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African Studies Research Guide

Onitsha Market Literature

"Onitsha Market Literature" is a term used to designate the popular pamphlets that were sold at the large market in Onitsha, Nigeria, in the middle decades of the 20th century. Written by and intended for "common" or "uneducated" people, this literature covered a range of genres including fiction, current events, plays, social advice, and language study. Starting in the 1960s, European and American scholars began to take an interest in this form of popular literature, especially insofar as it reflected African social conditions. IU possesses approximately 170 of these pamphlets. They are uncataloged and do not circulate, but anyone interested in consulting them can contact the African Studies Collection Office, Herman B Wells Library E660.


The Onitsha Market Literature section of the African Studies Pamphlet Collection provides a searchable index of the 170+ items in the collection.


Although somewhat out of date, the guide to the literature published by the British Library, Market literature from Nigeria: a checklist, edited by Hogg and Sternberg (1990), remains an extremely thorough and helpful starting-point to this topic.

Online Resources:

Onitsha market literature: from the bookstalls of a Nigerian market.
21 digitized pamphlets in the Onitsha Collection in the Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas.

Onitsha Market Literature
13 digitized pamphlets in the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC).

u-Mesu, Katalin Egri. "African literature survival outside the realm of large world publishers: illusion or reality?"

Larson, Charles. "Cyprian Ekwensi."

McCarthy, Cavan Michael. "Printing in Onitsha: some personal observations on the production of Nigerian market literature."

Thometz, Kurt. "Bill French & Onitsha market literature: afterword to Life turns man up and down."