Deliberately derivative: levels of decolonisation in Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch

Decolonising Speculative Fiction

Keywords: Nnedi Okorafor, Akata Witch, Africanfuturism, Africanjujuism, decolonising fiction, speculative fiction, decolonisation


Having written science fiction works such as Zahrah the Windseeker and Binti, Nnedi Okorafor is at the forefront of Africanfuturism. Akata Witch falls within the realm of Africanfuturism in offering a version of Africa outside of the stereotypical Western imagination. However, being set in present day Nigeria (and the spirit world), it is more fantasy than it is futuristic. While Okorafor takes umbrage at Akata Witch being branded the ‘Nigerian Harry Potter’, the parallels in plot and fantastical setting between the two stories are undeniable and go far deeper than is initially apparent (2020b). The level of correlation might even lead to Akata Witch being perceived as derivative of a Western literary phenomenon; nothing more than Harry Potter in an African setting. This article sets out to prove the opposite by exploring how, and more importantly, why, Okorafor made the familiar strange, and the strange familiar, by using the Harry Potter universe as starting point to tap deeply into Nigerian folklore and African indigenous knowledges. I further posit that Akata Witch can be divided into two distinct parts: the first, a mild but very effective form of decolonisation where Okorafor showcases Nigerian folklore and makes what is Western accessible to an African audience; and the other, a direct challenge in the face of the coloniser, touting not only the uniqueness, but also the superiority of Africa and African myth unchained.