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54 Notable Female Authors Who Have Shaped (and Still Shaping) the African Literary Scene

Female Authors African

From time immemorial, various trends have come and gone, but one that remains is the existence of literature in every society. 

The African literary scene is not left out, as many female authors have graced and significantly impacted not just the promotion of African culture globally, but also in highlighting dire issues plaguing the continent, through the power of words.

This list contains some of these great women from each African country, in commemoration of International Women’s Day(March 8) this day.

 

1. Assia Djebar 

assia_djebar
Assia Djebar | Source: African Literature Association

Assia Djebar was an Algerian author renowned for exploring topics such as women, identity, and colonialism. Her notable works comprise “Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade,” “Women of Algiers in Their Apartment,” and “So Vast the Prison.” Even though she passed away in 2015, Assia Djebar continues to influence Algerian and Francophone literature, especially in the areas of feminism. 

 

2. Isabel Ferreira 

Isabel Ferreira is an Angolan author celebrated for her poetry and fiction. Through her writing, she talks about identity, exile, and the Angolan diaspora. Among her best works are “Laços de amor: poemas” , “Caminhos Ledos”, “Nirvana” , and “Remando Daqui”.

 

3. Irène Assiba d’Almeida 

Irène Assiba d’Almeida is a renowned author from Benin, recognized for her poetry and essays. Her writings are mostly about identity, language, and culture within the African context. Among her outstanding works are “Francophone African Women Writers: Destroying the Emptiness of Silence” and her collaboration with Olga Mahougbe to translate Chinua Achebe’s novel “Arrow of God” into French. Additionally, she edited “A Rain of Words: a bilingual anthology of women’s poetry in Francophone Africa.”

4. Bessie Head 

Bessie Head Female Authors African
Bessie Head | Source: South African History Online

Bessie Head’s influence on Botswana’s literary scene remains deep. While originally from South Africa, she later became a citizen of Botswana, and is to date, considered Botswana’s most influential writer. She wrote books and short stories mostly about identity, race, and social inequality. Some of her noteworthy works include “When Rain Clouds Gather,” “Maru,” and “A Question of Power.”

 

5. Monique Ilboudo 

Monique Ilboudo is a respected Burkinabé writer who wrote compelling narratives which examined social issues. Her novels frequently tackle topics like women’s rights, gender equality, and the complexities of African society. One of her outstanding works is “Le Mal de peau” (The Ill of the Skin), which earned her the national first prize for Best Novel.

 

6. Esther Kamatari 

Esther Kamatari, a Burundian author and former fashion model, gained recognition for her memoir “Princess of the Rugo: My Story.” In this book, she recounts her upbringing as a princess in Burundi and her journey to becoming a renowned model and activist.

 

7. Imbolo Mbue

Imbolo Mbue is a Cameroonian author. Her first book, “Behold the Dreamers,” received critical acclaim and earned the 2017 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. This novel is about immigration, race, and the pursuit of the American Dream, portrayed through the experiences of a Cameroonian immigrant family living in New York City.

 

8. Vera Duarte

Vera Duarte, a Cape Verdean author, human rights activist, and lawyer, is celebrated for her touching poetry and insightful prose. Among her remarkable works is “Amanhã amadrugada” (Tomorrow at Dawn).

9. Adrienne Yabouza 

Adrienne Yabouza, a distinguished author from the Central African Republic, is renowned for her contributions as a poet and writer, exploring themes such as love, loss, and the complexities of life in her homeland. Through her work, Yabouza talks about social and political violence issues, alongside personal reflections. Her remarkable works include “La défaite des mères”, “Bangui… allowi”, “Le bleu du ciel biani biani”, and “Coup d’état”, the latter published under the pseudonym Auguste Komelo Nikodro.

 

10. Marie-Christine Koundja

Marie-Christine Koundja, a Chadian author and diplomat, portrays the beauty of Chadian landscapes, the resilience of its people, and the country’s challenges through her writing. As the first published female Chadian author, she wrote two novels: “Al-Istifakh, ou, L’idylle de mes amis” and “Kam-Ndjaha, la dévoreuse.”

