Literature

The Okayafrica 2016 Year-End Book List

We look back at the biggest, baddest books of 2016 by African and Diasporan writers.

We’ve been wanting to wish 2016 good riddance almost immediately upon its arrival and now it’s nearly time. But before we bring out the von Trapp children to bid it adieu, let us acknowledge something that didn’t disappoint us in 2016: books.


This has been a glorious year for literature and a horrible year for just about everything else. When 2016 hit us with its worst, authors gave us their best. And an unprecedented number of these authors receiving some much deserved shine this year happen to be Black. This was a renaissance year for writers of the diaspora and we were blessed with a generous handful of instant classics.

We’ve rounded up our 12 year-end picks below.

“Homegoing” — Yaa Gyasi

In her debut novel, Yaa Gyasi pens a spellbinding tale of two half-sisters with diverging destinies. While Esi is sold into slavery, Effia assumes her role as a slave trader’s wife. This incredibly gifted 20-something Ghanaian-American writer offers a sprawling epic that spans several generations across three continents as we trace the lineage of two sisters and the succeeding events their fates determine. Many critics have dubbed “Homegoing” as this generation’s "Roots," and much like the Alex Haley classic, this is a book that will be referenced for decades to come.

Get “Homegoing” on Amazon.

“What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours” — Helen Oyeyemi

Helen Oyeyemi is, in a word, prolific. “What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours” is her sixth novel (the first five were published by the time she was thirty). In her latest effort, we are met with an intoxicating collection of short stories somewhat strung together by the recurring presence of both literal and figurative keys. Like her other books, this is one that begs to be re-read, so you’ll likely find yourself sitting with “What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours” well into 2017.

Get “What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours” on Amazon.

“Here Comes the Sun” — Nicole Dennis-Benn

If all that comes to mind when you think of Jamaica is rum punch and sandy beaches, this book will quickly dismantle that notion. Nicole Dennis-Benn will make you resent the idea that this island nation has been sold to you as nothing more than the perfect setting for a vacation in paradise. We follow the lives of women living in anything but paradise as they endure the burdens of poverty whilst surrounded by rich White tourists. From exploitation to homophobia, the Jamaican-born Dennis-Benn uncovers the seedy underbelly lurking beneath an unassuming Montego Bay resort in her debut novel.

Get “Here Comes the Sun” on Amazon.

“Swing Time” — Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith’s fifth novel will put you under a rhythmic spell for the duration. It is a soulful study of friendship, motherhood, race, the nuances of pop culture, and the passage of time with dance as the unifying factor. We meet two brown girls who spend their days dreaming about becoming dancers and then we waltz through time as we’re sashayed from London to West Africa in a novel that, once again, showcases Smith’s bewitching understanding of humanity.

Get “Swing Time” on Amazon.

“Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood” — Trevor Noah

As of late, the name Trevor Noah is quickly followed by the mention of conservative, right-wing commentator Tomi Lahren and her incendiary appearance on his show. Noah’s decision to have her on has been met with resistance from many left-wing viewers who argue that he was wrong to offer her yet another platform for pushing her questionable views.

But before any of this, and before Trevor Noah was a comedian turned television personality, he was just a kid growing up against the backdrop of apartheid South Africa. His very existence—the product of a White Swiss father and Black Xhosa mother—was considered a crime, and he spent a great deal of his childhood in hiding. This collection of personal essays covers that time, his life post-apartheid, as well as his journey to the coveted role of hosting The Daily Show. It offers a compelling combination of both the sobering and the hilarious, plus a better understanding of the man behind the desk.

Get “Born a Crime” on Amazon.

“The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem” — Marcus Samuelsson

The Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised James Beard Award-winning chef is back with another book. This one is all about his critically-acclaimed Harlem restaurant: The Red Rooster. But this is more than just a cookbook—it includes essays and photos seeped with great pride for the neighborhood of Harlem. Another instant favorite for the foodie in your life for sure.

Get “The Red Rooster Cookbook” on Amazon.

