Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Nigerian Writers Awards Open for Nominations in 21 Categories

The 2018 edition of the Nigerian Writers Awards has opened for nomination

The platform was organized in 2015 to reward excellence, network and celebrate Nigerian Writers of different genres from literature, journalism entertainment and arts.

    The 3rd edition will consider nomination for activities in the following period under review: March 2016- June 2017.

    Categories includes;

    Business writer of the year

    Entertainment writer

    Feature writer

    Blogger of the year

    Literary blogger

    Health writer

    Sports writer

    Script writer

    Poetry writer

    Spoken Word

    Poetry Promoter

    Campus writer

    Fiction writer

    Non-fiction writer

    Faith-based writer

    Romance writer

    Diaspora Writer Child/teenage writer

    Young writer of the year

    Writer of the year

    Media House of the year (TV/Radio/Print)

    Writers’ Most Supportive Brand of the year.

    Nomination will run through from 24th of August 2017 – 20th of October 2017, there will be pre-selection after the deadline of nominations and nominee list will be released in December 2017.

    The announcement of the winners will be at the grand event which will hold in March 2018 in Nigeria.


    i. Send a brief about the Nominee.

    ii. The Nominee’s Work. (Web Links or Reviews)

    For Journalism Categories (send web links of published works, stories, features etc. Maximum of 3 links).

    For Published Books (Send a Review of the Book(s) not more than 850 words and where the book(s) can be gotten-Online or Bookstores).

    iii. Nominee Contact details if possible (Social Networks, Email or Telephone contact-To receive notification of nomination, event details and other necessary information).

    Send entries to

    For more information log on to

Who wins this year’s $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature?

Image result for Nigeria Prize for Literature

Who wins this year’s $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature? Which poetry collection will clinch the prize? Next month, three works will be picked from the shortlisted 11 entries before the grand finale in October. The CORA-Nigeria Prize for Literature yearly book party held in Lagos provided a platform for a robust engagement with the finalists.

It was a rich harvest of Nigerian poetry. About 11 shortlisted works provided materials for a robust engagement with the authors at their eighth edition of CORA-Nigeria Prize for Literature  yearly book party.

Venue was the Terra Kulture Arena on Victoria Island, Lagos.

It was a gathering of the literati, who  interacted with the authors. Aside the anxiety over who wins the coveted prize, the evening also provided a platform to discuss issues of critical relevance to the book industry. The dearth of literature in indigenous languages, availability and utility of a functional library system, efficacy of distribution and the profitability of the vocation of writing, among others, were all discussed.

The shortlisted include Tanure Ojaide’s Songs of Myself: Quartet, Abubakar Othman’s Blood Streams in the Desert, Hyginus Ekwuazi’s One Day I’ll Dare to Raise My Middle Finger at the Stork and the Reaper, Obari Gomba’s For Every Homeland, Humphrey Ogu’s Echoes of Neglect, and  Ebi Yeibo’s Of Waters and the Wild.

Others are Ogaga Ifowodo’s A Good Mourning, Peter Akinlabi’s Iconography, Jumoke Verissimo’s The Birth of Illusion, Ikeogu Oke’s The Heresaid and Seun Lari-William’s Garri for Breakfast.

Unlike last year’s outing, which was about the female voice in literature, this year’s shortlist comprises mostly male and works of poetry. Last year, eight of the 11 shortlisted were female, a male won.

The NLNG-sponsored Nigeria Prize for Literature picks one literary genre every four years, and it is featuring poetry for the fourth time. The Nigeria Prize for Literature is the biggest cash prize award for a literary competition on the continent. It is worth about $100,000.

According to Secretary-General, Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), Mr. Toyin Akinoso, the book party is more than creating a community of book lovers and an economy around the book trade, as it is to also expand the membership of the community of culture patrons.

Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) General Manager, External Relations, Mr. Kudo Eresia Eke, said the genre for 2017 edition is poetry with 184 entries from a particularly competitive and high quality collection of entries. “The depth and intellect, the pedigree of the competitors, especially those on the shortlist of 11 is apparent,” he said.

Eke said the event signified “the successful advancement of traditional processes related to this edition of the Nigeria LNG sponsored Nigeria Prize for Literature.” He added that a shortlist of three is expected to be drawn from the 11 works in September, and the winner, to be announced in October, will take home $100,000 prize.

“At the end, it is hoped that this prize will continue to improve the quality of writing, editing, proof-reading and publishing in Nigeria and elsewhere. The guiding philosophy behind NLNG’s inauguration of The Nigeria Prize for Literature is to honour and encourage writers,” he said.

The question and answer session was anchored by art writer with Punch, Mr. Akeem Lasisi.

The only female on the shortlist, Jumoke Verissimo, the author of The Birth of Illusion said: “My book is based on my observation in our society in the last ten years. Sometimes it is difficult to believe that we are in our reality. I wrote the poem thinking of our reality as our illusion.”

