By Toni Kan
NoViolet Bulawayo was announced winner of the inaugural Etisalat Prize for literature at a classy event which took place on Sunday March 2, 2014 at the Marquee of the Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos.
The event marked the conclusion of the successful launch of the maiden edition of the Etisalat Prize for Literature, the first Pan-African Prize celebrating debut fiction books from writers of African citizenship.
Bulawayo who won the Caine Prize in 2011 for an excerpt from her winning, “We Need New Names”, is also the first African female writer to be shortlisted for the Man Booker prize. She beat off competition from two other female writers, Yewande Omotosho with ‘Bom Boy’ and Karen Jennings with ‘Finding Soutbek’ to go home with a £15,000 cash prize, attend the Etisalat Fellowship at the prestigious University of East Anglia (mentored by Giles Foden – Author of the Last King of Scotland) and embark on a three city book signing tour alongside the other runner up authors.
Before Bulawayo was announced as winner, Grand Dame of African letters, Ama Atta Aidoo came on stage to announce the winner of the Etisalat Flash fiction prize. It was won by Uche Okonkwo for her flash fiction, “Neverland.” Uche went home with an Ipad, a Samsung Galaxy notebook and £1000.
The award ceremony featured a unique performance from celebrated African music legend, Youssou N’dour, who thrilled with songs from his repertory as well as Bob Marley’s classic ‘Redemption Song’ but the high point of his performance was his duet with Ruby who joined him on stage for his hit song, “7 Seconds” originally done with Neneh Cherry.
Present at the award ceremony were writers, poets and the arts and culture enthusiast including the panel of the Judges; Pumla Gqola (Chair of Judges); Billy Kahora; Sarah Ladipo Manyika; and celebrated Patrons of the Etisalat Prize; Ellah Allfrey (OBE), Kole Omotoso, Ama Ata-Aidoo.
Others included Odia Ofeimun, Kunle Ajibade, Lola Shoneyin, Eghosa Imasuen, Ayodele Morocco Clarke, Bibi Bakare Yusuf, Toyin Akinosho, and many more.
NoViolet Bulawayo was gracious in her acceptance speech, thanking Etisalat for instituting the prize and her fellow shortlisted writers but she reserved the most praise for her family; her father, mother and grandparents who exposed her to the world of storytelling and books.