By Dennis Abrams
Nigerian romance publisher Ankara Press has announced that it will release a free digital Valentine’s Day Story Anthology on its website on February 14, 2015.
Download the free Valentine’s Day anthology starting on February 14th by clicking here.
Ankara Press, a digital romance imprint of the groundbreaking Nigerian publisher, Cassava Republic, was launched in December 2014, and is dedicated to publishing “a new kind of romance” with African settings, storylines, and characters.
The Valentine’s Day Story project includes seven of Africa’s finest contemporary writers, four men and three women, who have each written a short love story. Each of the stories has been translated into languages spoken by the writers, including Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Kiswahili, Kpelle, and French, and audio versions of each story are being recorded.
Contributors include award-winning Nigerian authors Toni Kan and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, author and publisher Chuma Nwokolo, and Chair of the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature, Sarah Ladipo Manyika. They are joined by Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina (named by Time Magazine in 2014 as one of the TIME 100 “Most Influential People in the World“), and by up-and-coming writers Hawa Jande Golakai (Liberia) and Edwige-Renee Dro (Cote d’Ivoire). Translators include Chikodili Emelumadu, Kola Tubosun, writer and visual artist Victor Ehikhamenor, and Tanzanian publisher and author Elieshi Lema. Well-known authors Elnathan John, Mukoma wa Ngugi, writer and publisher Eghosa Imasuen and New York Times journalist Helene Cooper are set to record their audio versions of the stories.
Publisher Bibi Bakare-Yusuf said:
“Our mission is to read and hear what romancing in different languages might sound like and mean, as well as showing how romance can break away from the genre stereotypes and still be entertaining. We wanted to produce a sensuous antidote to election fatigue, that reflects the realities of African lives.”
There is, however, a more serious message behind the release of the anthology, which also aims to help provide a counter-narrative to some of the negative publicity the 2015 Nigerian elections have been generating, as Bakare-Yusuf explained:
“We are aware that much of the news coverage over the election period has focused on the negative elements of Nigerian life: political instability, corruption, unemployment and rigged or violent elections. The Valentine’s Day anthology provides the opportunity to counter the stereotypical perceptions of daily life in Africa as one of misery and violence by showcasing the best of contemporary African writing and publishing from across the continent.”
Project co-ordinator Emma Shercliff said:
“One of the most exciting things about the Valentine’s Day Story project is the way it has been a collaborative effort, bringing together writers, publishers, translators, and readers from across Africa, all of whom have shown an incredible amount of goodwill by donating their time and talents for free. We have also received considerable support from other African publishers in helping to publicize our initiative. To me, the generous response we received indicates how strongly the writing and publishing community feels about the issues we are trying to highlight.”
Shercliff added that, from a publishing perspective, the decision to translate the stories into multiple languages was fundamental to the project as a whole:
“There is a lot of talk in literary circles about the importance of publishing fiction in African languages, but it is often difficult for publishers to make it work commercially. We feel it was important to use this opportunity, which was not bound by commercial imperatives, to reach a wider, non-English, readership.”
The stories, translations and audio recordings will be published as a pdf anthology on the Ankara Press website.