“Born on a Tuesday: A Novel” — Elnathan John

Lawyer, cultural commentator and satirist, Elnathan John is also a brilliant up-and-coming Nigerian writer whose trajectory is worth following. In his stirring first novel, John brings the story of a whip-smart Muslim boy growing up in a society torn apart by religion and politics. Dantala lives with a gang of other street-dwelling boys, but when their plan to burn down the headquarters of their enemy goes awry, he is forced to flee. Dantala eventually finds himself as the apprentice to a sheikh in a motor park’s mosque and things only become more complex and riveting from there.

Get “Born on a Tuesday” on Amazon.

“The Face: Cartography of the Void” — Chris Abani

In this study on identity, Chris Abani considers the face. The Nigerian poet, screenwriter and novelist uses this profound short memoir to, as he puts it, contemplate “all the people who have touched my face, slapped it, punched it, kissed it, washed it, shaved it. All of that human contact must leave a trace…” And it is these traces that Abani explores in his essay that’s a part of an intriguing new series from Restless Books called "The Face."

Get “The Face” on Amazon.

"The Kindness of Enemies: A Novel" — Leila Aboulela

Aboulela presents a penetrating portrait of life as a Muslim in a post-9/11 landscape. She begins with Natasha, a half Russian, half Sudanese history professor who is researching 19th century Muslim leader, Imam Shamil. Throughout the novel, we learn more about this provocative leader who led the anti-Russian resistance in the Caucasian War from the mind of Natasha as well as from other narrators who bring his magnetizing story to life.

Get “The Kindness of Enemies” on Amazon.

“Blackass: A Novel” — A. Igoni Barrett

In this electrifying satire, Furo Wariboko wakes up on the day of his job interview to find that he has been transformed into a White man—save for his ass, which remains as black as before. In this story about identity, a Lagos-born Black man experiences life as a White man and, in turn, discovers a thing or two about himself.

Get “Blackass” on Amazon.

“And After Many Days” — Jowhor Ile

This is a masterful debut novel much anticipated and raved about by the likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Taiye Selasi and A. Igoni Barrett. It’s the nineties in Port Harcourt and a family’s already shaky foundation is torn asunder when their seventeen year-old son, Paul Utu, suddenly vanishes. In the search for their son, the past and present collide and unexpected family secrets are uncovered.

Get “And After Many Days” on Amazon.

“Fuchsia” — Mahtem Shiferraw

Every year, the African Poetry Book Fund publishes the debut poetry collection by the person who wins the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poetry. Ethiopian-American poet Mahtem Shiferraw won the title this year and brought us “Fuchsia.” This collection of poems ruminates on displacement and the diaspora. It reflects on past traumas whilst moving forward with a sanguine spirit.

Get “Fuchsia” on Amazon.

Neyat Yohannes is an Eritrean-American freelancer who’s from LA, but just moved to the Bay. You can follow her on Twitter at @rhymeswithcat or check out her portfolio here.

Events

OkayAfrica and The Narativ Present The Fresh + Festive Holiday Pop-Up Shop

We've curated a group of our favorite black-owned vendors for a festive holiday pop-up in Brooklyn.

The holiday season is officially upon us and you know what that means: it's time to shower friends, family—and yourself—with precious gifts.

While holiday shopping can sometimes be a task, it certainly doesn't have to be. OkayAfrica has teamed up with global luxury design platform The Narativ for The Fresh + Festive Holiday Pop Up Shop to bring you a fun, colorful and chilled out retail experience.

The Fresh + Festive Holiday Pop Up will be a one-stop shop, featuring items from some of our favorite black-owned clothing, jewelry, home decor, food and beauty brands.

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Events
Photo courtesy of Little Havana

OkayAfrica's Guide to December Parties in Lagos and Accra

Where to find the hottest parties in Ghana and Nigeria in December 2018

I arrived at the Little Havana party, just after midnight. We were a short drive in the hills outside Accra, and it was still hot. I walk through the the gardens of the Little Acre Lodge set up with cabanas while coloured lights bounced off the palm trees. Music from the best Afrobeat DJs echoes through the hills. The harmattan haze creates a beautiful ambience and make the cold drinks go down a lot better. And the people! The dancing, the compliments, the great conversations with random strangers; What makes December in Accra truly wonderful is the energy we bring to it.


