The following is a transcript of the interview with the creator of Pencil Tribe – an online literary and art magazine for new inspired voices on Africa. As per the request of the interviewee – henceforth PT – his name and details have been excluded for personal and professional reasons. Despite this, I am confident the information presented below will be of great value to those of us who are budding writers or who are simply poking around in the art and literary worlds.
Pencil Tribe is primarily a community of writers, artists and contributors who appreciate Africa-related content for its own sake, without any profit motive or need to sell. Even though there are African literary publications in existence, some of these have fallen to commercial interests and have, as a result, picked up a few of the nasty habits of mainstream magazines such as turning away unpublished young writers just because they have no brand. At Pencil Tribe, we publish what we enjoy and appreciate. Whenever possible, we give constructive feedback to contributors in a timely fashion so they can continue to develop as writers and creative people.
PT: We aim to serve two primary audiences: i) writers and artists who focus on Africa in some way, and, ii) audiences interested in works which are stylistically and thematically related to Africa. For the first group, we want to provide a welcoming platform for getting material reviewed, commented on and where applicable, published. For the second group, we aim to provide high quality content that will expand the boundaries of African literature and art. Our success as a publication will be driven largely by how well we achieve these goals. If we get a closely knit and growing community of people who share our vision, we would have achieved our version of success.
PT: At Pencil Tribe, we have no political, religious or ideological agenda. We are only interested in the form and quality of the works we publish. We strongly believe in diversity of opinion and ideas and are willing to give every piece a chance. The staff and contributors to Pencil Tribe have a strong passion for promoting African literature and art. Given the paucity of this content in mainstream literary magazines, we hope to provide a unique and refreshing outlet for inspired and inspiring new voices on Africa. Without the support of artists, writers and our readers, this vision cannot be realized. That is why we hope to build a strong community of people interested in African literature and art.
PT: In our far-from-perfect world, literature and art are powerful means of re-building and re-creating what is true, beautiful and good on earth. In the case of Africa, decades of negative news has created the illusion that nothing good and beautiful comes from the continent. Thankfully, African-themed creative writing and art can help clear that false cloud, even if in a modest way. We hope Pencil Tribe can help create a new aesthetic and sensibility about the African continent and its diverse people.
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.