Our Story and Our Mission
Karnak House was incarnated in 1975 as Caribbean Cultural International, an organization of writers and artists coming together to create a new platform for the work of Caribbean and Black British writers and artists in Britain. The work was directed to art exhibitions (including photography), poetry readings and lectures.
Because of the nature of London, CCI decided to embrace the African community and changed its name to Karnak House, with its base on Westbourne Park Road, Notting Hill, since 1977.
Our first book, New Planet, was an anthology of new and previously published poetry and mixed the older generation, John La Rose & Kamau Brathwaite, Marc Matthews with the younger.
National and international recognition came with the publication of I is a Long-memoried woman by Grace Nichols, which won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize 1983. It also won the Guyana Poetry Prize, followed by Marc Matthews winning the same prize for our publication of his first book, Guyana My Altar.
In 1985 Karnak House published Amon Saba Saakana’s first published novel, Blues Dance, which received national attention and a phone call from Faber & Faber’s then chairman. Karnak House sets out to realize two objectives: to continuously locate and publish books by Caribbean and African writers in the field of creative fiction and poetry. Works that innovate and call into being new ways of presenting material from the unflinching perspectives of the working class, primarily.
The second objective and front is to renew and reinterpret African civilizations through the prism of Africans themselves or progressive writers of any ethnic background.
The works of Cheikh Anta Diop, Théophile Obenga, Jacob Carruthers and Charles S. Finch are the best examples in this category. We believe that our contribution to publishing in Britain has shaped and influenced mainstream British publishers in the aesthetic way in which they now present African and Caribbean material; the design and visual presentation of books, and the emphasis now on the young British-born writers and artists.
Our publications set the benchmark for others to follow and we are not afraid of controversy and the demolition of European colonial literary and historical orthodoxy.