 

11. Faïza Soulé Youssouf 

Faïza Soulé Youssouf, a Comorian journalist and novelist, published her novel “Ghizza, à tombeau ouvert” in 2015. She has held the position of president of the Comorian branch of the Union de la Presse Francophone and currently serves as the editor-in-chief of Al-Watwan.

 

12. Adèle Caby-Livannah 

Adèle Caby-Livannah is a writer from the Republic of the Congo. She is known primarily as a short fiction writer, with at least two collections to her name, including “Oufana et le papillon bleu: Conte du Congo” and “De l’Alsace à l’Afrique: Le voyage de Chona”.

 

13. Ghislaine Sathoud

Ghislaine Sathoud, a Congolese writer, has explored various literary genres, showcasing her versatility with multiple novels, five poetry collections, several essays, and eleven short stories. Alongside her literary pursuits, she passionately advocates for human rights, particularly women’s rights, actively engaging in campaigns to advance the status of women. One of her most celebrated works, “L’Art de la maternité chez les Lumbu du Congo” (The Art of Motherhood among the Lumbu of Congo), provides a portrayal of the rituals and customs surrounding motherhood in Congo.

 

14. Mouna-Hodan Ahmed 

Mouna-Hodan Ahmed, a writer from Djibouti, stands out as one of the country’s few female writers. In her work, she gives insightful commentary on social and political issues within Djiboutian society. Among her notable works is “Les enfants du khat.”

 

15. Nawal El Saadawi

nawal-el-saadawi-author-of-more-than-50-books-bw-the-markaz-review
Nawal el Saadwi | The Markaz Review

Nawal El Saadawi, a prominent Egyptian author, feminist, and psychiatrist, was renowned for her bold advocacy for women’s rights and social justice. Through her extensive body of work, which includes novels, essays, and memoirs, she fearlessly tackled taboo subjects like female circumcision and gender inequality prevalent in Egyptian society. Among her outstanding works are “Woman at Point Zero,” “The Hidden Face of Eve,” and “Memoirs of a Woman Doctor.”

 

16. Trifonia Melibea Obono

Trifonia Melibea Obono, an Equatorial Guinean author, is celebrated for her contributions to literature through novels, poetry, and essays. Her work explores themes of identity, gender, and social justice, both within Equatorial Guinea and beyond. Prominent among her works are “Herencia de Bindendee” (Bindendee’s Legacy) and “La Bastarda” (The Bastard), which received the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative Prize. “La Bastarda” holds the distinction of being the first English-language novel by a woman from Equatorial Guinea and the first story about lesbians from the country to be published in Spanish, although banned in Equatorial Guinea.

 

17. Hannah Azieb Pool

Hannah Azieb Female Authors African
Hannah Azieb Pool | Source: Curtis Brown

Hannah Azieb Pool, a British-Eritrean writer and journalist, was born near Keren, Eritrea, amidst the fight for independence from Ethiopia. After her tenure as a staff writer at The Guardian newspaper, she now writes for various national and international media platforms. She also supports the SI Leeds Literary Prize, which awards unpublished fiction by Black and Asian women in the UK.

 

18. Maaza Mengiste

Maaza Mengiste, an Ethiopian-American author, is celebrated for her impactful novels exploring Ethiopian history and society. Her debut, “Beneath the Lion’s Gaze,” vividly captures Ethiopia’s turmoil during Emperor Haile Selassie’s overthrow. In “The Shadow King,” she examines the role of women in Ethiopia’s war against Italy in the 1930s. Mengiste’s writing praised for its lyrical prose and deep insights into Ethiopian identity, has garnered her recognition, including nominations for prestigious awards like the Booker Prize and the Edgar Award for Best Short Story.

 

19. Angèle Rawiri

Angèle Rawiri, a pioneering author from Gabon, is celebrated for her novels and poetry, which explores themes of identity, tradition, and modernity within Gabonese society, especially on the experiences of women and marginalised communities. Prominent among her works are “Elonga,” “G’amarakano: Au Carrefour,” and “Fureurs et cris de femmes” (Fury and Cries of Women), which are regarded as pivotal contributions to Gabonese literature in French.