During December in Accra—or as some affectionately refer to it "Dezember"—parties end when day breaks, and as soon as night falls you get right back to it. If you are about the party life and love travelling, welcome to "Dezember." First of all, to get this straightened out, it's not a physical location or a month exactly. "Dezember" is a period in time—a series of thrilling experiences and moments locked within the tight traffic and unfiltered heat of Accra's streets.

Lagos and Accra have become famously popular during December for the best African parties. In Accra, there are back to back parties for two weeks straight. From night clubs, day parties, house parties, parties in the hills, concerts, themed events and more. International performers and DJs are flown in from all over the world, to play and perform at multiple events.

The Rise of Global Afrobeats

Dj Juls—Photo courtesy of the artist

The spike in interest in December, be it in Lagos or Accra, can't be pinpointed. However, one can identify a general symbiosis between the growth of Afrobeats and the growth in diaspora relations. "'Dezember' has significantly contributed to the growth of afrobeats internationally," says Ghanaian Afrobeats superstar, Kidi.

He explains, "People come and hear these fresh jams and take it with them when they leave".

Kidi who was booked for over twenty shows last December , has added a similar number of shows to his calendar this December.

DJ Juls, a UK producer and DJ by way of Ghana, also relates the boom of Afrobeats to December festivities.

"I think the artists really work on dropping riddims around Christmas time," the award winning DJ says, "There's always one song that everyone loves, and people who travel down get to experience the hype of that song. When everyone goes back home the DJs just run with it. It gets more popular and in the long run boosts local artists' chances of going on tour or doing little gigs here and there. It's then up to the artists to build on that hype."

Africa Taking Hold of its Narrative

Afrochella—Photo courtesy of Edward Adjaye

The trigger for the number of flights being booked for December can be attributed to a number of things. The internet and the ways we document our day to day lives could be one. Africa taking a hold of its narrative has done more good for the continent than most international publications. University students spot their friends balling in clubs in Lagos or Accra, having the time of their lives on Snapchat or Instagram stories, and want the same experience.

Edward Adjaye, one of the organizers of Afrochella, an afrobeats centered festival in Accra, believes it's all about the experience.

"People used to come (to Accra) and do nothing, but clubbing," he says "but now there are festivals and parties in the hills and day parties. So many options outside of just clubbing."

The annual festival, Afrochella which Adjaye hosts has its date scheduled within the depths of the season for a reason.

"Throwing Afrochella in 'Dezember' helps, because the festival is mainly about the promotion and celebration of Afrobeats and the culture as a whole," he reveals, "'Dezember' is the season where everyone; from diaspora to first timers, most likely visit Ghana and are ready to party".

OK, now what's next?

The conversation, however, must go beyond leaving the club at 8am and sipping coconut juice on private beaches. "Dezember" creates an amazing bond between Africa and the rest of the world; one based on relationships. How can the opportunity be fully realized?

"Event organizers need to stop looking at each other as competition and help each other with everything; from sharing information and promotion," says Adjaye, "Everyone eats when everyone succeeds. Also, the big brands need to put up more, in terms of sponsorships and collaborations with event organizers. Everyone wins only when everyone works together, pretty much."

Kidi shared a different perspective, focusing more on the national benefits of this blossoming relationship.

"If 'Dezember' is properly marketed, it'll generate a lot of revenue for our tourists sites and event organizers," he says. "Carefully planned activities, shows, exhibitions and markets can be organized, because these people are here to have a good time."

DJ Juls believes "Dezember" has formed a brain of its own. The only way to benefit from it, is to capture the opportunities it presents.

"A lot more people flock to Ghana over the Christmas and the summer. An estimated 75,000 people are expected in Ghana this year," DJ Juls says. "That means business opportunities and networking."

He however lays bare a pressing negativity to Dezember, "Only negative I guess is traffic and over capacity venues. Kills the vibe sometimes." Pack your bags! We're going for Dezember!

