22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Bibi Bakare-Yusuf

Portrait Bibi Bakare-Yusuf
© Hartwig Klappert

Bibi Bakare-Yusuf was born in 1970 in Lagos, Nigeria. At thirteen, she was sent to private school in England, and later studied communications and anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. She went on to do a masters and a PhD. in gender studies at the University of Warwick. Bakare-Yusuf’s thesis explored cultural preservation and memory with an examination of »embodiment and agency in the black diaspora.« In addition to publishing in numerous trade journals, she is a regular presence at academic conferences, and sits on the editorial board of several influential journals. In 2003, she returned to Nigeria to take up a research fellowship at the Centre for Gender Studies of Obafemi Awolowo University.

Bakare-Yusuf says that writing has been a thread running through her entire life, from faithfully keeping a diary as a girl and young woman, to her participation in writing workshops in London. She cites as a significant source of inspiration the books of Bessie Head, considered Botswana’s most important writer. Bakare-Yusuf read Head’s books in one go and has said in an interview that it was then she realized that it was possible to still the chaos in her thoughts by writing. She said that her interest in the relationship between culture and memory lends itself more to an academic than a literary style. She gave up writing poetry when she realized that there were other poets who could express what she wanted to say better than she ever could, going on to say »so I stopped writing creatively, but intensified my reading of poetry and fiction.« Bakare-Yusuf worked as an advisor to numerous development organizations, including ActionAid, Unifem, and the European Union. In 2006, she co-founded Cassava Republic Press, which has since become one of the leading African publishing houses. A committed feminist, the publisher sees her life’s work as helping to transform African societies with the production of alternative narratives. In keeping with that, Cassava publishes stories by and for Africans at affordable prices, with the goal of fostering African literature, as well as rebuilding a culture of reading and writing on the continent. Some of the books present a subtle challenge to the UN Millennium Development Goals with regard to sex roles, among other issues, and several of them have been incorporated into Nigeria’s school curriculum. Among the authors published by the house are literary heavyweights such as Helon Habila, who won the 2015 Windham Campbell Literary Prize for fiction.