 

20. Janet Badjan-Young

Janet Badjan-Young, a renowned playwright and administrator from The Gambia, is celebrated as one of the most prolific playwrights in the country. In 2012, she was among five Gambian women recognized for their substantial contributions to the nation’s development across various spheres, earning the prestigious “Award of Excellence.” Some of her best works are “The Ultimate Inheritance” and “The Battle of Sankandi.”

 

21. Ama Ata Aidoo

Ama Ata Aidoo
Ama Ata Aidoo | Source: African Studies Association

Ama Ata Aidoo, a distinguished Ghanaian author and playwright, is celebrated for her insightful exploration of Ghanaian society and the role of women in her novels, short stories, and plays. Her works explore themes such as gender dynamics, identity, and the impact of colonialism. Some of her best works are “Our Sister Killjoy,” “Changes: A Love Story,” and “The Dilemma of a Ghost,” the latter marking her as the first published African female dramatist. Sadly, she passed away in May 2023, leaving behind a legacy of remarkable achievements in African literature.

 

22. Mariama Kesso Diallo

Mariama Kesso Diallo, a Guinean author, gained recognition with the publication of her autobiographical novel “La Chance” in 2000. The novel details her escape from Guinea with her children in 1977.

 

23. Odete Semedo

Odete Semedo, a Guinea-Bissauan author and educator, has made significant contributions to literature and culture. She founded the journal “Revista de Letras, Artes e Cultura Tcholona” and has authored two books of poetry: “Entre o Ser e o Amar” and “No Fundo do Canto.” Her work reflects a deep engagement with themes of identity, love, and the human experience.

 

24. Véronique Tadjo

Véronique Tadjo, an Ivorian author, is celebrated for her novels, poetry, and children’s books. Some of her best works are “As the Crow Flies,” “The Shadow of Imana: Travels in the Heart of Rwanda,” and “Mamy Wata and the Monster.” She has earned prestigious recognition, including the Grand Prix littéraire d’Afrique noire, awarded for outstanding French original texts from Sub-Saharan Africa.

 

25. Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

Yvonne-Adhiambo-Owuor Female Authors African
Yvonne-Adhiambo-Owuor | Credit: Ositaphotography

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, a renowned Kenyan author, is celebrated for her evocative prose and compelling narratives. Her debut novel, “Dust,” was shortlisted for the Folio Prize in September 2015 and honoured with the prestigious Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature. Additionally, she garnered widespread acclaim for her story “Weight of Whispers,” which earned her the esteemed Caine Prize for African Writing in 2003. Owuor was awarded the Woman of the Year in the Arts and Heritage category in 2004. 

 

26. Mpho Matsepo Nthunya

Mpho Matsepo Nthunya, a respected Basotho author, gained recognition for her memoir “Singing Away the Hunger.” Nthunya recounts her upbringing in rural Lesotho, shedding light on the trials and tribulations she encountered as a young girl. Her memoir provides a candid portrayal of the experiences and hardships endured by Basotho women, earning acclaim for its sincerity and genuine portrayal of life in Lesotho.

 

27. Helene Cooper

Helene Cooper, a Liberian-American author and journalist, gained acclaim for her memoir, “The House at Sugar Beach.” Cooper shares her childhood memories in Liberia and chronicles her family’s journey amidst the country’s civil war in this deeply personal and insightful perspective on Liberia’s turbulent history.

 

28. Najwa Bin Shatwan 

Najwa Bin Shatwan, a Libyan academic and novelist, made history as the first Libyan to be shortlisted for the International Prize of Arabic Fiction. She has four novels: “Waber Al Ahssina” (The Horses’ Hair), “Madmum Burtuqali” (Orange Content), “Zareeb Al-Abeed” (The Slave Yards), and “Roma Termini,” along with several collections of short stories, plays, and contributions to anthologies. Bin Shatwan was also selected as one of the thirty-nine best Arab authors under the age of forty by Hay Festival’s Beirut 39 project in 2009.

