Nigerian writers compete with other African counterparts for literature prize

Elnathan John
Elnathan John

Helon Habila, chair of the judging panel of the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature, has announced the 2016 list of nine books. The list is made up of entries from first-time authors whose books were published in the past 24 months.

The listed books are Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya (Coffee House Press, USA), The Yearning by Mohale Mashigo (PanMacmillan, South Africa), Piggy Boy’s Blues by Nakhane Toure (Blackbird Books imprint of Jacana Media, SA), The Peculiars by Jen Thorpe (Penguin Random House, USA), Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John (Cassava Republic, Nigeria), And After Many Days by Jowhor Ile (Farafina an imprint of Kachifo Limited, Nigeria), Dub Steps by Andrew Miller (Jacana Media, South Africa), The Seed Thief by Jacqui L’Ange (Umuzi Publishers, South Africa) and Nwezelenga: The Star Child by Unathi Magubeni (Black Bird Books Imprint of Jacana Media, South Africa).

The Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat Nigeria, Matthew Willsher, endorsed the judges’ carefully moderated selection process, saying:

“The novels in this year’s longlist represent a good number of African publishing companies. Each novel reflects a very interesting and dynamic perspective that will provoke intense conversations about different personal and societal issues.”

The judging panel, comprising Nigerian novelist and poet, Helon Habila (Chair), South African writer/activist Elinor Sisulu and Ivorian writer and Africa39 laureate Edwige Rene Dro, now has the task of selecting three authors for the shortlist.

The winner of the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature will be announced in March 2017 and will receive £15,000, an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen, and an Etisalat-sponsored fellowship at the University of East Anglia to be mentored by renowned Professor Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland.

About the Judging Panel

Nigerian-born Helon Habila is an award-winning author and an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at George Mason University, USA. His novels include Waiting for an Angel (2002), Measuring Time (2007), and Oil on Water (2010). His current book is a work of nonfiction, The Chibok Girls. His novels, poems, and short stories have won many honours, including the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Novel (Africa Section), the Caine Prize, The Library of Virginia Annual Literary Award for fiction and most recently the Windham-Campbell Prize. Habila has been a contributing editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review since 2004, and is a regular reviewer for the Guardian, UK.

Elinor Sisulu is a Zimbabwean-born South Africa writer and human rights activist. Elinor Sisulu combines training in history, English literature, development studies and feminist theory from institutions in Zimbabwe, Senegal and the Netherlands.

She is the author of the award-winning children’s book The Day Gogo Went to Vote. Her biography on her parents-in-law, Walter and Albertina Sisulu: In Our Lifetime, secured her the prestigious 2003 Noma Award for publishing in Africa.

Elinor’s involvement in book promotion and literary development efforts for many years has culminated in her work with the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation. She has been a judge for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, the Sanlam Youth Literature Prize and the Penguin Africa Writer’s Competition.

Edwige-Renée Dro is an Ivorian writer who is passionate about getting the Francophone voice into the mainstream.  She translates for PEN International as well as Global Voices Online. She worked on the translation of Les Cités Fantastiques (The Fantastic Cities), a coffee-table book featuring poems and paintings by Werewere Liking. Edwige has her own blog at www.africanmusings.wordpress.com and runs a book reading group in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. She won the 2015 PEN International New Voices award and was shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2014. She was also one of the featured writers in the Hay Festival’s prestigious initiative Africa39.

About the Etisalat Prize for Literature

Etisalat Prize for Literature is a pan-African prize that celebrates debut African writers of published book-length fiction. Previous winners include Zimbabwe’s NoViolet Bulawayo in 2013 for her novel We Need New Names, South Africa’s Songeziwe Mahlangu in 2014 for Penumbra and Democratic Republic of Congo’s Fiston Mwanza Mujila, whose book Tram 83 won the Etisalat Prize in 2015.

The Etisalat Prize for Literature also incorporates an award for Flash Fiction; an online-based competition for non-published African writers of short stories.


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