Wasafiri is a quarterly British literary magazine covering international contemporary writing. Its name derives from a word meaning “travellers” in KiSwahili (etymologically linked with the Arabic word “safari”). The magazine holds that many of those who created the literatures in which it is particularly interested “…have all in some sense been cultural travellers either through migration, transportation or else, in the more metaphorical sense of seeking an imagined cultural ‘home’.” Funded by the Arts Council England, Wasafiri is “a journal of post-colonial literature that pays attention to the wealth of Black and diasporic writers worldwide. It is Britain’s only international magazine for Black British, African, Asian and Caribbean literatures.”
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Wasafiri magazine was established in 1984 by Susheila Nasta, who remains its editor-in-chief. The magazine was originally developed to extend the activities of the Association for the Teaching of Caribbean, African, Asian and Associated Literatures (ATCAL), which was inaugurated in 1979. ATCAL campaigned for greater diversification of the “English literature” traditionally taught in UK schools at that time, and sought to get writers such as Derek Walcott, Jean Rhys and V. S. Naipaul included on the A-level syllabus. Once that process was under way, Wasafiri was created, becoming “a literary space for people to talk to each other” and opening up literary studies to a wider body of literature in English beyond the established canon. The magazine helped writers such as Vikram Seth, Abdulrazak Gurnah, and Buchi Emecheta, becoming established. As noted by a reviewer of the 20th-anniversary issue, “Writing Across Worlds”: “Since its foundation…the literary magazine Wasafiri has focused on the idea of the writer as someone who transports the imagination beyond the maps of narrowly defined borders, and has promoted a range of new and established voices as well as signposting new waves in contemporary literature worldwide.”
The magazine frequently produces themed editions — for example, the Summer 2008 Indian edition, about which Neha Kirpal wrote: “The magazine critiques the work of various authors in a very in-depth manner, complete with detailed notes and useful references. It contains certainly not light-hearted writing; on the contrary, intense – almost equivalent to writing a research paper or academic essay. Wasafiri can safely serve as constructive material for any literature enthusiast or even as a ready reckoner for the budding writer. A collection that can be savoured by every book lover, Wasafiri is vital for all literature students, teachers, writers, critics, authors and poets and simply anyone who enjoys fiction.”
New Writing Prize
An annual Wasafiri New Writing Prize, open to anyone worldwide who has not yet published a complete book, was inaugurated in 2009. The prize is judged in three categories: Fiction, Poetry, and Life Writing.