 

29. Michèle Rakotoson

Michèle Rakotoson, a Malagasy author and playwright, is renowned for her novels and theatre productions that explore themes of family, history, and the repercussions of colonialism on Malagasy society. One of her works is the novel “Dadabé.”

 

30. Upile Chisala 

Upile Chisala
Upile Chisala | Source: okayafrica

Upile Chisala, a poet from Malawi who identifies as a “storyteller,” is known for her work as an Instapoet. She has garnered recognition for her talent and creativity, earning accolades such as Forbes Africa’s 30 Under 30.

 

31. Adame Ba Konaré 

Adame Ba Konaré, a Malian historian and writer married to former President Alpha Oumar Konaré, is actively engaged in causes supporting newborns and refugees. Renowned as one of Mali’s most prolific writers, she has contributed significantly to various fields, from Malian history to gender issues and fiction. Her extensive literary repertoire includes biographies, philosophical works like “L’Os de la parole,” and a novel titled “Quand l’ail se frotte a l’encens,” which sheds light on societal disparities in a fictional setting similar to Mali. Her writing style in this novel has drawn comparisons to the works of French authors Emile Zola and Victor Hugo.

 

32. Mubarkah Bent al-Barra 

Mubarkah Bent al-Barra, a Mauritanian poet and translator, is recognized for her extensive research on the oral poetry of Mauritania, particularly the tibra, a form of love poem traditionally recited in all-female gatherings. She has translated some of these poems into French, contributing to the preservation and dissemination of Mauritanian literary heritage. She has poetry collections, “Taranimli-Watanin Wahid” (Songs for a Country for All), “Al-Shi’r al-Muritani al-Hadith, min 1970 ila 1995” (Modern Mauritanian Poetry, 1970-1995). Additionally, some of her poetry has been included in English anthologies, further showcasing her impact on the global literary stage.

 

33. Ananda Devi Nirsimloo-Anenden

Ananda Devi Nirsimloo-Anenden is a Mauritian author who primarily writes in French. She has received numerous accolades for her literary works, including the 2024 Neustadt Prize, often referred to as the “American Nobel.” Some of her prominent novels include “Le Voile de Draupadi”, “L’Arbre fouet”, and “Moi, l’interdite”, which was awarded the Prix Radio France du Livre de l’Océan Indien. Additionally, her novel “Eve de ses décombres” won the Prix des cinq continents de la Francophonie in 2006, along with several other prestigious prizes.

 

34. Leila Slimani

Leila Slimani is a Moroccan-French author celebrated for her novels, which explore themes like gender, sexuality, and societal norms within modern Moroccan culture. Her book “Chanson douce” (Lullaby) achieved the esteemed Prix Goncourt in 2016. Slimani’s writing is admired for its sincerity, profundity, and understanding of human nature. Additionally, she serves as a French diplomat, holding the role of personal representative of President Emmanuel Macron to the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.

 

35. Paulina Chiziane

Paulina Chiziane is a Mozambican writer renowned for her novels and essays, which explore themes of gender, sexuality, and social justice in Mozambican society. Her novel “Niketche: Uma História de Poligamia” (Niketche: A Story of Polygamy) holds the distinction of being the first novel by a woman published in Mozambique. 

 

36. Neshani Andreas

Neshani Andreas is a renowned Namibian writer celebrated for her novels, short stories, and poetry, which explore themes of identity, culture, and societal transformation in Namibia. Through her writing, she sheds light on the experiences of women and marginalised groups. Some of her best works include “The Purple Violet of Oshaantu”.

 

37. Andrée Clair 

Andrée Clair, born Renée Jung in France, spent her later years in France but is also linked with Niger. She specialized in the study of Africa at the Ethnological Institute at Sorbonne University. Clair was recognized for her ethnographic research in Niger and her children’s books set in Africa. From 1961 to 1974, she served on a cultural mission for the President of Niger. Among her outstanding works is “Bemba: An African Adventure.”

