of books on Africa’s successful entrepreneurs and transformational leaders.
“It is an ecstatic feeling being selected to this prestigious list that comprises the best of contemporary African writers. I can say I am in very good company” Batanda said.
About Project Africa 39
The project. Africa 39 is a project that seeks to provide a snapshot of adventurous young Africans who will redefine literary ecosystem in the future. This project is led by Binyavanga Wainaina, Kenyan writer and winner of 2002 Caine Prize and founder of the literary journal, Kwani?
Last year, Wainaina sent out a call for applications from African fiction writer under the age of 39 from all over Africa. Wainaina did the initial research of about 200 books before Elechi Amadi, renowned writer of The Concubine, Margaret Busby and Tess Onwueme selected the final 39.
The reward. The reward of the Africa 39 will be to author a short story to be featured in an anthology titled, AFRICA 39: New Writings from Africa South of the Sahara. The anthology will be edited by former deputy editor of Granta and former senior editor at Jonathan Cape, Ella Wakatama Allfrey – who will be in Kampala to train editors and writers at the invitation of Commonwealth Foundation and African Writers Trust.
The 39 writers will also be invited to the Port Harcourt Book Festival later in October and to other literary events across the world from 2014 through 2016.
The anthology. The anthology will have a foreword by a Nobel Prize winner, Wole Soyinka and it will be published by UK prominent publishing house, Bloomsbury by October 2014.