Asked how she feels being the only female shortlisted for the competition, she said: “Being the only female shortlisted is not an issue. I don’t even care even if I’m the only goat (laughs), we are all poets; writers, and we all got published, that is the most important thing. What I’m really concerned about is excellence.”

For author of Iconography, Peter Akinlabi, getting his first book shortlisted is a source of joy. “I feel good. I feel honoured. Frankly speaking, this is because these authors in the shortlist are the best poets in the country. I am highly honoured,” he said.

Oke said his poems deal with freedom of expression, freedom of worship as well as promoting peace, while Seun Lari-William said his poem focuses on reality of a young Nigerian man like himself.

He said: “A work of poetry, of literature, is first of all a work of beauty. You can be angry, but you have to be angry in a beautiful way.

Don Burness, author of Red Flower in the Sand, says the collection “sings with prophecy, wisdom and lament. The poet explores varied themes including censorship, the single-minded madness of extreme religious fundamentalism and the very nature of skepticism and independent thought”.

Burness says Oke handles heroic couplets like a master swordsman, whose rapier thrusts both provoke and excite.

Beyond the challenge of authors not writing or translating their works into local languages, the disappearing words of mother tongue in literature and authors not using their local languages to convey their messages in their works also took the front burner at the book party.

Renowned author and poet, Mr. Odia Ofeimun, said:  “All the languages in the world are one. We are a bit unlucky that we had a colonial language imposed on our main languages. But it was also very great that we have a language that has interacted with so many other languages in the world and acquire gravitas enabling one language to steal words from all the languages in the world and hand it over to use where there is nothing evil. The fear that we treat English as a foreign language is a bit unfortunate.

“You have most of the languages we speak in West Africa actually representing part of that business of coming down from far away and we then moved down south that we are speaking exactly same kind of language. Put Yoruba and Igbo together, they are the same. But when you get to Zulu land in South Africa, you will discover that many of the words in Zulu are actually the same words here.”

Chairman of the panel of judges for this year’s competition is Prof. Ernest Emenyonu, professor of African Studies, University of Michigan-Flint, United States. The panel of judges also comprises Dr Razinat Mohammed, associate professor of Literature, University of Maiduguri, and Tade Ipadeola, a lawyer, poet and winner of The Nigeria Prize for Literature (2013).

The approving Advisory Board comprises Professor Ayo Banjo, two-time Vice-Chancellor of Nigeria’s premier university, University of Ibadan as chairman. Others are former Minister of State for Education and former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Prof. Jerry Agada; as well as former President, Nigerian Academy of Letters and president of the West-African Linguistic Society (2004-2013),Professor Emeritus Ben Elugbe.

Since its inception in 2004, the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature  has stimulated the publishing of over 1,630 books with 530 representing 32 per  cent, works on poetry alone.

In 2005, which was the first run for Poetry, 13 entries were received. That year, the competition produced joint winners, the late Professor Ezenwa Ohaeto and Dr Gabriel Okara for their works titled: Chants of a Minstrel and The Dreamer: His Vision. Two great minds and sources of inspiration and

Recalled that after a four-year round of the competition featuring Prose-Fiction, Drama and Children’s Literature, the next poetry competition in 2009 recorded 160 entries but, unfortunately, produced no winner. The ante was raised in 2013, with a record 201 entries. That year, the prize produced another winning work, The Sahara Testament by Tade Ipadeola who incidentally is on the panel of judges this year.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

MUST READ: Importance of Manuscript Editing

Writing with Ryan: The Importance of Editing

Whether it’s performed by a peer, a professional, or the author, editing is by far the most crucial stage of the writing process. It’s the only way to ensure high quality and optimum readability.

Writing without editing is like getting dressed with your eyes closed, and then leaving the house without looking in the mirror. If you don’t at least check your reflection, then what’s to stop you from parading around town with misaligned buttons, an Alfalfa cowlick, or one pant leg that’s three inches shorter than the other? Nothing—that’s what. Even if you opened your eyes and looked down at your outfit, you wouldn’t be getting the full picture. Your perspective would still be limited (and that cowlick would still adorn your noggin like a dunce cap). The same is true for writing.

When drafting, the writer’s focus in inherently narrowed, and rightfully so—how can you paint a scene or express an idea if you’re worried about comma splices, semicolons, pacing, and/or stylistic consistency? Simply put: you can’t. If you tried, you’d be writing that first draft for an awfully long time (and you’d probably end up with a disjointed manuscript because scrutinizing every sentence inevitably affects the flow of a piece—stifling that stream-of-consciousness feel).

That brings me back to a reiteration of this point: Editing apart from writing is the only way to ensure high quality and optimum readability. Our brains function best when we compartmentalize tasks, even though we like to think otherwise. Take texting and driving. When you text and drive you are making life harder (and much more dangerous) than it needs to be. You are sacrificing the quality of your driving and texting for quantity—getting more stuff done in less time. (Ryan: “Hey dud, Im on they may”; You: “What on Earth are you blathering about, fool?”) It’s much easier and more effective to just separate the tasks and allow yourself to focus on one thing at a time. In the writing process, this means write first, edit later. Here’s the catch: you actually have to do the editing!

