The Black Female Messiah in Nnedi Okorafor’s The Book of Phoenix

Decolonising Speculative Fiction

Keywords: Africanfuturism, Afrofuturism, ofo, jujuism, speculative fiction, Nigerian diaspora, womanist texts, Naijamerican author, decolonisation


The Africanfuturist novel The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor (2015) centres on a paradoxical black female messiah, whose story embodies the contemporary woman’s ofo (a sacred Igbo symbol of worship and conjuration that establishes her cause as just). In this prequel to the award-winning Who Fears Death (2010), Phoenix is the redemptive creator-destroyer who leaves the page blank for a womanist rewriting in the sequel. Phoenix, who precipitates the apocalyptic event, is represented as a beacon and a purifying fire. Through Phoenix’s recording, The Book of Phoenix is transcribed and becomes the Great Book. Applying African/Afrofuturist and womanist theory as an etic observer, I establish how the text performs the work of recovering an occluded history by creatively re-visioning theological frameworks.