A competition that seeks to expand creative capacity in literary arts as well as discover and reward the best literary work produced by an African holds again this year, Mary Ekah writes
Tagged “Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa” and established by the Lumina Foundation in 2005 as a biennial award for the best literary work produced by an African, the award is intended to serve as an African equivalent of the Nobel Prize, particularly in recognising and encouraging excellence.
The Lumina Foundation, the sole administration of the Prize, has conducted the award since 2005 with the aim of propagating the dynamics of self enhancement, celebrate excellence, patriotism, integrity, heroism, intellectualism and selfless service epitomised by the man, Wole Soyinka as well as to generate books authored by Africans and to generally improve the reading culture and quality of the books read, amongst others.
The prize is named after Professor Wole Soyinka, winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature due to his status as a literary giant who has tirelessly promoted art, literature and culture in Africa and around the world. The first edition of the award assessed 87 entries from eight African countries and was held on August 2006 in Lagos. The second edition took in 204 entries from 10 African countries and was held in November 2008 in Lagos while the third edition had 336 entries from 11 African countries where joint winners from South Africa and Nigeria emerged at the award night which took place at the on April 30, 2010 in Lagos. The fourth edition holding this year on a date yet to be determined had assessed 402 entries from 26 African countries.
While Africans await the announcement of the date for the award proper, the management of Lumina Foundation and top executives of Globacom Telecommunications Company, sole sponsor of this year’s edition of the award, during a briefing recently announced 15 candidates from seven African countries that made the long list of the fourth edition. The countries include Nigeria, Liberia, South Africa, Mali, Uganda, Gambia and Kenya.
The panel of judges for the fourth edition is made up of distinguished intellectuals from South Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa. The organisers say they are working hard on the long list of the authors and will announce those shortlisted for the award soon. The organisers also noted that the increased scope and scale of activities trailing the award is an indication of growing appreciation of the prize, noting however that with the increasing activities, have come challenges in sustaining the award.
Globacom, according to its director of event and sponsorship, Mr. Bode Opeseitan, shares similar aspirations and characteristics with Soyinka in terms of developing a strong, virile African society. While Soyinka generally explores the medium of literary works to develop human capital across society and cultures, Globacom, Opeseitan said, has continued to create value with its products and services that enrich the lives of the average African, using the ICT space.
He said that Globacom has also been supporting the movie industry in Nigeria and Ghana, adding that the company has also strongly identified with the cultural interests of its hosts. This includes the sponsorship of Fitheb, said to be the biggest cultural festival in Benin Republic, while in Nigeria popular festivals like Lisabi in Abeokuta, Ojude Oba in Ijebu-Ode and Ofala in Onitsha have featured prominently on Globacom calendar.
Restating the company’s commitment to giving value to its subscribers as well as contributing to intellectual development of the communities where the company has its footprints, the Glo Director of Sponsorship described Professor Wole Soyinka as a colossus who towered higher within the African cultural and literary space to become the cynosure of all eyes in 1986 when he broke the record as the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
He recalled that in 2003, “An evening with Wole Soyinka” was organised by Globacom to celebrate the writer and his achievements in the literary world, adding that the partnership between Globacom and the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa is geared towards providing information, entertainment and create avenues for literary performances, in addition to improving the reading culture and the quality of the books produced across Africa.
Opeseitan commended the strides that the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa has achieved since it was established in 2005 as a biennial award to the best literary work produced by an African, adding that within its short life span, it strove to serve as an African equivalent of the Nobel Prize, particularly in recognizing and encouraging professionalism and personal excellence.
“We believe that successful partnership between the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa and Globacom will see the emergence of more Soyinkas and others in the nearest future; thus fulfilling the objective of the programme which is to discover, recognise and reward the best literary work produced by an African” he noted. “We believe that this partnership will see the emergence of more Soyinkas and others in the nearest future, thus fulfilling the objective of the project which is to discover, recognize and reward the best literary work produced by an African”, Opeseitan noted.
Chairman of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa, Mrs. Francesca Yetunde Emanuel commended Globacom for sponsoring the Awards, adding that it will boost the robust stature of the Prize, its reach, African qualities and values.
She stated further that the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa assesses works by African authors selected within the two years preceding the award year, adding, “A panel of five judges is selected from among literary icons across Africa. These judges selectively shortlist the authors, with the winner receiving $20,000.”
To grace this year’s award ceremony are former President of Ghana, Mr. John Kufour, who will be the chairman of the event and also give the keynote address. Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola, will be the host governor while Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun, will attend as Prof. Wole Soyinka’s home state governor and one of the special guests.