If you're heading to Dezember, here are some events and places you shouldn't miss:

December Events in Accra, Ghana

Mr Eazi's Detty Rave 2017—Photos courtesy of Detty Rave

Afrochella—The day festival on the 29th of December, celebrates afrobeats and the culture surrounding it through music concert, art installations and exhibitions and fashion. Buy tickets at afrochella.com/tickets

Detty Rave—The annual Mr Eazi-curated concert hosts international musicians from around the world in a rave like no other. Get tickets for the 28th December concert at dettyrave.com

Little Havanna—A party thrown in the hills on the outskirts of Accra, Little Havanna lives up to its name. Endless drinks, amazing people and back to back music from the best DJs.

The Day Party—Think Gossip Girl parties, but with Ankara designs and champagne flutes.

The Throwback Party—Hosted by DJ Juls and DJ Neptizzle, the throwback party is back to back hip hop bangers that rocked the 2000s on New Year's Day. Buy tickets at ayatickets.com/events/throwback-new-years

Manifestivities—Rapper Manifest hosts some of his favourite Musicians at the Bukom Boxing Arena for an exciting experience. Rap battles, DJ battles, performances and more are the highlight of this 23th December event. Get tickets at ayatickets.com/events/manifestivities

BHIM Concert—Dancehall musician Stonebwoy takes up the challenge to fill the 15,000 capacity Fantasy Dome on the 28th of December. With performances from Morgan Heritage and other musicians, this event promises to be one for the books. Find tickets at ayatickets.com/events/bhim-concert

Rappaholic Concert—Get drunk off back to back hits from the rap maestro Sarkodie at his annual Rappaholic concert on Christmas Day at the Conference Centre.

Liquid Gold—Private club Front/Back opens its doors on 31st December for Liquid Gold party. A night of opulence, wealth and unhinged partying.

M.A.D. Fest—The burgeoning rapper, Ayat, hosts the annual Music of African Descent (MAD) festival at Madina Number 1 Park, on the 22nd of December. For the third time the show will host top rappers like Medikal, Edem, Teephlow, Akan, Kwesi Arthur, Worlasi and Manifest.

Crusade 3—The thriving Ghanaian collective La Meme Gang host their 3rd concert at Crystal Park. Performing songs off their just released album "Linksters", along with artists featured on the tape.

The Magna Carter—Villa Grace chef hosts guests to a Hip hop themed lunch on December 22. Endless chutes of champagne will be available.

December 2 Remember—The annual music concerts hosted at the International Conference Centre comes back again this year. Enjoy hits from your favourite Ghanaian musicians back to back. Dress code is blue denims and a white top.

The Loud Concert—The annual girls only concert takes place on the 21st of December at the National Theatre. With award winning singer Efya headlining, it promises to be remarkable.

Lokkofied—Concept store and art hub Lokko 08 celebrates its 10 year anniversary with an insane party. Accra's best DJs, drinks food and music in abundance, it definitely sounds like the type of party to look forward to. Happening at Lokko House on 22nd December.

Sabolai Radio Music Festival—The annual music festival celebrating indie and alternative musicians from across Africa returns this year at an unusual new location. Catch teh crew at the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange on the 12th to 15th of December. Tickets available at accradotaltradio.com

Ghana Rocks—The popular annual show makes a comeback after a hiatus with an impressive lineup. Local artists like Kuami Eugene, Kidi and more with be joined by international acts like Jidenna, Burna boy and more. Happening at the Fantasy Dome on 29th December 2018.

Accra Gidi Cookout—Grab a barbeque and enjoy the sounds from around the world spun by DJs like Juls, Vision DJ Loft and more.

Promiseland—Rising afropop star King Promise, headlines his own show on December 15th at Crystal Park.

Pine x Ginja—Enjoy dancehall, reggae and full blown jamaican and island vibes at the PinexGinja party, at Crystal Park. Tickets available at Eventbrite.

Nostalgia—A celebration of the best hits of the 2000's in one night! Happening on the 15th of December at Bosphorous Rooftop, this party looks like the perfect start for the Dezember activities.

T.I.N.A Festival—Fuse ODG hosts the first ever This is New Africa (T.I.N.A) festival to celebrate the unique African culture through music, fashion and food. Happening on the 4th of January at the Fantasy Dome. Get tickets at ayatickets.com/events/tina-festival

Fast Food Festival—Accra Fast Food Festival is calling out all foodies for the ultimate cheat day. Enjoy an assortment of Accra's favourite fast food joints and the best tunes at this all day event on the 22nd of December at the Accra Fast food festival.

