Nigeria’s book publishing scene appears to be bubbling with renewed vigour. Where once the overwhelming material pushed out to the market was textbooks and low-quality tales in print, there’s been a rise in the number of creative fiction, autobiographical works and political literature put out to bookstores on an annual basis. A small band of publishing outlets are pushing this renaissance. Of these, Kachifo is certainly among the more widely known.
Kachifo Limited, as this company is formally known, is the sort of publishing house that the worldly wise, globe-trotting or at least ambitious contemporary Nigerian writer wants to get published with. That’s because they’ve managed to churn out books authored by some of Nigeria’s- and indeed Africa’s -most widely celebrated literary figures. Its roaster of published writers, which includes Chimamanda Adichie, Ben Okri or Nnedi Okorafor, probably makes it worth more than a first glance.
Like many game-changing businesses, Kachifo has an interesting story to it. Its founder, Muhtar Bakare, started it off by publishing the Farafina Magazine, a bimonthly literary magazine. This was in 2002, at the end of his decade long banking career. As he always points out, that initial publication, as well as the later evolved parent company Kachifo (set up in 2004), was founded to give Africans a platform to tell their own stories to the world. It was his contribution to the project of Africa ‘reclaiming its right’ to craft a narrative of itself from the West.
Bakare gave life to his idealistic aims by throwing a great amount of work into it. His persistence paid off; from relatively humble beginnings at an old building on Lagos Island (with Bakare managing multiple roles at once), Kachifo has grown into one of the country’s foremost publishers of contemporary African literature.
Farafina, which is Kachifo’s most well known literary imprint, kicked off with a bang; its first published book, Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus, came out in 2004. Because the novel was received with great enthusiasm by much of the reading public at home and abroad, Farafina gained acclaim. In the years that followed, it built on this with other publications, such as Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, and Nnedi Okorafor’s Zahrah the Windseeker. Today, Kachifo’s list of published authors also includes Ngugi Wa Thiong’O, Ben Okri, and even former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo.
In fact, it has published well over 100 titles from a wide variety of authors, from across Nigeria and the wider African continent. These range from literary fiction known to the world, to local school textbooks recommended by education authorities.
Since its early days, Kachifo has expanded into several imprints, each one dedicated to publishing different book genres. There’s the Farafina Educational imprint, which deals with educational publications; Tuuti, a children’s book imprint; Breeze, a fiction imprint; Kamsi, for creative non-fiction; and Prestige, a publishing service.
In 2009, Kachifo began working with a British film production company to make the movie Half of a Yellow Sun. The movie was released in 2013, and was met with mixed reviews, but not a little public engagement. It was one of the first in a series of films relating stories supposedly set in history. And in this sense, Kachifo contributed to reigniting the layman’s interest in the events of the past.
The Farafina Trust is Kachifo’s non-profit project established to promote reading, writing and greater interaction with literary art on the African continent. As part of this initiative, the organization hosts an annual creative writing workshop in which reputable writers and editors share their knowledge of the art of crafting good literature with an audience of selected persons.
As the interest in creative literature grows in Nigeria, publishers like Kachifo will be looking to snap up the very best of the new works coming to the surface. The company certainly wants to be seen as a sun that’s rising to brighten the horizons of a once bleak publishing landscape; getting out the gems of the new era of African writing to a world now thirsty for them, is how Kachifo wants to achieve it.
Featured image source: kachifo.com