Open Country Mag is a multiplatform space for African literature. We exist to record literary culture in Africa; to make the deep archives of literary resources, data, and history available for use anywhere, from general reading to academia; and, crucially, to be a ladder for the next generation of African writers, thinkers, literary journalists, and curators, to provide necessary tools in their development.
Open Country Mag was founded on 5 May 2020, in a reflection that followed World Press Freedom Day on May 3. It launched on 26 December 2020.
Open Country Mag produces journalism and in-depth stories about the institutions and people shaping the scene. We publish reviews and announcements of the latest books. We provide guides to opportunities—grants, prizes, fellowships, residencies, workshops—and to events—festivals, book launches, conferences. We curate lists and recommendations. And when the time is right, when we have the funding we need to pay contributors, we will publish new fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Creativity, though, will always be abundant, and we will leave much of that responsibility to our colleague publications; what is in short supply is the contextualization, the journalism and essays and opinions, and this is what we will prioritize.
Our social media accounts will also be devoted to sharing historical and practical information for writers and readers. On each day of the week, when we are not sharing news of new books and opportunities, we highlight the literary, feminist, LGBTQ, political, and cultural histories that have shaped the present in Africa and the Diaspora.
We are testing and adapting. While we have a defined direction, our ears are on the ground, listening to our readers, to know what they want, the stories they want to tell and want to see us tell.
Early next year, we will announce our Advisory Board, and, in months to come, our full Editorial Board.
Open Country Mag is on a mission to help standardize our literary production, to identify, produce, and document, with facts and centering truth, literary knowledge and history as they are experienced in Africa and in the Black Diaspora. We want to play a role in creating a thriving literary culture in Africa, with institutions dedicated to moral responsibility, especially the defense of our freedom of speech. We hope, ultimately, to help make Nigerian literature more accessible to the general reading public, the way it used to be. A sustainable literary model for the 21st century must be in communion with other creative industries, especially film. We invite professionals in film, music, fashion, and tech to explore ways to partner with literary storytellers.
THE FUNDING PROBLEM
In 2019, the Central bank of Nigeria announced the Creative Industries Financing Initiative (CIFI), a N500 million loan programme. While it lists music, film, fashion, and IT, the programme does not mention literature (not that literature can make enough money to pay back). Then in 2020, the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) created a Creative Industries Support Fund (CISF), a $500 million programme in partnership with Creative Africa Exchange (CAX). The CISF does include literature. The untold story of the funding boom for African creative projects—from film to fashion—is that literature, the very root of storytelling, is largely ignored. How will writers produce stories that capture society when there is no funding to research, travel, and write them? And so you have the ongoing massive exodus of many of Africa’s best writers.
Standard payment has been the gulf between African and Western platforms, ensuring that the highest quality writing by Africans are published by Western magazines, who alone can pay for it partly because they are funded. It means that when Africa’s literary thinkers have stories to tell, ideas to explore to make things better in the continent, most times they do not fit the wants of Western platforms and in Africa there is rarely anyone with the pockets to pay for such stories.
At Open Country Mag, we hope to help change this, to prevent the loss of more ideas and visions that could elevate Africa’s stories.
You, dear reader, can contribute to this vision, you can help us achieve it, by making a PayPal donation.
OTOSIRIEZE OBI-YOUNG is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Open Country Mag. He is Editor of Folio Nigeria, powered by CNN, and Creative Head of its forthcoming portfolio company Folio Digital Media. He is a writer, journalist, and curator. Website: otosirieze.com.
ADA NNADI is the Editorial Coordinator of Open Country Mag. She was the Submissions Editor of Brittle Paper. She recently completed her editorial internship at Kachifo Limited.
UZOMA IHEJIRIKA is a staff writer for Open Country Mag. He is a journalist. He is an editor for the AfroAnthology Series and a copy editor for Minority Africa. An alumnus of the 2015 Writivism Creative Writing Workshop and the 2019 Ake Arts and Book Festival Fiction Workshop, he was on the longlist for the 2019 Awele Creative Trust Award. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming on Lolwe, Music in Africa, Bakwa Magazine, and can also be found on Medium.
ERNEST O. ÒGUNYEMI is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Joyland, Tinderbox, Sierra Nevada Review, Journal Nine, The Indianapolis Review, Down River Road, Capsule Stories, No Tokens, The West Review, The Dark Magazine, Mud Season Review, Isele, and in the anthology 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry III. He is the curator of The Fire That Is Dreamed of: The Young African Poets Anthology.
EMMANUEL ESOMNOFU is a staff writer for Open Country Mag. He is a culture journalist. His writing has appeared in OkayAfrica, African Arguments, Pan African Music, Music In Africa, African Arguments, and NotJustOK.com.
PAULA WILLIE-OKAFOR is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. She is a student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where she is custodian of The Writers’ Community (TWC). Her writing has appeared in Kissing Dynamite Magazine and Praxis Magazine.
For all formal enquiries, offers, press release submissions, and updates, please reach the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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