“I came to London from Zimbabwe when I was 13 with my little sister; we flew on our own – with my mother already in London. After we arrived in the airport, we were taken to be interviewed by customs and immigration. My little sister was scared; I was just as scared and nervous as she was and I just had to do my best to take care of her. They asked us multiple questions, which felt like an interrogation. I was just a 13 year old who had flown over from a place I considered home to be with my mum.” – Kudakwashe Kumpira
I’m never quite aware of how a conversation will flow with the inspiring people I meet, but I was taken aback when I asked the founders of Bahati Books about their influences, culture and their journey towards building their business.
Barbara relocated from Kenya and Kudakwashe relocated from Zimbabwe to London at an early age. Sharing a similar story, they formed a friendship in secondary school, which created the foundation for the friends and business partners to formulate Bahati Books – ‘an e-book publishing company that aims to bring to global readers captivating and well-written African literature by African authors.’
“I travelled very frequently (covering Africa, Asia, and the Middle East) as an on-the-ground senior reporter for the Financial Times. My partner bought me a Kindle for my plane journeys, and at that time I became interested in African literature. After reading various distinguished books from authors like Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, there were limited stories about Africa from an African perspective, and not from the mainstream. I struggled to find diverse stories from Africa which did not talk about poverty, Ebola, or war.” – Barbara
“We’ve always kept in contact and from our conversations we’ve always talked about books and regularly suggested different books to each other. After exhausting all methods in researching for authentic African literature, we decided to create a platform that catered to our needs.” – Kudakwashe
Barbara and Kudakwashe both decided to go on a search for talented and gifted writers (aspiring, amateurs, hobbyist and professionals) based in Africa and the diaspora. They combined their skills and used their experience in journalism and law as a basis for their business. Barbara has extensive experience as a reporter and editor, while Kudakwashe handles all things legal, from writing up contracts, to securing deals.
For bookworms, there is something about paper that excites the human senses: the texture, scent, weight, and even the sound of the page turning. The connection is so deep that the idea of reading a book on a tablet would bring an intense distaste to the mouths of many hardback fanatics. However, we spend more time on electronic devices than we do sleeping, we’re probably reading on our smartphones and tablets now, more than ever; irrespective of the content we’re digesting.
“The future is digital in Africa. For example, there is a huge demand for online magazines – it is easily accessible, and we feel that e-books will be next big thing.” -Barbara
There are over 1.1 billion people in Africa. Africa is the second largest continent, made up of 54 countries, speaking well over 1800 languages. These facts do not translate to the amount of African literature published, plus the range of diversity in content. Reading stories that reflect the reader is something Barbara and Kudakwashe are very passionate about. Authors such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have created a space for Diasporans to connect, imagine and explore different cultures but at the same time have that sense of familiarity – you can feel like you’re in Africa without physically being on the continent.
“A lot of people in the diaspora live in a grey area where they don’t fully identify with where they come from. If I were to go back to my home country, Kenya, and interact with people within my age group, I wouldn’t be able to fully identify with them because we didn’t share the same cultural experience growing up. However, as a British woman, I don’t fully identify with my white counterparts either. Certain things will resonate with them which doesn’t quite resonate with me.” – Barbara
“Our service is for people who are looking for literature from a diverse range of authors. We are introducing content from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana, Egypt, Kenya and many more countries. There are not many other people or publishers who are doing that – writers are sitting on amazing pieces of unpublished work, which is gathering dust, and Bahati books are changing that.” – Kudakwashe
Bahati books launched in the summer of 2015, and through their love and passion for African literature, they’ve been able to publish multiple books from various authors. Established African authors have proven that there is space for an African narrative that doesn’t fit the mainstream schema, and Bahati books have positioned themselves as the publishing company which will add rich and diverse contemporary writing to the future of African literature.
“The diversity within Africa is vast; nationality, tribes, sexuality, culture, social position, religion, political beliefs. Limiting the African narrative to one or two voices is impossible.
‘Bahati’ means ‘Luck’ in Swahili, and when it comes to African literature, you tend to be lucky to stumble across good African literature.” – Barbara
You can buy e-books published by Bahati books directly from www.bahatibooks.com and on Amazon
The latest book to be published is Nairobi Echoes, by Stanley Gazemba – www.bahatibooks.com/book/nairobi-echoes