November 25, 2015
Cassava Republic Press to publish leading African authors in the UK
by Chad Felix
“There are all these interesting African writers being published abroad,” states publisher Bibi Bakare-Yusuf in a video introduction to Cassava Republic Press, “and they’re not available locally. No one’s heard of them.”
Bakare-Yusuf, who was a writer and academic before becoming a publisher, came to this realization in 2006. She established the “pan-African” Cassava Republic Press in an effort to ensure that African voices, especially those who were finding audiences in the United States and Europe, could also be heard in Africa.
Why? Because, as Bakare-Yusuf expresses it,
In any society, you need to see yourself reflected in what you’re consuming … Culture is central to what we do in the economic arena, what we do in the political arena. Culture is the foundational narrative.
In the nine years since the founding of Cassava Republic, the house has curated an impressive list, which includes authors Teju Cole, Man Booker Prize-nominee Chigozie Obioma (The Fisherman), Mukoma wa Ngugi (whose Nairobi Heat and Black Star Nairobi were published by Melville House in 2011 and 2013 respectively), and Caine Prize-nominee Elnathan John (Born on a Tuesday). In addition to literary and crime fiction, the house also publishes a variety of non-fiction and children’s titles.
Now, as announced in a press release, Cassava Republic Press will extend its operations to the UK. Emma Shercliff, who was at Macmillan English Campus before joining Cassava Republic in 2013, will join Bakare-Yusuf in London. On the occasion of the announcement, Bakare-Yusuf said:
It is exciting to be launching Cassava Republic Press in the UK both as an intervention and as an opportunity to introduce the diversity of writings coming out of the continent. What we are doing is unprecedented: an African publishing house establishing a base in the UK after nearly ten years in Africa rather than the reverse. This is the birthing of African publishing onto the world stage.
Cassava will debut in the UK in early 2016 and, as part of a partnership with the British Council, will maintain an established presence at various literary festivals. The announcement also coincides with a BBC Radio 4 report titled “Writing a New Nigeria: Suffering and Smiling,” which featured Bakare-Yusuf, Shercliff, and Cassava Press authors Elnathan John, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, and Toni Kan. The stage is set.
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.