Africa’s past is inspiring some of its most interesting fiction today

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Woman of the Ashes. By Mia Couto. Translated by David Brookshaw. Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 272 pages; $26.

EVEN before “Black Panther” became the highest-grossing superhero movie of all time in America, Hollywood film-makers were casting round for stories to hitch to the Africa bandwagon. Lupita Nyong’o, one of the stars of “Black Panther”, set in the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda, is an increasingly powerful Hollywood producer, and looks set to be one of the first out of the blocks. She is likely to star in “The Woman King” alongside Viola Davis, a fellow Oscar winner. Set in west Africa and based on historical events surrounding an all-female military unit that fought to protect the Kingdom of Dahomey from the French in the 18th and 19th centuries, the film has a potent mix of clear plot, black heroes and as many gorgeous warrior women as you can shake a stick at.

In truth, Dahomey’s Amazons had a far messier history….Continue reading

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