Africa39 brought to worldwide attention some of the best new fiction from Africa south of the Sahara. It was a Hay Festival and Rainbow Book Club project celebrating Port Harcourt UNESCO World Book Capital 2014.
The selection and celebration – through a festival and an anthology of stories/extracts – of the most promising 39 authors under the age of 40 from Sub-Saharan Africa and the diaspora. Africa39 was a Hay Festival and Rainbow Book Club Project. The judges selected from as many as 200 submissions researched by Binyavanga Wainaina, founder of the Nairobi-based literary magazine Kwani?, and the writer’s names were unveiled in Port Harcourt and at the London Book Fair in 2014. In October 2014 the Port Harcourt Book Festival took place in Nigeria, coinciding with the Rainbow Festival. Additional events took place in London and New York, in partnership with Arts Council of England, the British Council and Literature Across Frontiers, among others.
As one of the leading literature festivals in the world, Hay Festival has always been interested in highlighting new talent and has collaborated with the UNESCO World Book Capital project in numerous cities. This title is awarded to a different city every year to celebrate the quality and variety of its initiatives to promote books, readership and the editorial industry.
The 39 Project consists of the selection of 39 writers under the age of 40 who have the potential and the talent to define the trends that will mark the future development of literature in a certain language or region. The 39 Project was realized for the first time in Bogotá (UNESCO World Book Capital 2007) and for the second time in Beirut (UNESCO World Book Capital 2010), resulting in both cases in a literature festival in each city with the 39 selected authors from each region (Latin America and the Arab World): four days of literature, debate and the love of books together, with an anthology published of stories/extracts by the authors.
The selection of the 39 writers was made using the following criteria:
Africa has produced some of the best writing of the twentieth century, from Chinua Achebe, Ayi Kwei Armah, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and the Nobel Laureates Wole Soyinka, Nadine Gordimer, J.M. Coetzee and Doris Lessing, to more recent talents like Nuruddin Farah, Ben Okri, Aminatta Forna and Brian Chikwava. Who will be the next generation?
The Africa39 project was open to writers from the following countries: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Réunion, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Saint Helena, São Tomé and Príncipe Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Western Sahara, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria), Richard Ali Mutu (Congo), Monica Arac de Nyeko (Uganda), Rotimi Babatunde (Nigeria), Eileen Barbosa (Cape Verde), A. Igoni Barrett (Nigeria), Jackee Budesta Batanda (Uganda), Recaredo Boturu (Equatorial Guinea), Nana Ekua Brew‐Hammond (Ghana–USA), Shadreck Chikoti (Malawi), Edwige‐Renée Dro (Ivory Coast), Tope Folarin (Nigeria), Clifton Gachagua (Kenya), Stanley Gazemba (Malawi), Mehul Gohil (Kenya), Hawa Jande Golakai (Liberia), Shafinaaz Hassim (South Africa), Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Nigeria), Stanley Onjezani Kenani (Kenya), Dinaw Mengestu (Ethiopia–USA), Nadifa Mohamed (Somalia–England), Nthikeng Mohlele (South Africa), Linda Musita (Kenya), Sifiso Mzombe (South Africa), Glaydah Namukasa (Uganda), Kioko Ndinda (Kenya–England), Ondjaki (Angola), Okwiri Oduor (Kenya), Ukamaka Olisakwe (Nigeria), Chibundu Onuzo (Nigeria), Taiye Selasi (Ghana–Nigeria–England), Namwali Serpell (Zambia), Lola Shoyenin (Nigeria), Nii Ayikwei Parkes (Ghana), Novuyo Rosa Tshuma (Zimbabwe), Chika Unigwe (Nigeria), Mary Watson (South Africa), Zukiswa Wanner (Zambia), Mohamed Yunnis Rafiq (Tanzania)