For the first time since telecom giant, Etisalat Nigeria, instituted the Etisalat Prize for Literature in Africa in 2013 to reward first time prose fiction (novel) works and its publisher, a Nigerian writer is in good stead to clinch the prize, which is in its fourth year. Out of the three shortlisted writers, two are Nigerians while one is a South African.
The three books in the race for the 15,000 Pounds prize include The Seed Thief by Jacqui L’Ange – South Africa (Umuzi Publishers, South Africa), And After Many Days by Jowhor Ile – Nigeria – (Kachifo Limited, Nigeria) and Mr & Mrs Doctor by Julie Iromuanya – Nigeria – (Coffee House Press, U.S.).
The authors were shortlisted by a three-member judging panel comprising Nigerian novelist and poet, Helon Habila (chair of judges and author of Measuring Time, Oil on Water and Chibok Girls), South African writer and activist, Elinor Sisulu, and Ivorian writer and ‘Africa39’ laureate, Edwige Renée Dro.
According to the chair of judges, Mr Habila, “In addition to the originality of voice and literary excellence, our purpose was to also select a work that portrays an “African sensibility.”
The winner of the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature will be unveiled at the Grand Finale in Lagos, scheduled to take place in March 2017.
While commenting on the success of the Etisalat Prize for Literature 2016, Chief Executive Officer, Etisalat Nigeria, Mr Matthew Willsher, commended the judges for their diligence in selecting the top three books out of the tens of titles that were received following the call for entry.
According to Willshire, “This is by no means a simple task. The role of the judges is quite enormous and we want to thank them for the attention and dedication to the entire review process which birthed the top three finalists.”
Willsher reiterated Etisalat’s commitment to continuously having an impact on the lives of Nigerians, and indeed Africans, by offering them innovative products and services and, more importantly, a platform that enables them to express their passion and creativity.
He continued, “At Etisalat, we have found the nexus between innovation and creativity. This is why we give people the opportunity to express their individuality and ingenuity so they can be the best in whatever they choose to do,” adding that Sarah Ladipo Manyika will join other renowned literary personalities as a patron of the prize.
Fiston Mwanza Mujila from the Democratic Republic of Congo won with Tram 83 in 2015, South African novelist Songeziwe Mahlangu won with Penumbra in 2014 and Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo was the first winner with We Need New Names in 2013.
The nine longlisted books were Julie Iromuanya, Mr. and Mrs. Doctor (Coffee House Press, U.S.), Mohale Mashigo, The Yearning (PanMacmillan, South Africa), Nakhale Toure, Piggy Boy’s Blues (Penguin Random House, U.S.), Jen Thorpe, The Peculiars (Penguin Random House, U.S.), Elnathan John, Born on a Tuesday (Cassava Republic, Nigeria), Jowhor Ile, And After Many Days (Farafina an imprint of Kachifo Limited, Nigeria), Andrew Miller, Dub Steps (Jacana Media, South Africa), Jacqui L’Ange, The Seed Thief (Umuzi Publishers, South Africa) and Unathi Magubeni, Nwezelenga: The Star Child (Black Bird Books Imprint of Jacana Media, South Africa).