Chika Unigwe

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Chika Unigwe
Born (1974-06-12) June 12, 1974 (age 43)
Enugu, Nigeria
Alma mater University of Leiden (PhD)

Chika Nina Unigwe (Enugu, 1974) is a Nigerian-born author[1] and she 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 Enugu, Nigeria. 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) 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.[3] 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. Entitled On Black Sisters' Street, Unigwe's novel 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.[4][5] Also in 2012, Zukiswa Wanner in The Guardian rated her as one of the "top five African writers".[6]

Unigwe sits on the Board of Trustees of pan-African literary initiative Writivism,[7] and set up the Awele Creative Trust in Nigeria to support young writers.[8]

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.[9]

In September 2016, Unigwe's novel Night Dancer (published in 2012) was shortlisted for the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature;[10] the winner was subsequently announced as Abubakar Adam Ibrahim.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Unigwe formerly lived in Turnhout, Belgium, with her husband and four children.[12] She emigrated to the United States in 2013.[13]


  • 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)


  1. ^ "Chika Unigwe". Chika Unigwe Homepage. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  2. ^ Africa39 list of artists.
  3. ^ "Previously shortlisted", The Caine Prize for African Writing.
  4. ^ Nehru Odeh (November 1, 2012). "Chika Unigwe Wins Nigeria Prize for Literature". PM News. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Chike Unigwe wins the prestigious NLNG Literary Prize for On Black Sisters' Street", Wasafiri, 2 November 2012.
  6. ^ Zukiswa Wanner, "Zukiswa Wanner's top five African writers", The Guardian, 6 September 2012.
  7. ^ "Announcing the Writivism Board of Trustees", Writivism, 2 December 2013.
  8. ^ Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire, "Caine’s legitimacy comes from its work", This Is Africa, 17 November 2014.
  9. ^ "Chika Unigwe Heads to Brown University as Bonderman Professor of Creative Writing", Brittle Paper, 4 May 2016.
  10. ^ "Nigeria LNG Limited". 
  11. ^ Prisca Sam-Duru, "2016 Winner of $100,000 Nigeria prize for Literature emerges", Vanguard, 13 October 2016.
  12. ^ Chika Unigwe website. Archived November 5, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ Femke van Zeijl, "Strangers in Each Other’s Countries: A Discussion with Chika Unigwe", Brittle Paper, 16 October 2013.

External Links[edit]