What’s the key to effective editing, you ask? Why, compartmentalization, of course!
Just like you can’t simultaneously write and edit or text and drive, there are editorial tasks which must be tackled one at a time. This is precisely why we make distinctions between the “levels” of editing. Line Editing and Proofreading concern themselves with the superficial features of a manuscript: syntax, diction, typos, etc. Structural Editing, on the other hand, reaches down into the depths of the content to bring the manuscript to its full potential. As the name suggests, this level of editing scrutinizes all aspects of the content—point of view, details/descriptions, characterization, overall structure, etc. If it can benefit the manuscript, it’s on the table.
Now, if you think about it, compartmentalizing these levels of editing makes total sense; you’d be wasting time if you were to do line editing before comprehensive editing. Why obsess over the grammar of a manuscript if its very content is subject to change? Just like that typo-ridden text that you had to edit and re-send, you’d have to re-do the line editing, i.e., making the process harder than it needs to be. So after you’ve written your first draft, don’t worry about proofreading or line editing. That would just be a distraction at this early stage in the game. Instead, roll up your sleeves and dig in to some comprehensive editing.

Where does the professional editor fit into this cacophony of compartmentalization? I’m glad you asked! The editor is the epitome of what I’m getting at here. The editor is the reader’s advocate—that’s it. That’s all he/she is concerned about. You can’t get any more compartmentalized than that. For proofreading and line editing, the goal of a professional editor is to facilitate reader comprehension. For comprehensive editing, the goal is to help the writer produce the most engaging, clear and concise document possible, for the reader’s benefit, of course. With the professional, you get fresh eyes, supreme objectivity, and a specialist with working knowledge of writing.

Wouldn’t you rather have your manuscript put under the microscope before you publish it? I know I would, especially since it’s going to be scrutinized by readers, reviewers, and internet trolls anyway. And unlike the trolls and reviewers, a good editor is always constructive, solution-oriented, and there to help, not criticize.

Not quite sure what level of editing you need? Visit our website and see how you can purchase professional editing service for your manuscript.

Until next time, I bid you good writing!

See Why You Should Get Ebehi Imonlega's Evenfall

New book alert!
Within the year, we have been able to read a few books and offer our thoughts on it. Today we want centre on EVENFALL written by Imonlega Ebehi. Visit the website and get it
It’s a very nice read, especially for women that go through marital problems and temptation. Below is the description of Evenfall.
Description of Evenfall
Evenfall centers on Omonye who sells her inherited property and sends her husband Lucky overseas, for better prospects. Overwhelmed by his wife’s huge sacrifice, Lucky promises to remain faithful to her, regardless of the temptation he may encounter. His promise of unflinching fidelity is tested when for years, he is unable to have a breakthrough and return to his family as quickly as he had imagined. Soon, he is faced with the choice of deportation or a love affair with Aina, the daughter of an influential sheriff in the U.S.
Ebehi Igho Imonlega is a Nigerian writer of novels, short stories and songs. She was born on 8th June, 1979 in Edo State, Nigeria. She is married to Imonlega Philips.
Ebehi had her primary, secondary and tertiary education respectively at Sabongidda-Ora, Iruekpen and Benin City of Edo State, Nigeria.
She holds a B.A (English and Literature, 2005) and an M.A (English Language, 2014) from the university of Benin. She also holds a PGD (Education, 2015) from the Benson Idahosa University, Benin City, Nigeria. She is currently working on a new book titled – Sister’s Plight

Sunday, 20 August 2017

The President and the playwright

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame (R), flanked by his wife Jeannette Kagame, speaks after being sworn in as Rwanda’s Head of State for next the 7 years on August 18, 2017 in Kigali. Rwandan President Paul Kagame was sworn in August 18 for a third term in office after a crushing election win that rights groups criticised over irregularities and voter intimidation. Nineteen African heads of state were present at the ceremony which took place in front of a packed crowd in the national stadium in Kigali, entertained by a military parade and drummers.

One of the most curious mutual admiration clubs of recent times has been that between recently re-elected president of the small land-locked Central African state of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, and Nigerian Nobel literature laureate, Wole Soyinka.  In his rich 2006 memoirs, You Must Set Forth At Dawn, Soyinka described Kagame as “seven foot plus, every inch exuding intelligence and discipline…a formidable force to encounter….one of the continent’s rare breed of leaders.” The Nobel laureate went on to note that “Kagame belongs to that uncommon leadership order beside whom one would willingly march into battle.” In 2012, Soyinka was a guest of honour at the celebrations of Rwanda’s “golden jubilee” as an independent nation, during which he praised the country as “a model of reconstruction (which) must be regarded as a model of how great human trauma can be transformed to commence true reconstruction of people,” before going on to note that “Rwanda has indicated that however thin the hope of a community can be, a hero always emerges.” A year later, Soyinka described Rwanda as a “paradigm for the continent” in a talk at Howard University in Washington D.C.  Kagame returned the favour by delivering the keynote address at a launch of a book of essays honouring Soyinka’s 80th birthday in Accra in 2014, describing the Nobel laureate as “an unapologetic exponent of the universality of African values.”

