Brian Chikwava

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Brian Chikwava after a reading in NUI Maynooth.

Brian Chikwava is a Zimbabwean writer and musician. His short story "Seventh Street Alchemy" was awarded the 2004 Caine Prize for African writing in English; Chikwava became the first Zimbabwean to do so.[1] He has been a Charles Pick fellow at the University of East Anglia, and lives in London. He continues to write in England and put out an album titled Jacaranda Skits.[2]


Brian Chikwava was born in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, in 1972. He went to boarding school in Bulawayo, going on to study civil engineering at Bristol University.[3] He settled in London in 2004.[4]


Chikwava won the fifth Caine Prize for African Writing in 2004 with his short story "Seventh Street Alchemy" (which was published in Writing Still, Weaver Press, Harare, 2003),[5] the first Zimbabwean to win the prize.[6] Making the award, the chair of the judges, Alvaro Ribeiro, described the story as: "A very strong narrative in which Brian Chikwava of Zimbabwe claims the English language as his own, and English with African characteristics.... A triumph for the long tradition of Zimbabwe writing in the face of Zimbabwe’s uncertain future!"[5]

His first novel Harare North was published in 2009 through Jonathan Cape.[7] Reviews were generally positive, with Mary Fitzgerald of the New Statesman writing that "in bringing to life the plight of those often marginalised by mainstream society, [Chikwava] has opened up a bleak, yet urgently important, social landscape".[8] She also praises his "wit and suggestiveness", something that Tod Wodicka, author of All Shall Be Well, agrees with, writing that "page by page, line by line, [Chikwava] has created a perfectly original and true narrative voice...full of surprises, delicious little tics, and real fire-in-the-belly creativity...but importantly, the voice comes off as effortless, and therefore true… it’s a major accomplishment".[9]

Trevor Lewis of The Sunday Times wrote that "Chikwava has created a compelling protagonist, whose back-to-front English and spiky argot throw up sly, acidly comic observations",[10] while Margaret Busby wrote in The Independent: "Chikwava has the talent to find lightness and comedy in the darkest desperation, drawing humour even out of wretchedness...occasionally among novelists one comes across a voice so distinctive...that it grips in an unforgettable way. For me, Chikwava looks set to be in that category. From first page to last, the vernacular narrative of Harare North is arresting, haunting, exciting, funny."[11]

Speaking about Zimbabwe and the reception he believed his book would receive, Chikwava said: "the Zimbabwe I knew no longer exists. The book will be published there but no one will buy it. No one buys books now. They are no longer a priority".[3]

He also took part in the Bush Theatre's 2011 project Sixty Six Books for which he wrote a piece based upon a book of the King James Bible[12]


  1. ^ Previous winners, Caine Prize website.
  2. ^ The Literator, Caine Prize for African Writing, The Independent, 22 July 2004.
  3. ^ a b Olivia Laing, "'The book will be published in Zimbabwe ... no one will buy it': The novelist: Brian Chikwava", The Observer, 4 January 2009.
  4. ^ Jean-Pierre Orban, "The long trek of Pidgin English in the Western publishing world", Africultures, 31 March 2010.
  5. ^ a b "2004 Caine Prize Winner Announced", Bellagio Publishing Network, 19 July 2004.
  6. ^ Lovemore Ranga Mataire, "Celebrating Chikwava's literary prowess", The Herald, 6 June 2016.
  7. ^ Harare North page at Penguin Random House.
  8. ^ Mary Fitzgerald, "Bright Lights, Big City", New Statesman, 26 March 2009.
  9. ^ Archived September 21, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ The Times review
  11. ^ Margaret Busby, "Harare North, By Brian Chikwava — Scams, scrapes and survival in a city of refugees", The Independent, 23 April 2009.
  12. ^ Bush Theatre Archived July 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine

Further reading[edit]

KOCIEJOWSKI, Marius. God's Zoo: Artists, Exiles, Londoners (Carcanet, 2014), contains a biographical chapter "A Tree Grows in Brixton - Brian Chikwawa's Dark Adventure in 'Harare North'".

External links[edit]