Women’s voices glow in ‘New Daughters of Africa’

Lifestyle

Women’s voices glow in ‘New Daughters of Africa’

Vital new collection is an immense work showcasing the continent and her stories, best savoured slowly

Michele Magwood

“These women, lively and impatient, have secured a freedom that makes their voices glow. They know everything there is to know about anything there is to know, and have tasted their own freedom mature, because yes, it is truly theirs, this freedom. They have not misunderstood. They hold that freedom in their arms.” So wrote the great Zimbabwean author Yvonne Vera in The Stone Virgins, her prizewinning 2002 novel, and it aptly sums up this vital new collection.

New Daughters of Africa, subtitled “An international anthology of writing by women of African descent”, is a mighty compendium edited by Margaret Busby. Busby is herself something of a supernova in literary circles. Ghanaian-born, she became Britain’s youngest and first black woman publisher in the late 1960s, when she co-founded the independent publishing company Allison & Busby. Although the company didn’t publish only black authors, it launched many a new voice from the African diaspora.

In 1992 Busby compiled a landmark anthology: Daughters of Africa featured more than 200 writers, promising as it did “Words and Writings by Women of African Descent from the Ancient Egyptian to the Present”. It included, alluringly, a contribution by the Queen of Sheba. Some of the strongest pieces were by SA writers Zoë Wicomb, Bessie Head and Gcina Mhlophe. It quickly became the gold standard of women’s writing from the continent, illuminating what the Washington Post called “the silent, forgotten, underrated voices of black women”...

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