Wole Soyinka has been one of the most consistently eloquent campaigners for human rights across Africa over the last six decades: he was detained for 27 months by General Yakubu Gowon’s administration during Nigeria’s civil war, an episode captured in his 1972 prison notes, The Man Died; he wrote a stinging rebuke of autocrats that alluded to Kwame Nkrumah’s repressive rule – Kongi’s Harvest – in  1965; and lampooned Uganda’s Idi Amin, Central African Republic’s “Emperor” Jean-Bédel Bokassa, and Equatorial Guinea’s Macias Nguema in the 1984  A Play Of Giants. Soyinka was also the most eloquent critic and a formidable activist who was forced to flee General Sani Abacha’s repressive military junta to go into exile in the United States (US) in 1994. He was subsequently sentenced to death in absentia three years later, and returned to Nigeria only after Abacha’s death in 1998. In his satirical 2002 play, King Baabu, the Nobel laureate portrayed Abacha as a bumbling, brainless, brutish buffoon and a semi-literate, greedily corrupt military general who exchanges his military attire for a monarchical robe and a gown. With this stellar fictional and activist background, it is hard to understand the mutual admiration between Soyinka and Kagame: one of Africa’s most repressive rulers.

To no one’s surprise, Paul Kagame was re-elected to a third presidential term this month with 98.6 per cent of the vote. The election was scarcely free and fair, as genuine opposition was not allowed to compete against the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) ruling party which uses not just political muscle, but control of key economic sectors, to maintain itself in power. Nine supposedly independent political parties had supported Kagame for president – reminiscent of the five parties that had backed Abacha in 1998, famously dismissed by veteran politician, Bola Ige, as “five fingers of a leprous hand.” The Green Party and an independent were the only opposition candidates in Rwanda’s recent polls, and even they complained of harassment of their members by government officials. In contrast to the vociferous Western  condemnation of neighbouring Burundi’s Pierre Nkurinziza’s creatively interpreting the constitution to run for a third presidential term last year, the condoning of Kagame’s similar shenanigans by guilt-ridden Western donors resulted in a deafening silence in the Rwandan case.

Kagame had earlier been prevented from running for president again after two terms, but a “spontaneous” petition had resulted in a 2015 referendum in which an incredulous 98 per cent of voters handed him another potential 17 years of power that could see him have five presidential terms and rule until 2034. Only 10 people voted against this constitutional amendment in a population of 11 million people!  It is unlikely that Kagame – a member of the Tutsi minority – would win a genuinely free and fair election in Rwanda. After the country’s Hutu president, Pasteur Bizimungu, resigned in 2000 and subsequently formed a political party, he was arrested two years later and sentenced to 15 years in jail for “inciting ethnic violence,” thus ensuring that he could not contest the 2003 presidential election against Kagame.

In his defence, Kagame’s supporters rightly note that he and his army halted the 1994 genocide that killed an estimated 800,000 people, when powerful members of the international community had spectacularly abdicated their own responsibility: the United States (US) and Britain in particular, insisted on the withdrawal of the 2,500-strong United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force in Rwanda which could have stopped the genocide if strengthened, while France trained and armed the génocidaires. Kagame’s supporters further point to high economic growth rates of eight per cent in the last 17 years; falling poverty and socio-economic inequality; and increased gender equality (with 56 per cent female parliamentarians). Rwanda’s per capita income increased from $150 in 1994 to the current $700, and poverty reportedly fell from 57 per cent in 2006 to 40 per cent in 2014. Kagame’s fans also note that the regime has tackled corruption; attracted foreign investment; created a national air-line; kept the streets clean (even banning the use of plastic bags!); established the country as a technology hub; and built infrastructure such as roads, a conference centre, and a new airport. It is not only Wole Soyinka who has been infatuated with Kagame. Former U.S. president, Bill Clinton – who ironically did the most to prevent any international action during the 1994 Rwandan genocide – and former British premier, Tony Blair, have also praised Kagame’s “visionary leadership,” leaving one to wonder whether they apply different standards in measuring the achievements of African leaders.

Kagame’s apparent achievements must be closely scrutinised. He has consistently won presidential polls with over 90 per cent of the vote (95 per cent in 2003; 93 per cent in 2010; and 98 per cent in 2017) as if acting like a cheating student, awarding himself marks in an exam whose results have been predetermined. Such large presidential majorities are the preserve of dictators such as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Tunisia’s Ben Ali, and  Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir. They are not how democratic leaders are elected. In response to claims that Kagame has kept the streets clean, Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, also famously made the trains run on time.

