Post-colonial pioneer

Wasafiri magazine has been blazing a trail for international writing for 25 years. Set up in 1984 at a time when writers from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia were often perceived as off-centre, the literary magazine has championed early work from the likes of Vikram Seth, Salman Rushdie and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

But it’s not just literary talent that has graced the pages of Wasafiri – visual art has been part of the magazine since its first issue. Starting with the simple line-drawing illustration on the first three covers, the magazine has featured a range of up-and-coming artists, and the art has become increasingly important. One of the driving forces was Richard Dyer, the current art editor who joined Wasafiri in 1999. ‘When I arrived I thought there was an inconsistency in that the quality of the artwork took second place,’ says Dyer. ‘I wanted to make the visual arts aspects as important as the words; the quality of the artwork should have the same consistency.’ The covers have since presented a striking chronicle of artistic talent, with Chris Ofili, John Latham, Rasheed Areen and Grayson Perry all taking centre stage at one point. They ‘show the richness of contemporary art in Britain, but not only by British artists’, says Dyer. His personal favourites include Yinka Shonibare’s impactful colours and Andres Serrano’s series of portraits. They make a ‘punchy statement’ about American multiplicity – a statement Wasafiri has been making equally successfully about international art and literature for a quarter of a decade.

Wasafiri’s 25th anniversary issue, featuring artist Aubrey Williams, is out on 17 September

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