The stakes have been raised again in the search for the finalists of the 2016 edition of the Etisalat Prize for Literature. This follows the announcement of the shortlist of three authors on January 4, 2017 by the Chair of the Judging Panel, renowned Nigerian poet and novelist, Helon Habila.
The shortlisted authors comprise two Nigerians and a South African namely: Jowhor Ile (Nigeria) And After Many Days (Kachifo Limited, Nigeria), Julie Iromuanya (Nigeria) Mr & Mrs Doctor (Coffee House Press, USA) and Jacqui L’Ange (South Africa) The Seed Thief (Umuzi Publishers, South Africa).
While unveiling the shortlisted titles, Habila explained that the trio of Ile, Iromuanya and L’Ange were shortlisted based on the originality of their works, literary excellence and reflection of African perspective. His words: “In addition to originality of voice and literary excellence, our purpose was to also select a work that portrays an “African sensibility.”
Other members of the Judging Panel are South African writer/activist, Elinor Sisulu and Ivorian writer and Africa39 laureate, Edwige Renée Dro.
The Etisalat Prize for Literature is the first pan-Africa literary prize that celebrates debut fiction writers of African origin resident anywhere in the world. It was launched in 2013 by Etisalat Nigeria, as a platform to promote creativity and talent development in Africa.
The literary prize also incorporates the Flash Fiction category and the two-in-one initiative aims to celebrate unpublished writers across the African continent by motivating budding writers to create compelling stories from African perspective.
For those who are familiar with literary awards, the release of the shortlist of first-time writers of published fiction books implies that the judges are now faced with the toughest part of their assignment, because each of the three shortlisted authors parades enviable credentials of a potential finalist and ultimate winner of the Etisalat Prize. Therefore, the judges must have to go back to their study room, read and review the three titles over and over again before deciding the finalist.
Elated at the significant milestones which the Etisalat Prize for Literature 2016 edition has recorded, Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat Nigeria, Matthew Willsher, commended the judges for being painstaking in choosing the three books out of the tens of titles received following the call for entry.
He said: “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, who affirmed Etisalat’s commitment to impacting on the lives of Nigerians and indeed Africans, said that the company would continue to offer innovative products and services and more importantly platforms that enable people to express their passion and creativity. He further delighted the literary community with the announcement of Sarah Ladipo Manyika as a new addition to the list of renowned literary personalities who serve as patrons for the prize.
The winner will be announced at the grand finale/award ceremony scheduled to take place in Lagos, in March. The award presentation event, which holds at a premium location, is usually an evening of panache, glamour and pomp, and will be attended by high profile guests across all socio-economic classes including senior government representatives, writers from Africa and lovers of art and literature within the international community.
For the winner, the ceremony is a day of glory, as he or she will receive £15,000 cash prize, engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen and Etisalat-sponsored fellowship at the University of East Anglia including mentoring by Professor Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland.
In addition, the winner and the two runners-up will also enjoy multi-city book tours sponsored by Etisalat thereby earning global recognition. Another big plus for the three is that Etisalat will purchase 1,000 copies of their books for distribution to schools, libraries and book clubs across the African continent.