The first African literature is circa 2300-2100, when ancient Egyptians begin using burial texts to accompany their dead. These include the first written accounts of creation - the Memphite Declaration of Deities. Not only that, but 'papyrus', from which we originate our word for paper, was invented by the Egyptians, and writing flourished.
Despite the ignorance of most so called "literati" to the domain of African literature, African literature in fact is one of the main currents of world literature, stretching continuously and directly back to ancient history.
Modern African literature has gained recognition worldwide with such classics as Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, Ngugi wa Thiongo's Weep Not Child, and Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman.
While the European perception of literature generally refers to written letters, the African concept includes oral literature.
In his Notes on the State of Virginia (Paris, 1784) Thomas Jefferson observed: "Never yet could I find that a black man had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration; never saw even an elementary trait of painting o r sculpture."
Poetic forms are often tied to particular occupations or cults, for example, the ijala performed by Yoruba hunters, or the songs of the Ewe fishing communities.
Among the earlier landmarks of African writing are the South African historical novel of pre-colonial times Mhudi (written in 1917, published in 1930) by Sol Plaatje (1877–1932) and the plays and poetry of H I E Dhlomo (1905–1945), recreating African landscapes and the achievements of heroes such as the Zulu leader Shaka.
West African texts written in European languages date to at least the early1700s.
The publication of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart in 1958 drew universal attention not only to contemporary African creative imagination, but also established the art of the modern African novel.
In 1986, Wole Soyinka became the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, and opened the 'gate' for other African writers.