Over the years, Africa has produced some of the bestselling writers. Their literature has contributed immensely to presenting varied realities of Africa as well as giving the continent a voice. While some of the best African writers may be dead, their work continues to shape the literary industry to this day. Here are the top five most influential African authors of all time.
1. Chinua Achebe (Nigerian)
Born in 1930 in Ogidi, Nigeria, Chinua Achebe is still one of the most-celebrated African authors. He died in 2013 in the United States at the age of 82. At the time of his death, Achebe was a Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University. Some of his notable works include “Things Fall Apart,” “Arrow of God,” “No Longer at Ease,” “Anthills of the Savannah,” and “A Man of the People.”
2. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (Kenyan)
Ngugi Wa Thiong’o stands out as one of the most-influential African authors since most of his writings encompass the African sociopolitical sphere. Born in 1938 in a village called “Kamirithu” in central Kenya, the 78-year-old author now lives in America and works as the Professor of English and Comparative Literature at theUniversity of California, where he also serves as the director of the International Center for Writing and Translation. Some of his popular books include “The River Between,” “Weep Not Child,” “A Grain of Wheat,” and “Ngaahika Ndeeda” (I Will Marry When I Want).
3. Wole Soyinka (Nigerian)
Born in 1934 in Abeokuta, Nigeria,Wole Soyinka is the first African author to win the Nobel Peace Prize Award in Literature in 1986. Some of his plays have been produced in radio and theaters around the world. As a major critic of the Nigerian government, he was also detained for about two years for allegedly participating in a military coup in 1966. Soyinka escaped from Nigeria during the reign of Sani Abacha and currently resides in the United States. Some of his great works include “Death and the King’s Horseman,” “The Lion and the Jewel,” “Ake: The Years of Childhood,” and “You Must Set Forth at Dawn.”
4. Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghanaian)
5. Mariama Ba (Senegalese)
Mariama Ba was born in Dakar, Senegal, in 1929. She is celebrated as one of the most authentic and influential African authors of all time. A big portion of her literature focused on power, inequality, and gender. In her work, she often criticized African traditions that she deemed retrogressive, particularly since she was raised in an Islamic setting. Mariama died in 1981 before the release of her second novel, “Scarlet Song.” Although her writings were done in French, they have since been translated into several languages.