A Taste of Christmas—Accra's nomadic Chef, Biishville invites all to a culinary experience on Christmas Eve. Fine wining and dining, complete with a dinner party and endless proseccos. Limited seats available to grab one by making a reservation at biishville@gmail.com

Brunch at the Palm—Food blog Taste Tales hosts guests to a food and mimosa filled brunch on the 30th of December. Enjoy live jazz and DJ sets at this foodie haven. Tickets available at Eventbrite.

#BeCurious—Hosted by the afrocentric movement Tribvl, #BeCurious is the last of the groups monthly parties. With strictly afrobeats music and an afro-inspired theme, #BeCurious is the party to be at if you want to party. Happening at Cleaver House on the 30th of December. Buy tickets on Eventbrite.

Twist—Start your night right inside the coveted Accra club. The bouncer may not let you in for absolutely no reason at all, but it's always amazing once you're inside.

Bloom Bar—Pre-game at Accra's open air bar. Split their signature drinks with friends and enjoy fine selection of chill music.

The Woods—A chill, relaxed bar perfect for just hanging out with friends and getting away from all the Accra city mess. The perfect hideout within the heart of Accra.

Sky Bar—A rooftop bar on top Accra's Villagio apartments. It's perfect for quiet drinks and cool vibes.

December Events in Lagos, Nigeria

Catch DJ Tunez in Lagos—Photo: OkayAfrica

‪Simi Live in Lagos—The songstress sets December off with her silky voice at the Eko Hotels in Lagos on the 9th of December.‬

AG Live—Adekunle Gold promises a golden experience at his 3 day show. Catch him on the 13th, 14th or 15th of December at Terra Kulture in Lagos. Buy tickets at nairabox.com

‪King Coal live in Concert‬—The Afrobeats king made a comeback this year with some amazing music. Now you get to watch him live perform his music with some favourites at Eko Hotels. Check out Wande Coal's show on the 14th of December in Lagos. Buy tickets at nairabox.com

‪Mayor of Lagos Concert—Mayorkun‬ takes over the Federal Palace Hotel in Victoria Island for his Mayor of Lagos concert. 14th of December is one for music lovers.

Pretty World—‪New school Nigerian musician Pretty Boy D-O‬ headlines his first show on the 17th of December at Artisan, Victoria Island. Get tickets at pluggrecords.ng/prettyworld/

‪Wizkid VIP Experience Night—Afrobeats king Wizkid brings all the heat home to Lagos, Nigeria for his Wizkid VIP Experience Night. Seats available for only 5000 VIP guests at the Eko Hotels, Lagos.

‪The Beat FM Christmas Party—Top Nigerian radio station The Beat FM hosts a myriad of musicians at this years Christmas concert. Featuring performances from musicians such as Lil Baby, Kojo Fundz, Lotto Boys, Kizz Daniel, Mr. Eazi, Peruzzi, Teni The Entertainer and more. Federal palace is the place to be on December 19th for this once in a lifetime event.

Blackout Lagos—DJ Tunez hosts the popular New York party, Blackout in Lagos on the 20th of December at Hard Rock Cafe. Featuring artists such as Sarz, Wizkid, Reekado Banks and more.

‪Urban Music Fest—Nigeria's premiere music festival ‬brings in the best from the city of Lagos on to one stage. Join Wande Coal, Niniola, Tiwa Savage, DBanj and more at the Eko Atlantic. Tickets available for the 2st December to 23rd December event at: Naijaticketshop.com

Flytime Music Festival‬—Flytime Music Festival‬ kicks off on the 21st of December with the annual Rhythm Unplugged Concert featuring Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Davido and more. It is followed by a Bobby Brown and Bell Biv Devoe headlined concert on the 22nd of December, and climaxes with an Olamide Live event on the 23rd of December. Get tickets at flytimetv.com

Afrobeat Fest—Celebrate the best of Afrobeats at the Afrobeat Fest with Patoranking, Timaya, Runtown, Tekno, Mr Eazi, Femi and Seun Kuti, on the 22nd of December at the Eko Suites Hotel. Tickets available at naijaticketshop.com

Made in Lagos—Wizkid ‬headlines his second event this December in Lagos on the 23rd with the Made in Lagos concert. Performing artists include Tiwa Savage, Mr Eazi and more. Tickets available at naijaticketshop.com

Olamide Live in Concert—The Motigbana hit maker Olamide‬ headlines his own show at the Eko Atlantic Hotel on the 23rd of December with a host of other amazing performers.