Rwanda is a highly militarised state in which soldiers are ubiquitous.  Kagame clearly runs a police state in which dissent is brutally suppressed. Human rights organisations and civil society are stifled; opposition parties harassed; and the media muzzled. Even talking of Hutus and Tutsis is regarded as “divisionism,” as if such a complex phenomenon as ethnicity can simply be wished away with an autocrat’s magic wand. Though he often likes to portray himself as a media-savvy president, Kagame’s regime has clamped down harshly on media freedom. According to the BBC – whose Kinyarwanda service in Rwanda was blocked in 2014 – in the last two decades, an estimated eight journalists were killed or “disappeared” 11 were convicted to lengthy jail terms, and 33 have been forced to flee the country into exile. Many journalists thus tend to self-censor (though there are some critical call-in radio programmes), and investigative journalists are frequently harassed.

Last February, for example, the police seized the computers of two journalists of the East African newspaper.

Critics such as Belgian academic, Filip Reyntjens, have also questioned the fiddling of Rwandan government economic figures to make the regime look better.
Part of Rwanda’s economic performance is further accounted for by the fact that this growth was from a low base, and fuelled by Western guilt at having passively watched a genocide and prevented international action to stop it. Half of Rwanda’s budget a decade ago was accounted for by foreign aid; it remains about a fifth today. Like many African countries, Rwanda has also experienced growth without transformative economic development. About 80 per cent of its population still lives below the World Bank’s poverty line of $3.10 a day. In a fit of folie de grandeur, Rwanda is sometimes described as the “Singapore of Africa.” The comparisons between Kagame and Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew are, however, pure fantasy: though Lee was autocratic, he was also a genuine Cambridge-trained intellectual who transformed his city-state into becoming one of the world’s most developed economies.

Paralleling domestic repression, Kagame’s regime has also been accused of sponsoring assassinations of its opponents abroad. His former intelligence chief, Patrick Karegeya, was killed in a plush Sandton hotel in Johannesburg in 2014. Though Kigali officially denied involvement, Kagame noted shortly after the murder: “You can’t betray Rwanda and not get punished for it. Anyone, even those still alive, will reap the consequences.” This chilling warning seemed to equate betraying the country with betraying its leader: a common trait of fellow autocrats like Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni.

Aside from his repressive domestic role, Kagame has also played a destabilising regional role. Several UN reports have accused his soldiers – and those of Uganda – of looting the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) mineral resources, after Kigali and Kampala invaded the country twice from 1997, becoming embroiled in a conflict that has resulted in over 3 million deaths.  An estimated 200,000 people – including, doubtless, innocent civilians – were killed when Kagame’s troops entered the eastern Congo in 1996/1997 in pursuit of former genocidal militias who were launching attacks into Rwanda. Kagame has also sought to “launder” his image by hosting the African Union (AU) summit in July 2016, and chairing a report to reform the continental body.

Wole Soyinka once described Nigeria – under the brutal regime of General Abacha – as enjoying the “peace of the graveyard”. Rwanda, under Kagame, now appears to be in a similar situation. Though one should acknowledge the progress that the country has made 23 years after a traumatic genocide, Kagame’s repressive rule could paradoxically make another genocide more and not less likely. By establishing a system that relies for its survival on a man suffering from a “messiah complex” rather than on the more solid foundations of stable institutions, the demise or elimination of that ruler could bring to the surface all the pent-up frustration, resentment,  and anger of the suppressed Hutu majority. The seeds of the system’s destruction may, in fact, lie within it. Kagame once noted, that if he had not been able to groom a successor by 2017, “it means that I have not created capacity for a post-me Rwanda. I see this as a personal failure.” He is, of course, correct. The mistake that autocrats like Kagame often make is to assume their own personal immortality.

The big puzzle, however, remains why Soyinka, an activist Nobel literature laureate – who famously noted that “the man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny” – and who has spent a six-decade career championing human rights across Africa, cannot see through the myth of a developmental dictator, and condemn this repressive system unequivocally. What explains this curious relationship between the president and the playwright?

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Etisalat Prize for Literature now 9mobile Prize for Literature

Etisalat Prize for Literature now 9mobile Prize for Literature

Following the successful launch of its new brand identity, Nigeria’s most innovative telecommunications company, 9mobile, has equally changed the name of its pan-African literary prize to 9mobile Prize for Literature.

The management of the company affirms that the Prize will continue to underscore the unwavering commitment of the brand to the discovery and nurturing of talent.

