LONDON. Known to her fans as the “Queen of African Horror”, British-Nigerian author Nuzo Onoh says her prestigious literary prize is a signal that African folk horror has finally become an internationally recognised genre.

“When I started writing, if you googled ‘African horror’, what you would get was Aids, war, famine. But now you’ll get books, films. 

“They are part of the literary genre pool,” she tells the BBC’s Focus on Africa.

Onoh formally received the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association (HWA) in June. 

It described her as “a pioneer of the African horror literary genre (whose) writing showcases both the beauty and the horrific in the African culture”.

Previous winners of the award include household names in horror fiction like Stephen King, Anne Rice and British actor Christopher Lee, famous for playing Dracula in numerous films.

Born in Enugu in south-eastern Nigeria, Onoh comes from the Igbo community.

Her most recent book, A Dance for the Dead, draws heavily from Igbo culture and traditions.

It follows the journey to redemption of character Diké, first son of the fictional king of Ukari and heir to the throne.

Diké is tragically cast as an “Osu” – an outcast – after he is found in mysterious circumstances within the sacred shrine of the village god.

In Igbo tradition, Osus were people who ran into the shrines of deities to seek protection from threats from other community members.

Anyone who ran into such a shrine would no longer be troubled, but at the cost of becoming an Osu – someone who’d dedicate their whole life to worshipping the deity while at the same time being an outcast in their community.

Their new condition would prevent them and their offspring taking chieftaincy titles or marrying a freeborn.

“Outcasts exist in every society, when you think about the outcasts of racism, of classism here in the UK,” Onoh says.

“But some countries have taken things further. To create a caste of people that are excluded and made out to be inferior.”

Although Nigeria passed a law in 1956 that banned the practice of referring to people as Osu, some people still do it.

Up to today, a marriage can be cancelled at the last minute if one of the partners finds out that the other is an Osu, or a descendent of one. BBC.

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