Chika Unigwe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Chika Unigwe
BornChika Nina Unigwe
(1974-06-12) 12 June 1974 (age 45)
Enugu, Nigeria
LanguageEnglish, Dutch
Alma materUniversity of Leiden (PhD)
Notable worksOn Black Sisters' Street

Chika Nina Unigwe (born 12 June 1974) is a Nigerian-born Igbo author[1] 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.[2] Previously based in Belgium, she now lives in the United States.


Chika Unigwe was born in 1974 in Enugu, Nigeria. She is the sixth of 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, Chika earned an MA in English from the Catholic University of Leuven (KUL).[3] 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.[4] 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.[5][6] Also in 2012, Zukiswa Wanner in The Guardian rated her as one of the "top five African writers".[7] 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.[8]

Unigwe sits on the Board of Trustees of pan-African literary initiative Writivism,[9] and set up the Awele Creative Trust in Nigeria to support young writers.[10] 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 2014, Unigwe published Black Messiah, a novel about Olaudah Equiano.

In 2016, Unigwe was appointed as the Bonderman Professor of Creative Writing at Brown University in Rhode Island.[11]

In September 2016, Unigwe's novel Night Dancer (published in 2012) was shortlisted for the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature;[12] the winner was subsequently announced as Abubakar Adam Ibrahim.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Unigwe formerly lived in Turnhout, Belgium, with her husband and four children.[14] She emigrated to the United States in 2013.[15] She writes in English and Dutch.


  • 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.


  1. ^ "Chika Unigwe". Chika Unigwe Homepage. Archived from the original on 29 November 2010. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
  2. ^ Africa39 list of artists.
  3. ^ "The Chika Unigwe Bibliography". Retrieved 2019-05-08.
  4. ^ "Previously shortlisted", The Caine Prize for African Writing.
  5. ^ Nehru Odeh (November 1, 2012). "Chika Unigwe Wins Nigeria Prize for Literature". PM News. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
  6. ^ "Chike Unigwe wins the prestigious NLNG Literary Prize}} for On Black Sisters' Street" Archived 2015-05-29 at the Wayback Machine, Wasafiri, 2 November 2012.
  7. ^ Zukiswa Wanner, "Zukiswa Wanner's top five African writers", The Guardian, 6 September 2012.
  8. ^ "I come from a catholic home where 'sex' wasn't a word - Chika Unigwe". Vanguard News. 11 November 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  9. ^ "Announcing the Writivism Board of Trustees", Writivism, 2 December 2013.
  10. ^ Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire, "Caine's legitimacy comes from its work", This Is Africa, 17 November 2014.
  11. ^ "Chika Unigwe Heads to Brown University as Bonderman Professor of Creative Writing", Brittle Paper, 4 May 2016.
  12. ^ "Nigeria LNG Limited".
  13. ^ Prisca Sam-Duru, "2016 Winner of $100,000 Nigeria prize for Literature emerges", Vanguard, 13 October 2016.
  14. ^ Chika Unigwe website. Archived 5 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Femke van Zeijl, "Strangers in Each Other’s Countries: A Discussion with Chika Unigwe", Brittle Paper, 16 October 2013.

External links[edit]