September '22 Reviews

1 September 2022


Africa Fashion. Published by V&A Museum, 2022
R885 from The Book Lounge

Published to accompany the V&A Museum’s long overdue 2022 exhibition of the same name, this book gives credit where it is due, for African fashion has often been imitated yet hardly recognised by the West. Christine Checinska, the museum’s first curator of African Fashion and the author of four of the book’s twelve insightful essays, acknowledges that there is not one singular African aesthetic. Work from 25 of the 54 countries is featured. Highlights are Amanda Gorman in kente cloth on the cover of US Vogue, stories of ‘elders’ of fashion design who recovered and reinvented past traditions such as Mali’s Chris Seydou, and new talents such as Orange Culture (Nigeria), woven bag maker AAKS (Ghana), and Lukhanyo Mdingi (South Africa.) The book has a great bibliography and glossary too, for those who want to read more, or know their boubous from their caftans. GB


So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ, 1979
R290 from Clarke’s Bookshop

So Long a Letter is a short novel – under 100 pages – taking the form of a letter from protagonist Ramatoulaye to her best friend since childhood, Aissatou. Bâ’s narrator looks back at her life from the point of view of a crisis moment in middle age, as she examines the choices she has made so far, and considers her future. Lyrical yet wry, gently regretful yet full of strength and conviction, Ramatoulaye’s voice is that of a very particular woman in a specific time and place yet it feels, in many ways, universal. So Long a Letter was the first winner (in 1980) of the prestigious Noma Award for Publishing, is a foundational text for women’s writing in Francophone Africa, and was translated into English in 1981. RA


Festac ´77, by Chimurenga, 2019
R885 from Clarke’s Bookshop

An extraordinary and massive cast of characters gathered in Lagos in 1977 for the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture. With photographic and archival materials, interviews and new commissions, this is the first publication to consider the feat that FESTAC pulled off in bringing together artists, writers, musicians, activists and scholars from almost every part of Africa and the black diaspora. In spite of inevitable allegations of wastefulness, world consensus was that this was oil wealth put to good use. With: Wole Soyinka, Miriam Makeba, Stevie Wonder, Ama Ata Aidoo, Sun Ra and many others. GB


Things They Lost by Odwiri Oduor, 2022
R335 from the Book Lounge

From the 2014 Caine Prize winner comes an astonishing novel. The Manor Mabel Brown looms high over Mapeli Town, its rickety gate flanked by stone angels with severed heads, its yard full of tangled thorns and wildflowers. Inside lives Ayosa, twelve years old and the loneliest girl in the world. With her mother prone to frequent disappearances, Ayosa’s only companions are the ghosts and spirits who wander through her Kenyan village.  When a new friend arrives in the shape of Mbiu, Ayosa is forced to choose between protecting her mama and seizing a life of her own. 

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African Artists. Published by Phaidon, 2021
R1440 from Clarke’s Bookshop

Combining an encyclopaedic scope with large, beautiful and representative visuals of the work of every artist featured, this very welcome addition to Phaidon’s iconic “The Art Book” series includes more than 300 African modern and contemporary artists. Both an inspiration and an essential reference, this book is a must for every serious lover of the continent’s burgeoning creative scene. Now hopefully large numbers of these artists will go on to have individual monographs devoted to their work published in the near future. Your move, publishers. RA


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