Publishing books in Nigeria has its challenges. There is no centralised distribution network for books, finding a reliable printer can be problematic, piracy is rife, and corruption is common as industry professionals compete to ensure their books feature on government lists. Additionally, in a number of articles I have read, the country’s poor reading culture has been a major topic of discussion. In June this year, the National Library of Nigeria launched a National Readership Promotion Campaign to tackle the issue.
Against this backdrop, however, are some publishers who are beating the odds, such as Farafina Books and Cassava Republic, which publish high quality books, including children’s books, at affordable prices. Cassava Republic expanded into London in 2016 with plans to open in New York later this year, and possibly Paris in due course. I have included a recent title from Cassava Republic in my selection, Mayowa and the Masquerades, by well-known Nigerian poet and author Lola Shoneyin. I had hoped to acquire a number of additional titles from the same publisher, notably a series of eight books by Fatima Akilu, illustrated by Alexander Amulu, including Kitwa Plays the Drums and Aliyya Learns a New Dance. but finding copies available for purchase proved elusive.
One name cropped up time and time again in my search for Nigerian picture book authors: Nnedi Okorafor, an American-born writer and university professor of Igbo Nigerian descent, whose first picture book Chicken in the Kitchen has received many positive reviews. The title is published by Lantana Publishing, a young, independent UK publishing company that works with authors and illustrators from a wide range of cultures and nationalities.
I have also included a title from Book Dash, a South African organisation with a mission to create new African storybooks that anyone can translate and distribute. The title I have selected was created in just one day in Johannesburg. More about that in a post to follow.
All these books were written in English, the official language of Nigeria. In the course of my research, I did not come across any picture books written in the other languages spoken in the country.
I hope you enjoy my Nigerian book selection.
Mayowa and the Masquerades, by Lola Shoneyin, illustrated by Francis Blake (Cassava Republic Press UK edition, 2016)
Chicken in the Kitchen, by Nnedi Okorafor, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini (Lantana Publishing, 2015)
Mina and the Birthday Dress, by Ndidi Chiazor-Enenmor, illustrated by Nicci Nathanson (Book Dash, February 2017)[Image: Chevron and Other Glass Beads, by go2net, made available under a creative commons licence; Source: flickr.com]