Chika Nina Unigwe (born 12 June 1974) is a Nigerian-born Igbo author who writes in English and Dutch. In April 2014 she was selected for the Hay Festival's Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define future trends in African literature. Previously based in Belgium, she now lives in the United States.
|Born||Chika Nina Unigwe|
12 June 1974
|Alma mater||University of Leiden (PhD)|
|Notable works||On Black Sisters Street|
Chika Unigwe was born in 1974 in Enugu, Nigeria, the sixth of her parents' seven children. She attended secondary school at Federal Government Girls' college in Abuja and obtained a BA in English in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1995. In 1996, she earned an MA degree in English from the KU Leuven (KUL, the Catholic University of Leuven). She has a Ph.D in Literature (2004) from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. Her debut novel, De Feniks, was published in 2005 by Meulenhoff and Manteau (of Amsterdam and Antwerp, respectively) and was shortlisted for the Vrouw en Kultuur debuutprijs for the best first novel by a female writer. She is also the author of two children's books published by Macmillan, London.
She has published short fiction in several anthologies, journals and magazines, including Wasafiri (University of London), Moving Worlds (University of Leeds), Per Contra, Voices of the University of Wisconsin and Okike of the University of Nigeria.
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.
Her first novel, De Feniks, was published in Dutch in September 2005 and is the first book of fiction written by a Flemish author of African origin. Her second novel, Fata Morgana, was published in Dutch in 2008 and subsequently released in English as On Black Sisters' Street. On Black Sisters' Street is about African prostitutes living and working in Belgium, and was published to acclaim in London in 2009 by Jonathan Cape. On Black Sisters' Street won the 2012 Nigeria Prize for Literature; valued at $100,000 it is Africa's largest literary prize.
Also in 2012, Zukiswa Wanner in The Guardian rated Unigwe as one of the "top five African writers". Still in 2012, she floored Olushola Olugbesan's Only A Canvass and Ngozi Achebe's Onaedo: The Blacksmith's Daughter to clinch the coveted $100,000 Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature, becoming the second Diaspora writer to win the prize.
She attended the 2013 Adelaide festival in Australia and for the first time met an Aboriginal chief. She was so moved by the story of the Aborigin in Australia and she wrote an article titled what I'm thinking about ... forgiveness and healing.
Unigwe sits on the Board of Trustees of pan-African literary initiative Writivism, and set up the Awele Creative Trust in Nigeria to support young writers. In April 2014, she was selected for the Festival's Africa39 list of 39 sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define future trends in Africa.
In autumn 2014 the University of Tübingen welcomed Unigwe and her fellow authors Taiye Selasi, Priya Basil and Nii Ayikwei Parkes to the year's Writers' Lectureship, all of them authors representing what Selasi calls Afropolitan literature. In the same year, she published Zwarte Messias, a novel about Olaudah Equiano.
In 2016, Unigwe was appointed as the Bonderman Professor of Creative Writing at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Her novel Night Dancer (published in 2012) was also shortlisted for the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature; the winner was subsequently announced as Abubakar Adam Ibrahim.
In 2019, Cassava Republic Press in Abuja & London published a new collection of short stories entitled Better never than late. It is a collection of linked stories about Nigerian immigrants in Belgium. In the same year she contributed to New Daughters of Africa. The book was nominated for NAACP Awards for Outstanding Literary Work. It is a compilation of orature and literature by more than 200 women from Africa and the African diaspora, edited and introduced by Margaret Busby, who compared the process of assembling the volume to "trying to catch a flowing river in a calabash".
In 2020 Unigwe contributed to The middle of a sentence: short prose anthology with Two Happy Meals. The Common Breath Short Prose Anthology is a celebration of fiction in its shortest form, uniting work from some of the greatest contemporary novelists, alongside an exciting selection from TCB’s open submissions process, and supplemented by pieces from a range of literary history’s finest artists. In July of the same year she was appointed a professor of creative writing at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, Georgia.
In November 2020, she began writing a weekly column for Nigeria’s Daily Trust. In 2021, Unigwe was shortlisted for Dzanc Books Diverse Voices Award.
- 2007: Unesco-Aschberg Fellowship for creative writing
- 2009: Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship (Bellagio Centre, Italy)
- 2011: HALD Fellowship (HALD Centre, Denmark)
- 2011 and 2016: Writing Fellowship at the Ledig House (Omi NY, USA)
- 2013: Writing Fellowing at Cove Park (Scotland)
- 2014: Writer-in-Residence, Haverford College (Philadelphia PA, USA)
- 2014: Sylt Fellowship for African Writers
- Tear Drops, Enugu: Richardson Publishers, 1993.
- Born in Nigeria, Enugu: Onyx Publishers, 1995.
- A Rainbow for Dinner. Oxford: Macmillan, 2002. ISBN 978-0-333-95588-8
- In the Shadow of Ala; Igbo women's writing as an act of righting. Dissertation, Leiden University, 2004.
