By Ogova Ondego
Published December 23, 2015
A Nigeria-based literature prize focusing on debut fiction writers across Africa has announced its shortlist for 2015.
Etisalat Prize for Literature, whose winner will in March 2016 walk away with £15,000, an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen and a fully sponsored fellowship at the University of East Anglia, has Congo-Kinshasa’s Fiston Mwanza Mujila and South Africa’s Penny Busetto and Rehana Rossouw on its 2015 shortlist.
While Mujila’s Tram 83 is published by Deep Vellum of Congo-Kinshasa, Busetto’s The Story of Anna P, as Told by Herself and Rossouw‘s What Will People Say? are both published by Jacana Media of South Africa.
Etisalat says the three books were selected from its longlist of nine by a three-member jury comprising Ato Quayson, Professor of English and inaugural Director of the Centre for Diaspora Studies at the University of Toronto (Chair of Judges); Molara Wood, writer, journalist, critic and editor; and Zukiswa Wanner, author of Men of the South and London Cape Town Joburg.
“The variety of styles and subject matter of the books on this year’s Etisalat Prize for Literature shortlist reveal the vitality of contemporary African literature. They contribute to our understanding of what it is to love, to laugh, to improvise, sometimes to despair, to know and yet be fooled by the assurance of such knowledge, to work for our ablution in the fate of another’s suffering, and ultimately to embrace life in all its bewildering complexities,” Professor Ato Quayson says on behalf of the judging panel.
Touted as “the first pan-African Prize that is open solely to debut fiction writers from African countries” and as “the most prestigious literary prize for African fiction,” the prize, that marks its third edition in 2015, says it will reward the shortlisted authors “with a sponsored multi-city book tour and will also have 1,000 copies of their books purchased by Etisalat for distribution to schools, libraries and book clubs across the Continent.”
While Zimbabwe’s NoViolet Bulawayo won the maiden edition of the Etisalat Prize for Literature with her novel, We Need New Names in 2013, South Africa’s Songeziwe Mahlangu, with his novel, Penumbra, emerged winner of the second edition of the competition in 2014.
Veteran writer Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghana); Pulitzer Prize Winner Dele Olojede (Nigeria); editor, critic and 2015 Man Booker Prize Judge, Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, OBE (UK/Zimbabwe); writer and public intellectual Kole Omotoso (Nigeria); editor, writer, broadcaster, consultant and co-founder of Allison & Busby, Margaret Busby, OBE (UK/Ghana) and novelist, poet and playwright Zakes Mda (South Africa), are Patrons of the Etisalat Prize for Literature.