“An ambitious new magazine that is committed to African literature.”
– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“Essential content, beautiful production. Talent will read [Open Country Mag] for opportunities, readers can get inside the literature, and industry insiders can discover new talent.”
– Bernardine Evaristo
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.
The idea for Open Country Mag came on 5 May 2020, in a reflection that followed World Press Freedom Day on May 3. It launched on 26 December 2020. It takes its name from the new generation of writers, especially in Nigeria, who are pushing back against censorship and leveraging social media and a newfound confidence to speak up and make the world they want to see. This generation is saying: This country is now open to freedom.
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’s Objectives
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 a writer, culture journalist, and curator. Until recently, he was editor of Folio Nigeria, CNN’s exclusive media affiliate in Africa. He received the inaugural The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature in 2019. Website: otosirieze.com.
EMMANUEL ESOMNOFU is a staff writer at 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. Reach him at email@example.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. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UZOMA IHEJIRIKA writes for Open Country Mag. He is a staff writer at Folio Nigeria. He is an editor for the AfroAnthology Series and a copy editor for Minority Africa. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming on Lolwe, Music in Africa, Bakwa Magazine, and can also be found on Medium.
FORMER TEAM MEMBERS
ADA NNADI was, briefly, editorial coordinator at Open Country Mag. She is an editorial assistant at Kachifo Limited. She was submissions editor at Brittle Paper.
ERNEST O. ÒGUNYEMI was a staff writer at Open Country Mag.
AUGUSTINA OKPECHI was social media manager at Open Country Mag.
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