 

38. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Female Authors African
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian author celebrated for her impactful novels, essays, short stories, and speeches, delving into identity, feminism, and post-colonialism. Her works, such as “Purple Hibiscus,” “Half of a Yellow Sun,” and “Americanah,” have received global recognition and earned multiple awards. She has continued to inspire the newer generation of writers in Nigeria and beyond.

 

39. Scholastique Mukasonga

Scholastique Mukasonga is a Rwandan author recognized for her novels, memoirs, and essays delving into themes of loss, memory, and survival following the Rwandan genocide. Drawing from her own experiences as a Tutsi refugee, her work sheds light on the impact of conflict on Rwandan society. Her notable works include “Our Lady of the Nile” and “Cockroaches.” Mukasonga has also received both the Prix Renaudot and the Prix Ahmadou-Kourouma for her book “Our Lady of the Nile.”

 

40. Conceição Lima

Conceição Lima is a São Toméan poet renowned for her captivating and lyrical verses, which explore themes of identity, memory, and the natural world. Through her poetry, she often contemplates the cultural heritage and history of São Tomé and Príncipe. Literary critic and writer Inocência Mata, also from São Tomé and Príncipe, lauds Lima’s poetry as a deliberate voice that confronts Europe, accusing it of the centuries-long suffering endured by Santomean society due to its history of slavery and colonialism. 

 

41. Mariama Bâ 

Mariama Ba
Mariama Ba | Source: African Reviews

Mariama Bâ is a pioneering Senegalese author celebrated for her novel “Une si longue lettre” (“So Long a Letter”). This influential work explores polygamy, women’s rights, and female friendship in Senegal. Bâ’s writing is revered for its sincerity, depth, and commitment to women’s empowerment. Recently, her sole poem “Memories of Lagos” reemerged after 46 years, with Professor Tobias Warner providing the introduction and translation for PMLA’s Little-Known Documents series.

 

42. Regina Melanie 

Regina Melanie was a respected Seychellois writer and poet, deeply engaged in preserving and celebrating Seychellois Creole. She dedicated herself to writing poetry and short stories in Seychellois Creole, becoming a prominent figure in the island’s literary scene and a pioneer in Seychellois Creole literature. Her contributions were featured in anthologies like “Bardzour in fer” and “Madanm Mizlen e konpani.” In 2012, she published her book, “Remor,” through the Creole Institute of the Island.

 

43. Mariatu Kamara

Mariatu Kamara is a Sierra Leonean author and activist celebrated for her memoir “The Bite of the Mango,” detailing her harrowing journey as a child soldier amidst the chaos of the Sierra Leone Civil War. Kamara’s courage and resilience have touched the hearts of readers globally, raising awareness about the struggles faced by child soldiers and war survivors.

 

44. Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born Dutch-American author, activist, and former politician, is renowned for her memoir “Infidel,” which traces her transformation from a devout Muslim upbringing in Somalia to a vocal champion for women’s rights and secularism. Her writing has ignited significant discussions on Islam, feminism, and cultural assimilation in Western societies. Critically, she opposes practices such as forced marriage, honour killings, child marriage, and female genital mutilation, advocating instead for the rights and self-determination of Muslim women.

 

45. Nadine Gordimer

Nadine Gordimer Female Authors African
Nadine Gordimer | Source: Academy of Achievement

Nadine Gordimer, a South African author and Nobel Laureate, is celebrated for her novels, short stories, and essays delving into South Africa’s apartheid and its aftermath. Through works like “Burger’s Daughter” and “July’s People,” she explores the toll of racial discrimination and social injustice in South Africa. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991.

 

46. Stella Gaitano

Stella Gaitano is a literary writer and pharmacist from South Sudan. Her narratives often depict the harsh realities faced by individuals from southern Sudan, navigating through discrimination, military dictatorship, war, and displacement in the northern part of Sudan. Some of her short stories include, “Withered Flowers”, and  “A Lake the Size of a Papaya Fruit”, which won the Ali El-Mek Award in Sudan.

