Nigeria’s authors have long been ambassadors of our tradition so it should come as no surprise that one of our biggest exports, witchcraft and spirituality, is being sold across the world by a new generation of fantasy writers.
In recent years, a new genre called magical realism has gained a foothold in the literary scene. It has been described as a form of narrative fiction that expresses a vivid view of the world while adding magical elements.
In Nigeria, the dense catalogue of our native religions is filled with magical stories and rich narratives that would interest any reader in today’s world.
With the full weight of their rich and extensive culture behind them, a number of Nigerian authors are blazing the trail in magical realism and taking Nigeria’s witchcraft to the world.
(1) Tomi Adeyemi:
The Nigerian-American Author’s first book, “Children of Blood and Bone”, which has been described as the biggest fantasy debut novel of 2018, has made its first appearance atop the New York Times Bestseller’s list.
The Harvard graduate studied English Literature before leaving for Brazil to study West African culture and mythology, where she says, the seeds for her debut were sown.
In the book, a young female protagonist, Zelie Adebola who is a fisherman’s daughter is joined by an unlikely band of allies to fight a monarchy and return magic to her home country of Orisha.
Although it is only her first book, Tomi has already inked a massive deal that will see her release two more instalments in the trilogy.
(2) Nnedi Okoroafor:
Mention “magical realism” in an empty room and it may just whisper Nnedi’s name back to you. The Nigerian-born writer is the cream of the crop.
After turning to writing short stories while she battled complications from a surgery in her teens, Nnedi gradually honed her creative writing skills, winning the Hurston Prize in 2002 for her story, “Amphibious Green”.
Her greatest works, however, are "Who Fears Death" which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Fantasy Novel and the Binti Trilogy. Nnedi uses traditional Nigerian customs and spiritual concepts to tell stories of freedom, confidence and identity that often have young female African protagonists.
In recent years, Nnedi’s works have made the transition to comics and the small screen. In July 2017, she announced via Twitter that Who Fears Death was picked up by HBO to become a TV series with novelist and Game of Thrones producer, George R.R. Martin, joining the project as an executive producer.
She has also written for Marvel’s Black Panther series and Venomverse.
(3) Tochi Onyebuchi:
Tochi’s resume makes it seem like he was and still is an academic athlete. The Nigerian-born author holds a Bachelor of Arts from Yale, an MFA in Screenwriting from Tisch, a Masters degree in Global Economic Law from L’institut d’ tudes politiques, and a JD from Columbia Law School. Scary huh?
Add to that the fact that he now works in the tech industry. When he puts pen to paper, however, Tochi’s works recall a reality in a tone as vivid as any memory of it can be.
In his first book, “Beasts Made of the Night”, which was described as “Unforgettable in its darkness, inequality, and magic”, Tochi creates a busy market city inspired by his Nigerian heritage and populates it with a group of outcast kids who shoulder the sins of the rich and powerful.
The central character is a young boy, Taj, who is a member of a clan indentured by the city’s elite to consume the sins of others.
The book includes references to traditional Nigerian practices, some of which you would well relate to. His follow-up, “Crown of Thunder” is slated for release in October 2018 and is expected to continue in that tone.