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18 Notable Essays From Nigeria in 2023

18 Notable Essays From Nigeria in 2023

18 Notable Essays From Nigeria in 2023

This year, it can be argued that the literary scene was lit by two categories of essays: those on Nigerian literature and others. 

By Editorial 

2023 has been a remarkable year for Nigerian essay writing. Coming on the back of the repeated lamentation of the deterioration of thinking culture in Nigeria — which has in turn meant a curious lack of important literary essays —2023 proved to be the vaunted year of the essay, if we were to give it a befitting label. Beginning from January till December, we were inundated with essays covering a wide range of public and private concerns in Nigeria. 

Considering the sheer number of essays produced this year, what especially comes across to us is the immense quality of the arguments and examinations of personal travails explored therein — a true testament to what Nigerian essayists of this generation are capable of. It barely needs notation that the genre of the essay was greatly enhanced by one major event this year: the publication of Oris Aigbokhaevbolo’s essay “The Death of Nigerian Literature”. That esteemed essay sparked what became a Renaissance of the critical essay in Nigeria. A flurry of intellectual ripostes followed suit on the question of whether or not Nigerian literature was dying; and also on the question of the perceived  Americanisation of Nigerian poetry. This spontaneous spring of arguments this year cast an undeniable glow on the literary scene.

The essays produced in 2023 can be divided into two distinct categories: those about Nigerian literature, and those focusing on personal and private narratives. The quality of these essays was truly outstanding and cannot be completely captured in a small list such as this. What we have compiled here, however, is a list of some of the literary essays which we think were notable in 2023, based on these categorisations.

The Death of Nigerian Literature” 

By Oris Aigbokhaevbolo 

Publisher: Efiko Magazine

Oris Aigbokhaevbolo - Afrocritik
Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

This essay was a real conversation starter in the Nigerian literary scene this year. Oris Aigbokhaevbolo, who has a reputation for his controversial takes on African literature, argued that Nigerian literature is dead because there is no system left to support its writers, and it is difficult to tell what becomes of successful Nigerian writers, unlike their peers in America and Europe. The essay laments a generation of writers whose ambitions are either to head West or use their writing talents to get better positions in the corporate world.

Yes, Nigerian Literature is Dying. Here is Why” 

By Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera 

Publisher: Author on Medium

Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera - Afrocritik
Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera

This essay was a response which heightened the argument begun by Aigbokhaevbolo. Chukwudera argues that the present generation lacks the structure which aided the first generation of African writers, and the denial by the present generation of the problem heightens it. He argues that Nigerian literature is dying, so long as writers are failing to produce art which interrogates the status quo, and that people are growing less satisfied with the country. 

Is Nigerian Literature Truly Dying?” 

By Chimezie Chika 

Publisher: Afrocritik

Chimezie Chika - Afrocritik
Chimezie Chika

Chimezie Chika argues that the points raised by Aigbokhaevbolo and Chukwudera are valid, but counters the argument that Nigerian literature is dead because even in the grim state of things Nigerian Literature is still recording little successes.

Who is Afraid of Nigerian Literature?” 

By Kechi Nomu 

Publisher: The Republic

Kechi Nomu - Afrocritik
Kechi Nomu

Kechi Nomu highlights her personal experience with Nigerian literature as a reader and student. She accepts the guilt of being one of those who have left, so as to survive as artists, often to the detriment of the scene back home. But she argues in favour of the resilient spirit of Nigerian literature and its ability to endure.

(Read also – Examining Africa’s Literary Masterpieces: African Books That Should be Considered Modern Classics)

Our Literature Has Died Again: Nigerian Writing in the Era of Nomadists” 

By Kanyinsola Olorunnisola

Publisher: Open Country 

Kanyinsola Olorunnisola - Afrocritik
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola

Kanyinsola goes back in history and argues that the discourse on the death of Nigerian literature is an old one. He divides the writers who argue for Nigerian literature to be deeply rooted at home and those who travel into Nativists and Nomadists. And he argues that the multiplicity of Nomadists doesn’t spell doom for Nigerian literature.

Is Contemporary Nigerian Poetry Nigerian?

 By Ernest Ogunyemi 

Publisher: Author on Substack

Ernest Ogunyemi - Afrocritik
Ernest Ogunyemi

Ogunyemi argues that Nigerian poetry has become monotonous, as a result of Nigerian poets drinking too much from the depressive faucets of the Plath-Lowell streams of American literature. He argues that Nigerian poets are failing with language, which has resulted in a drop in the quality of poetry in the country.

The Miseducation of Nigerian Poets” 

By Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera

Publisher: The Republic 

Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera - Afrocritik
Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera

Chukwudera argues that Nigerian poets made significant poetry in the social media age, but poets are now engaged in a choreography of styles and themes since American magazines became very important to Nigerian poets. He argues that the problem isn’t as much the influence of American magazines as it is the lack of consciousness among Nigerian poets which makes them easily swayed.

