Stella Gaitano (b. 1979 in Khartoum, Sudan) is a literary writer and pharmacist from South Sudan. She is known for her short stories, often dealing with the harsh living conditions of people from southern Sudan, who have endured discrimination and military dictatorship, or war and displacement in the northern part of Sudan. Moreover, she writes about life in her new nation since the independence of South Sudan in 2011
Having grown up in a neighbourhood of Khartoum before the separation of the southern from the northern part of Sudan, she learned several languages. With her parents from the South, she spoke Latuka, a South Sudanese language, and with other people, Sudanese Arabic. At the University of Khartoum, she studied in English and standard Arabic. For her stories, she prefers to write in Arabic, which is her language of choice for writing, but not an official language of South Sudan.
In an article for the New York Times with Sudanese journalist Isma’il Kushkush, she explained: “I love the Arabic language, and I adore writing in it. It is the linguistic mold that I want to fill my personal stories and culture in, distinguished from that of Arabs.” Furthermore, she explained her reasons of using Arabic like this:“It was important for me that northern Sudanese realize that there was life, values and a people who held a different culture, who needed space to be recognized and respected.”
In 2016, her Testimony of a Sudanese Writer was featured in the English literary magazine Banipal's spring edition, entitled Sudanese Literature Today.
On the occasion of an exhibition of Sudanese painter Ibrahim el-Salahi at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 2019, Gaitano was invited to use el-Salahi’s Prison Notebook as a source of inspiration for creating an original, fictional narrative, and she focussed her story on the Sudanese Revolution of 2018/19. In 2020, her novel Eddo’s Souls was the first South Sudanese story to win the English PEN writers' Translates Award. According to a review on the literary website ArabLit Quarterly, "The novel begins across a rural context, in a small impoverished village full of mystery, rituals, and superstition, and it ends in a jam-packed city with all its complications."
Since 2012, Gaitano has been living in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. She works as a pharmacist, while at the same time pursuing her literary career.