The Jalada Conversations

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The Jalada Conversations is an interview series where we talk to some of Africa’s most exciting and respected writers and get an in-depth view into their writing processes, their craft and the relationship between their fiction and the spaces they write about. These unique interviews afford us a glimpse into some of the world’s greatest minds. We hope to enrich the terrain of ideas, interrogate modes of thought and illuminate the new directions that African stories are taking the concept of the continent and its varied spaces.


1. Richard Ali

Our generation arrived, saw the situation and I think it would be a major contribution for us to close the gap, because that can’t just continue. Our continent has a great wealth in terms of literary talents in whatever language you take: Anglophone, Lusophony, Francophone, Swahilophone, etc. African writers have this tendency to lock themselves in the language in which they work when mixing stuff up would be much more enriching for them: mixing things up in terms of themes, styles, approaches, etc.

Richard Ali A Mutu


2. Yvonne Owuor

I love the language, it’s the language through which I navigate the world most confidently. I dream in English, for example, but I own it, and I don’t want it to be limited to just England, because it’s been here, whether we like it or not as a country, it is the language that framed the vision and the idea of contemporary Kenya. And I was born into it, this was the landscape, both the physical and metaphorical landscape into which I was born, and that to which I’m born I claim with no apologies whatsoever.

Yvonne Owuor


3. Chika Unigwe

The parents are not teaching their children any Igbo because they see it as holding them back in terms of social mobility. All the people that they look up to, their bosses’ children or their bosses and the people they see on TV etc, everybody is speaking in English. And as far as they are concerned, the only way to give their children access to the centre is by giving them the advantage of English. But then they don’t have the funds to make sure that they are getting the right sort of access.

Chika Unigwe


4. Zukiswa Wanner

Here is the thing, human beings love, laugh, hate, hurt-and that is the universality of the human experience. Sometimes what makes one laugh might not make another laugh as much. But we have those things that we want in our lives, those things that we all want, we want to be happy. And maybe we go about it differently.

Zukiswa Wanner


5. Tsiti Dangarembga

For me, narrative does not really have to be about the big things because we don’t all live at that level. Does it mean because we are not all presidents or rebel leaders or whatever, we cannot be known? We should not be known? We don’t have a story to tell. No, I think absolutely not. I think my life is just as important as any president, any monarch. The life of the girl in the village is just as important.

Tsiti Dangarembga


6. Akwaeke Emezi

When I am writing it doesn’t feel that the characters are different from me, because I try to inhabit them myself, and I am interested in…I am interested in navigating humanity, mostly because I personally experience humanity as a rather foreign thing, so I am fascinated by it, and I am particularly interested in aspects of humanity that people have trouble accepting as human. I am interested in things that people think are inhuman or, you know how people say, that person is a monster. I find that interesting because the person is not a monster. The person is a person. We seem at times, to have this reluctance to confront the amount of horror that human beings have been perpetrating for the whole of their existence. So I am interested in kind of going to those corners.

Akwaeke Emezi