Much Ado About Nigerian Criticism” 

By Bestman Michael Osamudiamen

Publisher: Afapinen

Bestman Michael Osamudiamen - Afrocritik
Bestman Michael Osamudiamen

From a Marxist point of view, this essay contributes to the discussion about the state of Nigerian literature and poets. It examines the earlier arguments made by Aigbokhaevbolo, Ogunyemi, Chukwudera, and Chika, and then presents its arguments through the lens of class.

Tender Light

By Emmanuel Iduma 

Publisher: Yale Review

Emmanuel Iduma - Afrocritik
Emmanuel Iduma

Emmanuel Iduma, in this essay, reflects on the relationship between photography and narration, using a case study of how he once tried but failed to write a short story about how a pastor loses faith after seeing a picture, which caused an instantaneous change in his mindset. The essay explores how narratives work with photography; how the ideas expressed in photographs can be expressed either in long or short form, and the factors responsible for how the ideas can be expressed.

(Read also – African Art: Discovering the Beauty, Symbolism, and Diversity of Traditional and Contemporary Masterpieces)

Spirit Wife, Spirit Life” 

By Chimezie Chika

Publisher: Efiko Magazine 

Chimezie Chika - Afrocritik
Chimezie Chika

Chika’s essay examines the supernatural aspects of his life and his encounter with the spirit forces that interfere with his physical world. It is a very vulnerable and courageous essay which opened up a whole discussion on Igbo cosmology and worldview.

Leave Me, Let Me Live” 

By Chinonso Nzeh 

Publisher: Evergreen Review

Chinonso Nzeh - Afrocritik
Chinonso Nzeh | X (Twitter)

Chinonso Nzeh paints a touching portrait of his struggles as a gay boy growing up in Nigeria, his struggles to be himself in a society that is opposed to his sexuality, and his resilience in the face of this rejection.

The Exceptional Mind of Cyprian Ekwensi” 

By Kechi Nomu 

Publisher: The Republic

Kechi Nomu - Afrocritik
Kechi Nomu

The essay explores Cyprian Ekwensi’s vocation as a custodian of Nigerian life and as the patron saint of the city dweller, and how his work in this context made him one of the popular novelists of his generation.

See Also

The Utility of Speculative Fiction” 

By T.J Benson

Publisher: Efiko

T.J. Benson - Afrocritik
T.J. Benson

T.J. Benson makes a case for the relevance of speculative fiction in everyday Nigerian life. He argues that speculative fiction is not fiction that deals with a different kind of reality, but one which reimagines reality. As a writer of speculative fiction, he asserts that the genre is his way of seeking wonder, which is one of his most important preoccupations with fiction.

Living in America, Leaving Nigeria”  

By Idowu Odeyemi 

Publisher: The Republic 

Idowu Odeyemi - Afrocritik
Idowu Odeyemi

Idowu Odeyemi, a PhD student at the University of Colorado in the US, details his experience with racism in the country. His essay illustrates how racism in America is no longer pronounced but is more subtle, one which makes one question the relevance of their personhood.

Teach Me So I Don’t Wither” 

By Halima Adisa 

Publisher: Lolwe

Halima Adisa - Afrocritik
Halima Adisa

This essay is a reflection of philosophical heft in which the author writes about her lifelong journey of learning to stand up and tell the truth, and to fight for herself. 

(Read also:  Afrocritik’s 2023 Top 25 African Music Projects)

Accent and the Melting Pot

By Chinonyelum Anyichie 

Publisher: Isele 

Chinonyelum Anyichie  - Afrocritik
Chinonyelum Anyichie

This is an essay which reflects on the immigrant struggles with accents in America. Anyichie, an Igbo immigrant to America, writes from the perspective of her experiences and observations about how accents pose a challenge to immigrants in a world where people from different cultures migrate, and in a land with its problems. 

How to Speak of a Miracle” 

By Joshua Chizoma

Publisher: Isele 

Joshua Chizoma - Afrocritik
Joshua Chizoma

Joshua Chizoma’s story reflects on one of his elder sister’s struggles in her marital life, to which he was an accomplice. It follows how there was nothing to it at first, until the problem became apparent. “I could have asked her and she would tell me”, Chizoma wrote. But he never does,  as a way of preserving a blind-ended hope, until he accidentally chanced on a note of prayer written by his sister on this problem. The story continues on an inspiring trajectory, through a Christian lens of how problems come to a resolution. 

Chick Lit Offers More Than It Is Credited For, Beyond The Romance, Heartstrings, and Laughter” 

By Joy Chukwujindu 

Publisher: Afrocritik

Joy Chukwujindu - Afrocritik
Joy Chukwujindu

In a year when the discussion about Chick Lit and genre literature remaining in the margin in Nigerian literature has continued, Joy Chukwujindu argues that Chick Lit deserves more recognition than it gets.



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