- Thinking of Angel, 2005.
- Dreams, 2004.
- The Phoenix. Lagos: Farafina Publishers, 2007. ISBN 978-978-48013-6-2
- On Black Sisters Street (translation of Fata Morgana). London: Jonathan Cape, 2009. ISBN 978-0-224-08530-4
- Night Dancer. London: Jonathan Cape, 2012. ISBN 978-0-224-09383-5
- Black Messiah (2014)
- Zwart, Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Atlas Contact, 2018. A collection of stories and essays in Dutch, collected and edited by Vamba Sherif and Ebissé Rouw. ISBN 978-90-254-5154-7. Contains a story by Unigwe: Anekdotes om rond de tafel te vertellen.
- Better Never Than Late. Cassava Republic, 2019. ISBN 978-1911115540
- The Middle Of A Sentence: Short Prose Anthology. The Common Breath, 2020. ISBN 9781916064133
- "Chika Unigwe". Chika Unigwe Homepage. Archived from the original on 29 November 2010. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
- "List of Artists – Africa39". hayfestival.com. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
- "Africa39: List of authors". Africa39-blog. 10 April 2014. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
- "The Chika Unigwe Bibliography". www.cerep.ulg.ac.be. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
- "Unigwe wins $100,000 LNG literary prize". igbonews.co.uk. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- "Chika Unigwe — Saving Agu's Wife". www.litro.co.uk. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- "Unigwe wins NLNG prize for literature". Channels Television. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- "Chika Unigwe on winning the Nigerian Prize for Literature". Businessday NG. 5 April 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- "An Interview with Afro-Belgian Writer Chika Unigwe". Africa Book Club. 1 September 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- "The Caine Prize for African Writing - Previously shortlisted". Caine Prize. Archived from the original on 4 September 2016.
- Bivan, Nathaniel (17 December 2016). "8 Nigerian authors who made a mark in 2016". Daily Trust. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- MagAdmin (17 May 2013). "Chika Unigwe: Exploring the depths of the human condition….. | Life And Times Magazine". Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- Bivan, Nathaniel (13 August 2016). "NLNG shortlist: What you should know about the authors". Daily Trust. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- "NLNG Prize for Literature Stokes On Black Sisters Street". Flowtech Energy - Oilfield Equipment Procurement. 24 October 2014. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- "From NLNG's Treasury .. Chika Unigwe wins $100,000 NIG Prize for Literature". Vanguard News. 7 November 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- Nehru Odeh (1 November 2012). "Chika Unigwe Wins Nigeria Prize for Literature". PM News. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- "Chike Unigwe wins the prestigious NLNG Literary Prize for On Black Sisters' Street". Wasafiri. 2 November 2012. Archived from the original on 29 May 2015.
- Zukiswa Wanner, "Zukiswa Wanner's top five African writers", The Guardian, 6 September 2012.
- "I come from a catholic home where 'sex' wasn't a word - Chika Unigwe". Vanguard News. 11 November 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
- Unigwe, Chika (March 10, 2013). "What I'm thinking about ... forgiveness and healing | Chika Unigwe" – via www.theguardian.com.
- "Announcing the Writivism Board of Trustees". Writivism. 2 December 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
- bwa Mwesigire, Bwesigye (17 January 2014)"Caine's legitimacy comes from its work", This Is Africa.
- "Chika Unigwe Heads to Brown University as Bonderman Professor of Creative Writing". Brittle Paper. 4 May 2016. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
- "Nigeria LNG Limited".
- Sam-Duru, Prisca (13 October 2016). "2016 Winner of $100,000 Nigeria prize for Literature emerges". Vanguard.
- "Chika Unigwe is a Man Booker International Prize 2017 judge". James Murua Literacy.
- "Better Never Than Late". Cassava Republic.
- "Biography". Chika Unigwe website. 2006–2009. Archived from the original on 5 November 2012.
- Femke van Zeijl (16 October 2013). "Strangers in Each Other's Countries - In Conversation: Chika Unigwe & Femke van Zeijl". Brittle Paper. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
- "Those who do not sit at the dinner table are forgotten - Chika Unigwe". Vanguard News. 2 July 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- "Chika Unigwe | Penguin Random House". PenguinRandomhouse.com. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- "2015 Writivism Short Story Prize Judges". Writivism. 31 January 2015. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- Studio, Aerogramme Writers' (9 November 2017). "Cove Park Literature Residencies: Applications Close 11 December". Aerogramme Writers' Studio. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- "African Writers' Residency Award (AWRA)". www.syltfoundation.com. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- Author's website
- Chiedu Ezeanah (3 October 2016). "Chika Unigwe: When Trepidation Hones the Imagination Into Literary Gems". Premium Times. Retrieved 1 February 2021.