The following is a transcript of the interview with the creator of Pencil Tribe – an online literary and art magazine for new inspired voices on Africa. As per the request of the interviewee – henceforth PT – his name and details have been excluded for personal and professional reasons. Despite this, I am confident the information presented below will be of great value to those of us who are budding writers or who are simply poking around in the art and literary worlds.
Circumspect: Where did the idea for Pencil Tribe come from?

PT: It grew from my personal experience as a creative writer trying to find a welcoming platform to publish and get feedback for my work. Most budding writers know the agony of submitting a piece for publication in an ‘established’ mainstream magazine. The turnaround time for getting a response from editors is usually 8 weeks to several months. What is worse, most ‘established’ magazines have no interest in creative works that focus on Africa, even if tangentially. Part of the reason for this is that mainstream publishers fear their traditional audiences may not be interested in African writers and artists since the subject matter does not relate to their immediate life concerns. 

Pencil Tribe is primarily a community of writers, artists and contributors who appreciate Africa-related content for its own sake, without any profit motive or need to sell. Even though there are African literary publications in existence, some of these have fallen to commercial interests and have, as a result, picked up a few of the nasty habits of mainstream magazines such as turning away unpublished young writers just because they have no brand. At Pencil Tribe, we publish what we enjoy and appreciate. Whenever possible, we give constructive feedback to contributors in a timely fashion so they can continue to develop as writers and creative people.

Circumspect: How did you arrive at the name “Pencil Tribe”?

PT: “Pencil Tribe” was meant to be a metonym of sorts; to connote creativity and community. I brainstormed with close friends until it popped up from ether. I will spare you some of the more embarrassing names we thought up.

Circumspect: What’s your vision or objective for Pencil Tribe, say, within the next two to five years?

PT: We aim to serve two primary audiences: i) writers and artists who focus on Africa in some way, and,   ii) audiences interested in works which are stylistically and thematically related to Africa. For the first group, we want to provide a welcoming platform for getting material reviewed, commented on and where applicable, published. For the second group, we aim to provide high quality content that will expand the boundaries of African literature and art. Our success as a publication will be driven largely by how well we achieve these goals. If we get a closely knit and growing community of people who share our vision, we would have achieved our version of success.

Circumspect: Why should people read or submit entries for publication on Pencil Tribe?

PT: At Pencil Tribe, we have no political, religious or ideological agenda. We are only interested in the form and quality of the works we publish. We strongly believe in diversity of opinion and ideas and are willing to give every piece a chance. The staff and contributors to Pencil Tribe have a strong passion for promoting African literature and art. Given the paucity of this content in mainstream literary magazines, we hope to provide a unique and refreshing outlet for inspired and inspiring new voices on Africa. Without the support of artists, writers and our readers, this vision cannot be realized. That is why we hope to build a strong community of people interested in African literature and art.

Circumspect: Anything else you’d like to add?

PT: In our far-from-perfect world, literature and art are powerful means of re-building and re-creating what is true, beautiful and good on earth. In the case of Africa, decades of negative news has created the illusion that nothing good and beautiful comes from the continent. Thankfully, African-themed creative writing and art can help clear that false cloud, even if in a modest way. We hope Pencil Tribe can help create a new aesthetic and sensibility about the African continent and its diverse people.
Check out for more information and to submit your work.