‪Rare. Live—The Nigerian alternative sweetheart Odunsi‬ the Engine is set to thrill audience to music from his newly released album Rare. at the Hardrock Cafe. This event will take place on the 24th of December.

All Black Everything—Celebrating ten years of this phenomenal annual Christmas party on the 25th of December at the landmark event centre. Don't forget to come dressed in all black.

Island Block Party‬—The organizers of Mainland Block party bring the all day rave to the Island on Christmas eve. Buy tickets for the premiere event at mainlandblockparty.com

Eat Drink ‬Festival—As if all the Christmas meals are not enough, Sterling Bank fills up Lekki Coliseum with food vendors for the two day food festival. Join other foodies on the ‪26th and 27th of December at the Eat Drink Festival.

Burna Live—The king of vibes, Burna Boy‬, headlines his show Burna Live at the Eko Hotels on ‪26th of December. Performing his classics as well as songs from his 2018 album 'Outside', Burna Live promises to be unmissable.

Copacabana—Copacabana promises an endless summer with this sunny rave at Tickle Bay on the ‪26th of December.

Positive Vibes Only—If you love Champagne showers, the PVO party in Lagos on the 27th of December assures you of endless bubbly and of course, positive vibes.

Native Land—Music and Pop culture magazine Native Mag hosts their annual Native Land concert at the Muri Okunola Park on December 28th. ‬Last year's event hosted UK musician Skepta, Not3s, Mayorkun, and more. Excited to see this year's lineup.

‪Palm Wine Music Fest—The boys of Showdem Camp round up an amazing musical year with the alternative music festival of the year. Happening at the Muri Okunola Park on December 29th, Palm wine Fest looks like alternative music haven.

Mainland Block Party—The monthly mainland rave ends the year with a bang on the 31st of December with one last throwdown. Get tickets at mainlandblockparty.com

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Photo courtesy of Pearl Thusi

Quantico Actress Pearl Thusi Will Star in the First Original African Series by Netflix

It's the first of many original shows aimed at African audiences says the streaming giant

South African actress Pearl Thusi, best known as our beloved Black Pearl, will be starring in Netflix's first African series Queen Sono. This comes after the company's recent announcement that it wants to produce more Afrocentric content as it looks for emerging markets for international growth opportunities.

In an interview with South Africa's Independent Online Vice President of International Original Series for Netflix, Erik Barmack says, "We are excited to be working with Kagiso and Pearl, to bring the story of Queen Sono to life, and we expect it to be embraced by our South African users and global audiences alike."

Thusi made the announcement in a tweet this morning:

The star of ABC's Quantico will be starring alongside her Catching Feelings colleague, Kagiso Lediga, who created the series. The series will follow a badass female spy tackling challenging missions and her own personal life within a South African agency. Thusi took to Twitter to express her excitement about the series set to be released next year saying, "I'm so proud and grateful for everyone that made this happen. This was a dream of mine as a little girl. Let's make history."

In Photos: Pearl Thusi Speaking at OkayAfrica's Next 100 Summit

Thusi is a prominent South African actress who has starred in local productions such as Isidingo, Happiness is a Four-Letter Word and Catching Feelings. She is one of few South African actresses to make it internationally, having landed a role in the US-based series Quantico. Last year in an interview with OkayAfrica for our annual 100 Women honours, of which she was a recipient, Thusi shared one of her philosophy's about success:

"Show people results, and maybe show them preparation later, but don't ever share your dream before you've actually covered the seed and watered it."

Queen Sono is set to hit screens in 2019.

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The Best Ghanaian Songs of 2018

Here are the 23 best Ghanaian tracks of the year featuring La Même Gang, KiDi, Juls, Efya, Sarkodie, M.anifest, Kwesi Arthur, Kuami Eugene and many more.