According to the Chief Executive Officer, 9mobile, Boye Olusanya, “9mobile, is proud to be at the forefront of promoting creativity and innovation among Nigerians and will continue to support the discovery and growth of home grown talents by creating platforms that help African writers to tell authentic African stories”,
The company revealed that the call for entries for the 2018 edition of the Prize which was announced on July 3, 2017 remains open till September 18, 2017, after which the Judging Panel will screen the submitted entries to select the books that will make the longlist. The entries on the long list will go through a second round of screening in the selection process, and then the judges will announce a shortlist of three finalists ahead of the grand finale/award ceremony in 2018.

The judges for the 2018 edition are Harry Garuba (Chair), Doreen Baingana and Siphiwo Mahala.

To meet the entry criteria, books submitted must have been published 24 months prior to the date of the call for entries. Such books should contain no fewer than 30,000 words and must be the author’s first published fiction book. The author must be an African citizen, but may reside anywhere in the world.

Also, all entries must be submitted by incorporated publishing houses that have existed for three years or more, with registered ISBN or the equivalent, and the publishers must have published a minimum of three authors. A publisher may enter a maximum of three titles. Seven copies of each title entered must accompany the application form, along with an acceptance of the publicity terms of the Prize.
For more information, interested parties can visit the website or @9mobilereads on Twitter and Facebook.

9mobile Prize for Literature is the first pan-African literary prize that celebrates debut African writers of published fiction. The winner receives £15,000, an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen, and a 9mobile-sponsored fellowship at the University of East Anglia, where he or she will be mentored by Professor Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland‘.

The winner and the two runners-up also participate in a multi-city book tour sponsored by 9mobile. 9mobile purchases 1,000 copies of each of the shortlisted titles for distribution to schools, libraries and book clubs across the African continent.

Alongside the 9mobile Prize for Literature is the Flash Fiction Award, an online-based competition open to all African writers of unpublished short stories of no more than 300 words. The winner of the Flash Fiction Award receives £1,000 and a high-end device, while the two runners-up for the Flash Fiction Award receive £500 each in addition to high-end devices.

The 2017 edition of the prestigious literary prize concluded on May 20, 2017 with an award ceremony in Lagos, where Nigerian writer, Jowhor Ile, emerged winner for his debut novel, And After Many Days. Ile is the first Nigerian to win the Prize which was launched in 2013.

New book focuses on the African-Jamaican aesthetic in literature

Lisa Tomlinson's new book, The African-Jamaican Aesthetic: Cultural Retention and Transformation Across Borders, adds to the body of research examining the ways in which diasporic African-Jamaican writers create their works by tapping into the cultural aesthetics of their African and Caribbean roots to interpret their place in their new homes and local cultures abroad.

Tomlinson, a researcher and scholar, who teaches at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, in Kingston, Jamaica, explores the writings of Jamaican pioneers, authors Claude McKay and Una Marson, to highlight their ability to draw from the indigenous knowledges around them to counter the Eurocentric focus in literature in the early 1900s.

She also examines the works of dub poets Lillian Allen, Afua Cooper and Adhri Zhina Mandiela in Canada; and Linton Kwesi Johnson, Jean 'Binta' Breeze and Benjamin Zephaniah in the United Kingdom. Also featured are the writings of novelists Makeda Silvera of Canada and Joan Riley of the UK.

"This study examines the African-Jamaican aesthetic impulse in diasporic dub poetry and fiction, paying particular attention to how these art forms have developed and been mediated in Canadian and British contexts. More specifically, I explore how African-Jamaican cultural productions of the Diaspora are employed as a means of recovering, rearticulating, and remaking cultural identities that have been disrupted by histories of slavery and colonial conquest," notes Tomlinson in the introduction of the book.

She notes, "My research demonstrates how the cultivation of an African-Jamaican aesthetic plays a key role in inspiring community activism, creating cultural spaces, and forging and sustaining cultural identities in Caribbean Diasporas."

Referencing the work of Professor George Dei to help provide the context of her research, Tomlinson notes that according to Dei, "indigenous knowledges provide an anti-colonial framework and constitute a kind of 'knowledge consciousness that arises from the colonised presence'".

"Within an African-Jamaican diasporic framework, these knowledges may include nation language (Patwa), religion, music, dance, folk culture, and ritual, all of which inform African-Jamaican diasporic writing," she notes.

Drawing from her experience as a young child going to school in Canada in the late 1970s and 1980s, Tomlinson notes that it was through the oral tradition that she learnt about her Jamaican heritage and culture.
In school, there was very little reference to Jamaica, the Caribbean, or Africa, and she felt alienated until her Grade 6 teacher introduced Caribbean folk songs into the classroom.
This delighted her, and she was able to translate the Jamaican creole words to her classmates.

The reggae played in her home also fuelled her interest, and in her teenage years, she "came to understand that the various forms of orality that were at the root of my home were so empowering and meaningful because they offered me a means to recentre myself in an environment with which I often felt at odds".
Tomlinson begins her research with an examination of work songs, proverbs, and storytelling. which she views as the "early and instrumental markers of indigenous African-Jamaican aesthetics".

