Nigerian clinches Writers’ Prize again
Written by Mwenda wa Micheni
A Nigerian, Karen King-Aribisala, has won this year’s Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, dashing the hopes of Kenyan writer Ken Kamoche.
King-Aribisala was awarded the prize for The Hangman’s Game. This is her second Commonwealth Writers’ Prize award. In 1999 she won the Best First Book award for her collection of short stories Our Wife and Other Stories.
Kamoche had hoped to clinch the title with his collection of short stories titled A Fragile Hope. The Best First Book Award went to Imagine this , written by Sade Adeniran also from Nigeria.
The announcement of the eight Africa regional winners took place in Kampala at a festival of contemporary art and culture by artistes from the Commonwealth.
The annual Commonwealth Writers Prize aims to reward the best in Commonwealth fiction written in English.
It recognises both established and new writers.
The judging panel for the Africa region was chaired by Prof Arthur Gakwandi from Uganda.
He was assisted by Dr Olutoyin Bimpe Jegede (Nigeria) and Maureen Isaacson (South Africa). “As was the case last year, well over 50 per cent of the entries were from South Africa and Nigeria. This suggests that these two big countries each with a relatively large reading public and a substantial number of publishing houses are likely to dominate the prize for some time,” said Gakwandi .
Noting that the two winners last year were from South Africa and that this year’s winners are from Nigeria, Gakwandi said Africa was witnessing the emergence of new talent, which is fast changing the literary landscape.
“I am of course delighted and excited to win the Regional Prize for Africa...but particularly because the very notion of the Commonwealth has afforded me the opportunity to voice Africa’s pain, Africa’s joy, ” King-Aribisala said. Karen was born in Guyana, but is now based in Nigeria.
The Best First Book winner Sade Adeniran is a self-published book Imagine This. The writer described her win as “Completely unexpected…For me, to have been shortlisted was monumental in itself.”
In a unique aspect of the Prize, the two Africa regional winners will be invited to take part in a week-long programme of readings, community activities and other public events alongside the final pan-Commonwealth judging, in South Africa in May 2008.
They join other regional winners from Canada and the Caribbean, Europe and South Asia, and South East Asia and South Pacific. The week’s programme will culminate in the announcement of the overall Best Book and Best First Book winners in a special ceremony as part of the 2008 Franschhoek Literary Festival, in the Cape Winelands District, on Sunday 18 May.