Thursday, April 19, 2018


Japanese is the fifth most-spoken language in the world. It is spoken by an estimated 130 million people, mostly inside Japan itself. (Only about 5 million speakers abroad.) A few Japanese words - such as 'karaoke', 'koi', 'sushi' and 'Zen' - have made it into the global lexicon. According to, 'The origin of Japanese is in considerable dispute amongst linguists. Evidence has been offered for a number of sources: Ural-Altaic, Polynesian, and Chinese among others. Of these, Japanese is most widely believed to be connected to the Ural-Altaic family, which includes Turkish, Mongolian, Manchu, and Korean within its domain.'

Despite its rather modest land mass, Japan (aka 'The Land of The Rising Sun') has a population of about 126,700 million and has the world's 3rd-largest economy by GPD (According to World Bank, Japan's GDP stood at USD$ 4,383.6 trillion in 2015!). Japan is located west of the Pacific Ocean, in the Northern Hemisphere. Its immediate neighbours include the Republic of Korea, China and Russia. It covers a total of 145,936 square kilometers and is governed by a Prime Minister, his Cabinet, a Cabinet Secretariat, 13 ministries and various 'agencies'.  

The Japanese national flag, ‘Nisshoki’

Edited by writer/translator Kazue Daikoku, Happa-no-Kofu, is a non-profit initiative that shares 'world literature' online. Since 2000, the project has translated numerous short stories, essays, poems and haiku from all over the world and published them on the on the World Wide Web. In addition to English to Japanese translations, they have also published Japanese-to-English, French and Spanish works. Below is a list of some of the African scribes they have translated over the years, and the links to the translations.

 A. Igoni Barrett (Photo: Victor Ehikhamenor)

A. Igoni Barrett (Nigeria) is best known for his debut novel, Blackass, which critics have compared to Kafka's Metamorphosis. He is also the recipient of a Chinua Achebe Center Fellowship, a Norman Mailer Center Fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Residency, and winner of the 2005 BBC World Service short story competition. The story below is titled The Shape of a Full Circle:


Glaydah Namukasa (Photo: Hay Festival)

Glaydah Namukasa (Uganda) is a Ugandan writer and midwife (yes, midwife). She has two novels under her belt, Voice of a Dream (winner of the 2005 / 2006 Macmillan Writers Prize for Africa-Senior Prize) and Deadly Ambition, and is a member of the Ugandan Women Writer's Association (FEMRITE). She is a Michael and Marilee Fairbanks International Fellow, and a writer in residence at The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center (Italy) and Ledig House International (USA). In 2008 she was awarded the title of Honorary Fellow by the International Writers Program (IWP), University of Iowa, USA. Her short stories have been published in anthologies in Uganda, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Sweden. The story below is titled Dreams, Dreams and Dreams!:

Alexander Nderitu (Photo:

Alexander Nderitu (Kenya) is a novelist, poet and playwright. His debut novel, When the Whirlwind Passes, was the Africa’s first purely digital novel. In 2014, his poem ‘Someone in Africa Loves You’ appeared on BBC Commonwealth Postcards. Some of his works have been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Swedish and Kiswahili. In 2017, Business Daily ranked him among Kenya’s ‘Top 40 Under 40 Men’. The essay below is titled A Game for Heroes...If You Believe the Hype:

Unoma Azuah (Photo: Courtesy)

Unoma Nguemo Azuah (Nigeria) is a educator, writer and activist. The holder of an MFA graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University (USA), she teaches Composition and Creative Writing at Lane College in Tennessee. She also has an MA in English from Cleveland State University and undergraduate degree in English is from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (where she edited the English department literary journal, The Muse). She is also a recipient of a Hellman/Hammett award, Urban Spectrum award, the Leonard Trawick award and the Association of Nigerian Authors/NDDC Flora Nwapa award for her debut novel Sky-high Flames. The following short story is titled Sirens:

Nii Ayikwei Parkes (Photo: ACCRA dot ALT)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes (Ghana) is a well-known writer, editor, socio-cultural commentator and performance poet. His d├ębut novel, Tail of the Blue Bird, was shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth Prize and he was one of 39 writers aged under 40 from sub-Saharan Africa who in April 2014 were named as part of the Hay Festival's prestigious Africa39 project. The recipient of Ghana's national ACRAG award (for poetry and literary advocacy), Nii’s work has been translated into Italian, French, Chinese, Dutch, German and Arabic. The following story is titled kwasida – nkyi kwasi:

Chika Unigwe (Photo: Sunday Times Books LIVE)

Chika Unigwe (Nigeria) is best known for the ‘immigrant novel’, On Black Sisters' Street. Born in Enugu, Nigeria, Chika holds a Ph.D in Literature from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. Her debut novel, De Feniks, was published in 2005 and was shortlisted for the Vrouw en Kultuur debuutprijs for the best first novel by a female writer. She won the 2003 BBC Short Story Competition and a Commonwealth Short Story Competition award. In 2004, she was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing. In the same year, her short story made the top 10 of the Million Writers Award for best online fiction. In 2005, she won third prize in the Equiano Fiction Contest. Like Nii Ayikwei Parkes, she was one of 39 writers aged under 40 from sub-Saharan Africa who were listed as literary movers and shakers in the Hay Festival's Africa39 project. The following short story by Chika is titled The Curse:

Monica Arac de Nyeko (Photo: Courtesy)

Monica Arac de Nyeko (Uganda) writer of short fiction, poetry, and essays. She was the first Ugandan to win the Caine Prize for African Writing (for Jambula Tree, 2007). She had previously been shortlisted for the same prize in 2004 for Strange Fruit. She is a member of Uganda Women Writers Association (FEMRITE) and the chief editor of T:AP Voices. Her personal essay In the Stars won first prize in the Women's World, Women in War Zones essay writing competition. Her work has appeared is such publications as Memories of Sun, The Nation, IS magazine, Poetry International, inter alia. Like the two others above, she was an Africa39 writer. The following story by Monica is titled, The Banana Eater:

Mubanga Mulapa (Photo: Courtesy)

Mubanga Mulapa (Zambia) was born in the copper-mining town of Mufulira. He studied at the University of Zambia, before pursuing post graduate studies in Germany. A practicing engineer currently living in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, his literary works include The Ballad of Rwanda and Other Poems.The following piece by Mubanga is titled Another Life:

Amos Tutuolas (Photo: bakhall_com)

Amos Tutuola (Nigeria) was best known for his fantastic tales inspired by the folklore of his ancestral Yoruba people. He was born on June 20, 1920 and died in June 1997. His works included My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954), Simbi and the Satyr of the Dark Jungle (1956), The Brave African Huntress (1958), The Feather Woman of the Jungle (1962), The Witch Herbalist of the Remote Town (1980), The Wild Hunter in the Bush of the Ghosts (1982) and Pauper, Brawler, Slanderer (1987). His Yoruba-mythology-based tales were not only popular in Africa but in the US and UK as well. Theatrical and operatic adaptations his story, The Palm-Wine Drinkard, also met with success. The following short story by Amos is titled Ajantala, the Noxious Guest, is Born:

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