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Fellow wins 2018 African Literary Person of the Year

Bibi-Bakare-Yusuf-The-2018-Brittle-Paper-Person-of-the-Year

2008 Tutu Fellow Bibi Bakare-Yusuf has won the 2018 African Literary Person of the Year award from Brittle Paper. 

The Brittle Paper Award recognizes individuals who work behind the scenes to hold up the African literary establishment in the given year.  Bibi Bakare-Yusuf was recognised for her long service and leadership in publishing as well as her disruptive approach.  It celebrates a literary personality who has taken the lead in challenging and expanding assumptions about what it means to be an African creative. Brittle Paper says that it recognizes individuals for this award who explore Africa as a powerful idea that does not restrain creativity but inspires the most boundary-pushing and revolutionary work.

As founder of the indie press, Cassava Republic, Bibi has been a successful and disruptive influence on both publishing in Africa. In 2003, she went on a research trip to Nigeria. During her visit, she made a disheartening observation. She noticed many bookshelves were empty.  For someone like her who believes that nations and civilizations are built on the cultivation of the character and creativity that come with reading, empty book shelves were troubling. Her response was to start up Cassava Republic.

Brittle Paper says Bakare-Yusuf’s work with Cassava Republic was disruptive, changing the way publishing was believed to work or not work in Africa. She broke a lot of rules and has never stopped finding ways to rethink and unthink established conventions. In addition to traditional bookstores, she partnered with supermarkets, cafes and hair salons to sell books. She was one of the first African publishers to embrace the work being done by Okada Books in digital publishing. And in 2016, she struck a deal with Nigeria’s university entrance examination body Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), in which Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s 2008 novel In Dependence was sold along with JAMB’s materials, out-smarting book pirates. The deal led to the book selling three million copies. She has also been a leader in publishing groundbreaking nonfiction in fields as diverse as African food writing and reference works on creative non-fiction.

She has also obtained recognition outside of her home contintent. In April 2018, Cassava Republic was recognised at the London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards with the Inclusivity in Publishing Award.

Brittle Paper is a literary project that was started in 2010 to reflect the new reality in African literary culture. As they explain it, past generations of African writers wanted literature to address the burden of colonialism and various social ills. The African novelist was a teacher, as Achebe insists in his now famous 1965 essay, which would make the African reader little more than a student. The current generation of African readers are young, open, and unconventional in their interests. The obsession with realist fiction that defined older generations has given way to an avid interest in speculative writing—fantasy, science fiction— but also in experimental narratives, pulp-fiction, and other offbeat genres.  Brittle Paper was started to reflect this.  It is part of the Guardian Books Network, and publishes original work aimed squarely at this new reading demographic.  It launched the African Literary Person of the Year Award in 2015.  You can read more about Bibi's award at their website.

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Thursday, 22 August 2019

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