She charts the importance of these folk cultural art forms in the genesis of a national literature of the island.
"Jamaica's rich legacy of oral cultures offers counter-narratives to dominant discourses of the region by reimagining the social realities of African-Jamaican communities, retelling African diasporic histories and restoring social agency," she writes.

Tomlinson examines the African-Jamaican aesthetic, pan-Africanism, and decolonisation in early Jamaican literature mainly in the works of McKay and Marson and crosses over to the Diaspora, where she focuses on the reggae aesthetics, dub, and the literary diaspora.

She also explores gender, race, and class in the chapter "Gendering Dub Culture Across Diaspora: Jamaican Female Dub Poets in Canada and England" and focuses on the writings of novelists in the chapter, " Home Away from Home: The African-Jamaican Aesthetic in Diaspora Novels."

Having lived in Toronto, where she had access to the dub poets Allen, Cooper, and Mandiela, Tomlinson conducts a close examination of their works to highlight the feminist aesthetics therein.

She notes that following in the tradition of Una Marson and Louise Bennett, these three dub poets "all employ an African-Jamaican aesthetic to articulate the social conditions of black women in Africa and the Diaspora and to call for opposition to patriarchal systems of oppression and black male dominance in the private sphere".

To provide a comparative analysis, Tomlinson includes the works of Breeze and does a similar examination in the novels of Silvera and Riley.

What Tomlinson's new book does is to critically examine the ways in which African-Jamaican writers in the Diaspora source their creativity from their homeland, Jamaica, and from their African ancestry, while creating works that mediate their understanding of themselves and their situations in their new home countries, new environments.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Karin Barber : Indelible footprints of British-born Yoruba culture enthusiast


Professor Karin Barber, British national, remains one of the most verdant voices on the rich aspects of the Yoruba language, culture, religion and worldview. Her research interests and works, which spanned decades, speak of her undying affection and affinity with Yoruba cosmology, making her one of the leading anthropologists of repute as far as the Yoruba language and its dynamics are concerned. LiteMag writes about the immense contributions of this 68-year-old British scholar who not only found a home in Nigeria’s South-West but a devotion that is fascinating.

One of the most significant foreign contributors to the study, documentation and dissemination of compelling parts of Yoruba language, culture and episteme is Karen Judith Barber. Barber’s attraction to aspects of Yoruba language and the dynamics of its culture grew through the years, culminating in her celebration as one of the vigorous voices championing the rich signifiers of the Yoruba language, literature and culture.

Eventually appointed a Professor of African Cultural Anthropology in 1999, Barber’s scholarly experimentation and influence in Yoruba literary scholarship started after she changed her research focus, pinpointing her interest in social anthropology at the University College London. Here, she completed a graduate diploma. After her diploma, Barber decided to go to the University of Ife, now known as the Obafemi Awolowo University, here in Nigeria. The depth of scholarship and the significance of Barber’s research endeared her to many teachers, students and enthusiasts of Yoruba culture, language and literature. For her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree, Barber prioritised the role of oral poetic performance in everyday life in Okuku, Osun State. For her, exploring the intrinsic underbellies of the Yoruba language could only open a vista of allure which the Western world may not really understand. Uniquely, Barber refused to recognise that there could be barriers whether created or imagined.

Barber was born on July 2, 1949 to Charles and Barbara Barber. She had her early education at Lawnswood High School, Leeds. After which she attended the Girton College, Cambridge where she studied English and graduated with a First Class Bachelor of Arts. Her academic career has spanned many years of rigour and the fruits of which have become quite beneficial for interdisciplinary engagements. Given her fascinating research interests, Barber became a lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, particularly at the Department of African Languages and Literature. Quite instructive to note is the fact that Barber had taken not just a research interest in Yoruba language but assimilated both the language and culture. She began to employ the language as medium of tutelage. This was between 1977 and 1984. After 1984, Barber returned to the United Kingdom where she worked at the Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham. This she did between 1985 and 1999 before her appointment as Professor of African Cultural Anthropology.

Aside her academic engagements, Barber accepted visiting appointments. These included her time as Preceptor of the Institute of Advanced Study and Research in the African Humanities at Northwestern University in Ilinois, United States of America. She was also Mellon Foundation Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. She rose to become the Vice President of the British Academy which represents the United Kingdom’s academy for the social sciences and the humanities.

Part of the glowing recognitions of Karin Barber’s work and contribution to knowledge, particularly in Yoruba and African studies, was her appointment as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. The Royal Anthropological Institute equally awarded her, in 1991, the “Amaury Talbot Prize for African Anthropology. She also got the Melville J. Herskovits Award. This was given by the African Studies Association. Also the Media Ecology Association recognised her work and bestowed her the Susanne K. Langer Award for Outstanding Scholarship in the Ecology of Symbolic Form.

