Chika Unigwe


Chika Nina Unigwe (born 12 June 1974) is a Nigerian-born Igbo author who writes in English and Dutch. She is the sixth of seven children. She attended Secondary school at Federal Government Girls' college in Abuja and obtained a BA in English in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1995. In 1996, Chika earned an MA in English from the Catholic University of Leuven (KUL).

She has a PhD 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, respectively) 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. 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 as On Black Sisters' Street. On Black Sisters' Street 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. Also in 2012, Zukiswa Wanner in The Guardian rated her as one of the "top five African writers". Still, in 2012, she floored Olushola Olugbesan's Only A Canvass and Ngozi Achebe's Onaedo: The Blacksmith's Daughter to clinch the coveted $100,000 Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature, becoming the second Diaspora writer to win the prize.

Unigwe sits on the Board of Trustees of pan-African literary initiative Writivism and set up the Awele Creative Trust in Nigeria to support young writers. In April 2014, she was selected for the Festival's Africa39 list of 39 sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define future trends in Africa.

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 the 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.

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

Previously based in Belgium, she now lives in the United States.

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