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Sunday, 1 June 2014

Beyond 'The Acacia Tree' Book Cover

Almost a month ago, Africa is a Country published this fascinating article - The Dangers of a Single Book Cover: The Acacia Tree Meme and 'African literature'. In it, they credit Simon Stevens: 
' ... a reader who put together the picture [below] and pointed out that whoever you are, wherever you're from, whatever kind of writing you do, if you write a novel "about Africa, " chances are you're going to get the acacia tree treatment. And the orange sky.'
Source: Africa is a Country (via Simon Stevens)
The same article also points out that: 
'Another reader, Alice Kewellhampton, added that when it comes to Chimamanda Adichie, she also gets a special meme for her UK edition, the "soulful-black-woman-with-colourful-smudges" look.' 
Without sounding like a broken record, I found the article, and the accompanying images, fascinating and loved it for getting me to question the world of African book covers. I mean, until the article pointed it out I never thought of it. A number of articles followed on after this main one - Why do all these books about Africa look the same?, The reason why every book about Africa has the same cover - and it's not pretty, Need a cover for a your book about Africa? Just add an acacia tree - to name a few.

The book desgins if I am being honest make me pretty sad when I look at them. As someone who judges books by their covers, they do not inpsire me to pick up or even read them. So I went to look at my bookshelf to see how many acacia covered books I have and then went to look at my Tumblr to do the same - not surprising little or none of both (hence, why I probably never noticed the acacia tree treatment). 

While I do not doubt that we are in the age of the acacia tree, or even the "soulful-black-woman-with-colourful-smudges" look in the UK, I also think we should ask ourselves the regions these book are marketed for and what they say about those regions view of 'Africa'? As I have pointed out in earlier posts, there are different book cover designs for different regions and would be interesting to know who these covers are for.

I also wanted to step away from the single acacia tree book cover and decided to take screenshots of the covers I love, and have showcased on my Tumblr, to show that there are some publishers and designers out there that are not afraid to do something different. Nnedi Okorafor's Lagoon cover is beautiful. So is Noo Saro-Wiwa's Looking for Transwonderland. I loved the SA covers of The Shining Girls, as well as  Zoo City and Moxyland - actually I love the covers of Lauren Beukes' novels. Modjaji Books also publishes some beautiful books. These covers, might not be in abundance, but they do exist and they give me hope that there is more to African Book Covers than the Acacia Tree.  

Mostly Abani and one Achebe: The first set of book covers I showcased on African Book Covers
A range of different book cover designs
Hello 'soulful black woman' 
A look at some of the Caine Prize Anthology covers
The most recent covers showcased on African Book Covers

2 comments:

  1. Hi - I just found your blog and its great! I've set myself the challenge of reading a book from every country in African this year but its so hard to just read one from each place. Please tell me some of your all time favourite African reads. http://booksofafrica.wordpress.com/

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  2. Hi, that's such a great challenge. Looking forward to following your challenges. A few of my favourite reads - From Algeria (What the Day Owes the Night by Yasmina Khadra), Angola (The Book of Chameleons by Jose Eduardo Agualusa), Ivory Coast (Aya Series by Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Clément Oubrerie) Ghana (Tail of the Blue Bird by Nii Ayikwei Parkes) and Zimbabwe (This September Sun by Byrony Rheam).

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