 

47. Leila Aboulela

Leila Aboulela, a Sudanese author, is celebrated for her novels, short stories, and essays on themes of identity, migration, and the confluence of Western and Islamic cultures. Her remarkable works such as “Minaret” and “The Translator” have earned widespread praise and garnered various awards, including the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing, for their poignant depiction of Sudanese and Muslim experiences.

 

48. Sarah Mkhonza

Sarah Mkhonza, a Swazi author, is known for her novel “Weeding the Flowerbeds.” This novel provides a window into Swazi society and culture, through the story of three girls in a boarding high school in Swaziland. Mkhonza’s writing spotlights the lives of Swazi women.

 

49. Elieshi Lema

Elieshi Lema, a Tanzanian author, is celebrated for her diverse literary contributions, including novels, short stories, and children’s books. Her writing has themes of identity, culture, and social transformation, with insights into the lives of women and marginalized groups in Tanzanian society. Some of her remarkable works are “Parched Earth,” which marked the debut novel by a Tanzanian woman writer, and “A Girl Called Neema,”.

 

50. Pyabelo Chaold Kouly 

Pyabelo Chaold Kouly, a Togolese author, has made significant contributions to literature despite being one of the few female Togolese writers to be published. Through her writing, Kouly showcases Togolese culture, society, and the human experience. 

 

51. Amina Saïd

Amina Saïd, a Tunisian author, has established herself as a prominent literary voice through her exploration of themes such as love, loss, and the human condition. Alongside her novels, short stories, and essays, Saïd has garnered acclaim for her poetic prowess, with over a dozen collections to her name. Her works blend realism with elements of magical realism. Some of her best works are “The Present Tense of the World” and “The Harpoon,”.

 

52. Doreen Baingana

Doreen Baingana, a Ugandan author, made a significant impact with her debut short story collection titled “Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe.” Through this collection, she provides a portrayal of Ugandan life and culture, through themes of family dynamics, identity, and societal transformation. The collection received critical acclaim, winning the prestigious Grace Paley Award for Short Fiction in 2003 and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the best first book in the Africa Region in 2006. Additionally, stories from “Tropical Fish” were finalists for the Caine Prize in 2004 and 2005.

 

53. Ellen Banda-Aaku

Ellen Banda-Aaku, a Zambian author, has garnered acclaim for her novels and children’s literature. Her novel “Patchwork” stood out by winning the prestigious Penguin Prize for African Writing in 2010. Through “Patchwork” and her other works, Banda-Aaku has established herself as a compelling voice in African literature.

 

54. Tsitsi Dangarembga

Tsitsi-Dangarembga
Tsitsi-Dangarembga | Source: Open Country Mag

Tsitsi Dangarembga, a Zimbabwean author, rose to prominence with her groundbreaking novel “Nervous Conditions.” which explores gender, identity, and colonialism in Zimbabwe, with insights into the African experience. Notably, “Nervous Conditions” earned Dangarembga the prestigious Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Africa in 1989. As the first novel in English by a Black woman from Zimbabwe, it has left an indelible mark on the literary landscape, recognized by the BBC in 2018 as one of the top 100 books that have shaped the world. Dangarembga’s writing is revered for its incisive social commentary and compelling storytelling.

 

Additional Mentions

  1. Maïssa Bey
  2. Ahlem Mosteghanemi 
  3. Unity Dow
  4. Lauri Kubuitsile 
  5. Sarah Bouyain 
  6. Ahdaf Soueif
  7. Efua Sutherland
  8. Yaa Gyasi
  9. Amma Darko
  10. Marguerite Abouet
  11. Muthoni wa Gichuru
  12. Fatema Mernissi 
  13. Buchi Emecheta
  14. Sefi Atta
  15. Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
  16. Namwali Serpell 

 

N.B.: This list is by no means exhaustive, there’ll be lists encompassing more writers in times to come… You can comment with more female authors not included in this list.

 

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Posted in African Literature, Articles, Authors, International Women's Day

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