“The Nobel returns home. It so happens that this has been a period of extensive interviews and cultural encounters for me across continents.  And my easiest question has always been in relation to the Arts, especially after being obliged to concede the bleak truths over a continent in permanent travail. To be able to respond that the Arts – and literature in particular – are well and thriving, a sturdy flag waved above depressing actualities by a young, confident generation has always made those conversations bearable, even combative. Now, unquestionably, my audiences will find themselves compelled to admit that I do not exaggerate. May the tribe increase!”

  • Wole Soyinka (Nigeria) on Brittle Paper, following the announcement of the 2021 Nobel Prize announcement.

“Congratulations to Mzee Abdulrazak Gurnah. Here is a consummate storyteller of great talent and wisdom. I can classify him as a malenga wa riwaya who has vindicated now the age-old claim that the East African Swahili coast is the finest bastion of storytelling as an art in our corner of the world. Gurnah is to the English world what his compatriot Haji Gora Haji was to the Swahili speaking world – a gwiji. I have been teaching the good acquaintance for the past sixteen years, including at the Freie University of Berlin where my academic career kicked off as an assistant lecturer over a decade ago. My class rep from one of the freshers’ cohort I taught there, who graduated with her doctorate summa cum laude at SOAS recently, researching contemporary African Literatures and Gurnah’s famous theme of postcolonial dislocation, reminds me today that Gurnah sio jina geni vyuoni hapa na ughaibuni. What a spectacular win! This is one small step for literature and one giant leap for East African Literatures, in spite of the dangers facing literature as an area of Knowledge in Kenyan universities today.”

  • Wanjohi wa Makokha (Kenya) is the pseudonym under which the Kenyan literary critic and scholar Dr J.K.S Makokha writes and publishes his poetry. Dr. J. K. S Makokha is a Lecturer at the Literature, Linguistics and Foreign Languages, at Kenyatta University. He is a committed literary critic with several publications to his credit.

“I got to hear the news of Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Nobel Prize win at 6.48A.M. Edmonton (Canadian) time from my PhD supervisor Dr. Lahoucine Ouzgane, who always cites Gurnah along with Achebe and Tayeb Salih as his favourite novelists. I am so delighted that the Nobel Prize committee awarded its literature prize to Gurnah. His stories are fascinating, and Gurnah has significantly contributed to postcolonial discourses on migration, multiculturalism, and transnationalism. Some of the themes Gurnah explores in his fiction resonate deeply with me, especially since he sheds light on what it means to be an immigrant and an outsider. Belonging and displacement preoccupy his artistic vision. I am also excited for my friend Laya Soleymanzadeh, with whom I have always discussed images of masculinities in Gurnah’s work. Dr. Laya recently submitted her dissertation titled “Hospitality, Multiculturalism, and Narrative Agency in Abdulrazak Gurnah’s By the Sea, The Last Gift and Gravel Heart,” three days ago, just before the Nobel Prize for Literature was announced on October 7.”

  • Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike (Nigeria, Canada), author of Double Wahala, Double Trouble and Wish Maker.

“The Nobel Prize for Literature is a big deal and I am delighted to see the prize return to Africa, as it were, and to Abdulrazaq Gurnah whose work has come up for recognition. I am glad that Zanzibar, and the larger Swahili Coast, have by this become locales of increased literary and intellectual interest. Over the last two days, we’ve seen renewed interest in his work and I expect that African publishers are already reaching out to his agents the better to make his work available to the continent’s readers in English, as well as Arabic, Hausa, Portuguese and other languages in translation. I believe this will be a boon for indigenous African publishers. Gurnah’s win is an exciting catalyst and I look forward to what the continent’s various stakeholders make of it.”

  • Richard Ali, Managing Editor, Jalada Africa Trust (Nairobi); co-founder, Parresia Publishers Limited (Lagos).

“A Nobel Prize in Literature Joke: A few years ago, the folks at the Royal Swedish Academy said they’d stop being eurocentric (and maybe too white), so what do they do? They first give a couple of Europeans the prize as though an apology for their statement, then in 2021, after the economic and race-related upheavals of 2020, they go and find a black African writer for the first time since 1986, but not one based in Africa the black continent. No, that would be too radical a change. They go instead to Europe (geographical Europe not political Europe) to select an African that quite likely hasn’t been in the country and continent of his birth for decades. It smells like a masterclass in having your prize and eating it, too.”

  • Oris Aigbokhaevbolo (Nigeria) is an award-winning writer, media consultant and creative entrepreneur. He runs the writing academy Write with Style and the boutique editorial and media consultancy firm C&B, which helps young filmmakers/musicians/artists shape their brand and get noticed locally and internationally in a crowded media space.

“WHY, after 35 years since the last African won (Wole Soyinka), would they give it to an anonymous Arab writer, when we have the likes of Nurrudin Farah alive and breathing and writing?”

  • Tony Mochama (Kenya), is a poet, writer, author and a senior journalist at the Standard Media Group Kenya. Mochama is a three-time winner of the Burt Awards for African Young Adult Literature and he is also a recipient of Miles Morland Writing Scholarship.

“Not that I care much for the obsession with these prizes, I am fascinated by the choice of Gurnah over Ngugi for the Nobel Prize in literature. Gurnah is accomplished but obscure, I can bet my money that very few have heard of him or even read him in Africa. He left Tanzania in his teens, and is now in his seventies, he’s basically British like the late great highly accomplished, well known and brilliant VS Naipaul. He comes from East Africa like Ngugi and the themes of his book are similar to those of Ngugi. But that’s where it ends. Ngugi on the other hand has had a larger-than-life influence on much of Africa, his great books widely read and the source of influence over generations of kids like me who were raised by him and his generation before the coming of the Internet. I have never heard of Gurnah, like many, I was scrambling to find out stuff about him. He’s quite accomplished and I am happy for him, but I find this fascinating. Was his choice a pointed sub at, and a snub of Ngugi? The white man is strange.”

  • Ikhide R. Ikheloa (Nigeria, USA) reads and writes obsessively. Passionate about the stories of Africa. Has strong opinions about the way things are. It is what it is.

“As a filmmaker, I’m thrilled by the fact that for the second time this year, Tanzania has been put on a map through creative work. First by Amil Shivji through his film Tug of War (Vuta N’kuvute), a period drama set in 1950s Zanzibar and now a Nobel Prize for Literature, recognizing the novelist, Abdulrazak Gurnah, also a native of Zanzibar. It’s my hope that the rest of us storytellers, Tanzanian and Africans in general will take inspiration from these two and keep on sharing our forgotten history with the world. As Mira Nair always says, “If we don’t tell our own stories, no one else will.” Therefore, telling our stories we must.”

  • Lilian Sundqvist (Zanzibar, Tanzania), 2018 winner, Maisha Scriptwriting Lab.

“The fact that Gurnah won and is largely unknown to people in the West and a lot on the continent is in keeping with the Nobel Prize tradition of shocking announcement such as when Mo Yan won and people outside of China had hardly heard of him and a good number within didn’t rate him. That the world hasn’t engaged with Gurnah before now and his books are not available in the US for instance, is an indictment of the publishing industry and its snobbery of African literature. Gurnah may not be the African most Africans expected to win this but it doesn’t mean he is not an excellent choice for the award.”

  • Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Nigeria), novelist, author of Dreams and Assorted Nightmares.

*Page will be updated as more reactions trickle in *

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