All these and many others came on the heels of quite seminal works of Barber. These works are largely centred on Yoruba culture, language, literature, civilisation and aesthetics. Some of them include Yorùbá Dùn ún So: a beginners› course in Yorùbá (1985); I Could Speak until Tomorrow: Oriki, Women, and the Past in a Yoruba Town (1991); The Generation of Plays: Yoruba Popular Life in Theater (2000); Africa’s hidden histories: everyday literacy and making the self (2006); The Anthropology of Texts, Persons and Publics: Oral and Written Culture in Africa and Beyond (2007); Print culture and the first Yoruba novel: I.B. Thomas’s ‘Life story of me, Sẹgilọla’ and other texts (2012). Going beyond this, Barber equally took interest in comparative interrogations of “popular culture across sub-Saharan Africa.”

Oral literature and its varied shades of manifestation represent the huge preserve of any people or any moment in their ethos. Finding a rich blend of orality, civilisation and development of the Yoruba people constituted the research interest of Barber. For many enthusiasts of Yoruba language, literature, religion and culture, the contributions of Karin Barber in the study of the people’s cosmology cannot be overemphasised. For Jude Nwabuokei of the postgraduate school of the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, “Karin Barber’s study about the richness of the Yoruba language remains one of her unparalleled contributions to African Studies as a whole. It is not only deep but calls our attention to the fact that we must come to the realisation that there are many un-researched aspects of our literature, language and religion. We must take this seriously and ensure that we do all we can to continue the interrogation.”

During one of the interactions of the former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola’s with Barber, he found the depth of Barber’s commitment to the use of the Yoruba language. Oyinlola was at Buckingham University to read law in 2000 and he wrote a letter in English Language to Barber, informing her that he was Oba Moses Oyinlola’s son and was in the United Kingdom. Oyinlola said he was embarrassed and surprised when Barber replied in impeccable Yoruba language.

She was last in Nigeria between August 23 and August 26, 2010, at the Conference of Black Nationalities, in Osogbo, under the auspices of the Center for Black Culture and International Understanding. At the event, Barber said she saw tourism as a great revenue earner. Culture, she noted, is inseparable from language and averred that everything is mediated through language. “When language is lost, a whole culture is lost. Learning another language brings immense pleasure. Technology can be employed in language retrieval,” she said.

Speaking on her findings about the place of the Yoruba pantheon in relation to the Yoruba community, Barber says that “Yoruba traditional thought an orisa’s power and splendour depend on its having numerous attentive (and wealthy) devotees to glorify its name. An orisa without devotees fades into insignificance as far as the human community is concerned. The devotee can choose, within limits, which orisa she will devote herself to If her original orisa fails to give her what she desires-a child, success in trading, recovery from a protracted illness-she may approach other orisa until she finds one that responds to her request.”

Barber’s major place of research interest was Okuku, an important town in Osun State. According to her, “Yoruba political structures are well known to be of great diversity, and no attempt is being made to generalise the conclusions. However, it is evident that the fundamental political structure of Okuku is similar to that of other Oyo-area towns, though much simpler than that of the big ones. The description of traditional institutions as they have survived to the present day is filled out with oral accounts of them as they were in the nineteenth century. There is not enough evidence to show whether or not they were very different before this period: it seems likely, however, that the turmoil of the nineteenth-century wars heightened characteristics of flexibility and openness which were already present.”

To say Karin Barber contributed to the global appreciation of the Yoruba language is to affirm the obvious. She collapsed walls in bringing out some of the unique richness of Yoruba life, language and lore.

Empowering women through literature

Lindiwe Mavimbela, Duduzile Sokhele, Xolile Ngcobo and Nthabiseng Manana at the Creative Writing Workshop in Duduza last Saturday.

Duduza – Last Saturday, Radical Arts Forum held a workshop with author Duduzile Sokhele to use literature to empower women.
The forum’s secretary, Bheki Radebe, says that their task is to revive theatre and literature.
“This is just one of the programmes we use to achieve our mission.”
Sokhele, a social worker by profession, was born and bred in Duduza.
“I started writing books in 2010 but I didn’t focus on women empowerment until 2013.”
In her latest offering, Within the Private Space of Black South African Women: The Open Secret, she explains how life as a black woman can be full of obstacles.
“It is how we come to terms with our differences and how we overcome our challenges together that makes us strong.”
Sokhele believes that the public library is one of the best resources in the community.
“I am disappointed in the state of this place because I used to study here.
“That is why I will use every avenue available to me, to make this library function to its full capacity.”
She says that people need to realise that the library is not just for children.
“My passion is to get women to read.”
Sokhele explains that she aims to dispel the notion: ‘If you want to hide something from a black person, put it in a book.’
Thirty-five-year-old teacher Xolile Ngcobo came to the workshop after she saw the invite on social media.
“Until now, I did not know that all of us have the potential to be writers.
“Her demonstrations proved to me that we all have a story to tell.”
Ngcobo says the workshop left her inspired enough to start writing.