Following on from our interview with Christian Elongué from Muna Kalati, today we welcome Christian back to share some of their favourite writers from across Africa, some of which have already appeared in English and some which are still waiting to be translated. …
By Christian Elongué
Starting close to home, we’re huge fans of Kidi Bebey who has published over 20 books for children in French. She has written biographies of key African figures, such as Miriam Makeba, Aimé Césaire, Modibo Keita and Léopold Sedar Senghor (Cauris Livres). Her detective series Les Saï-Saï (EDICEF) sees four friends investigate internet scams, mysterious goings on at the market, curious thefts and more. Bebey has also adapted the popular Seuls (12-21) comic book series by Gazzotti and Vehlmann into chapter books. With only one book for adults due to come out in English translation in 2021, Bebey’s work for children is still waiting to be translated into English! Read more about her in our blog post here.
Another fellow Cameroonian to follow is award-winning illustrator Christian Kingue Epanya. With over 25 titles published in French, Epanya won the UNICEF prize for illustrators at Bologna Book Fair in 1993 and has been featured in the prestigious White Ravens catalogue published by the International Youth Library. He worked with historians on the Odyssées africaines column in the Air Afrique inflight magazine. Epanya brings Africa to life in his colourful illustrations. Les rois de la sape (OCEAN), for example, follows Elimbu through the streets of Kinshasha as his uncle Limbako shows him how to dress with flair and Le Taxi-Brousse de Papa Diop (Syros Jeunesse) takes young Sène on an adventure from Dakar to Saint-Louis in his father’s taxi. Like Bebey, Epanya’s books are still waiting to be translated into English! Read more about him on our blog here.
Writer and story teller Michelle Tanon Lora has published over 15 picture books in French, including Princesse Datoh (Cercle Media) who finds a way to lead her people out of famine, and La Mésaventure de Tavly (Classiques Ivoiriens) about Tavly the worm who becomes friends with Mother Hen.
Author and illustrator Murielle Diallo’s unique picture books are illustrated with a combination of drawings and collages. Published in French, they introduce young readers to range of characters including: tailors in Abidjan, Yovanka the daughter of the cherry tree, or Simasta, the horse without official documents (all published by Vents D’ailleurs).
Fellow Ivorian Marguerite Abouet’s comic book series’ for children and teenagers have been a huge success and have been translated into English. Young Akissi (illustrated by Matthieu Sapin and tr. by Judith Taboy and Marie Bédrune, Flying Eye Books) gets up to endless mischief and Aya of You City (illustrated by Clément Oubrerie, tr. by Helge Dascher, Drawn and Quarterly) is a young woman on the verge of adulthood.
Central African republic
Georgette Florence Koyt-Deballé writes in French and has published two books: Manu et les fourmis (Manu and the ants) and Nago et sa grand-mère (Nago and his grandmother), both released by L’harmattan.
Meshack Asare has been writing in English for children for over 50 years. Recipient of the prestigious NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature, his illustrated stories for children include Meliga’s Day (Sub-Saharan Publishers), Cat in search of a friend (Kane Miller Book Pub) and The Canoe’s Story (Sub-Saharan Publishers and Worldreader).
Inventor and author William Kamkwamba drew on his own experience to write The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind (Harper True) which was recently turned into a successful film with the same title.
Author and photographer Ifeoma Onyefulu has published over 10 books for younger readers featuring her photographs of life as a child in Nigeria. Her stories include: Here comes our bride, Saying goodbye, Welcome Dede, African Christmas and Ebele’s Favourite – A book of African game (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books).
Mohammed Bacha has published several bilingual books including Joha, The Thief and The Moonlight (Arabic-English) (Tunisian Arabic 24 Bookshop) and The Tragedy of Sabra, The Starry-Eyed Girl Who Lived With A Lion (English – French) as well as anthologies of children’s stories for learners of Arabic.
We also recommend writer and activist Moses Serwada’s collection Songs and Stories from Uganda (including CD) (HarperCollins Publishers).
Visit the Muna Kalati website for full reviews of some of our favourites, interviews with authors and much more!
Christian Elongué is an author and researcher. Dismayed by a lack of black characters in books available to African children, Elongué founded munakalati.org in 2017 with the goal of building international recognition for African children’s book authors and increasing access to African children’s books. In 2019, he authored An Introduction to Children Literature in Cameroon, the first ever survey of the children’s book industry in Cameroon. Prior to that, he worked with the French National Centre for Children’s Literature. As a founding member of International Board of Book for Young People (IBBY-Cameroon), he has also spent several years developing literacy and educational initiatives as a means of empowering children in West Africa.
Want to know more about Muna Kalati, a fast-growing platform promoting children’s books from Africa? Then read our World Kid Lit interview with Director Christian Elongué here.