Introducing… the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature Judges!


Olaseni Durojaiye

In recent times, creative works: literature, music, dance, drama, photography and visual art are gaining more global attention and recognition as potential platforms for raising creativity.

Etisalat Nigeria has been at the forefront of corporate organisations that promote creativity and talent development through various initiatives notable among which is the Etisalat Prize for Literature, the prestigious Pan-African prize that celebrates first time writers of published fiction books. Launched in 2013, the Prize is aimed at discovering new creative talent out of the continent as well as promote the burgeoning publishing industry in Africa.

Year on year, the literary prize has attained international acclaim as a result of the high quality of writers/book titles and the qualitative adjudication process that has guided the emergence of Africa’s best as winners of the prestigious Etisalat Prize, in the last three editions. The past winners were Zimbabwean female writer NoViolet Bulawayo (2013);South African novelist Songeziwe Mahlangu (2014) and Fiston Mwanza Mujila from Democratic Republic of Congo (2015).

The race for the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature contest has begun in earnest and the global community is without a doubt already expressing interest on how the entire process: the call for entries, announcement of judges, closing of entry, review of the titles, the longlist, the shortlist and the grand finale, will go in producing the prize winner.
It is important to state that the task of selecting the best authors from hundreds of titles won’t be an easy job, but some ‘three wise persons’ have been tasked to do the job. They are: Helon Habila (Nigeria), Edwige-Renée Dro (Cote d’Ivoire), and Elinor Sisulu (South Africa). As the popular saying goes, ‘you cannot judge a good book by its cover’, therefore underscores the enormous responsibility before the three-member judging panel whose names were announced recently at a press conference to announce the commencement of the Etisalat Prize for Literature 2016 edition.

It is against this backdrop that Etisalat Nigeria has carefully picked a panel of three eminent scholars, teachers and writers who possess the right capability to correctly analyse, appraise and judge the books understrict adjudication process that participants in the previous editions of the Etisalat Prize for Literature were also subjected to. The judging process must be based on intellectual depth, sound reasoning, integrity and honesty, transparency, openness, thoroughness and attention to details amongst other virtues. This way the reputation that the Etisalat Prize has attained amongst different stakeholders will be sustained.
The line-up of the high profile judges is as follows:

Helon Habila
Multiple-awards winning Nigerian-born Helon Habila is the Chair of Judges for the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature. Accomplished author, poet, teacher and journalist, he is currently an Associate Professor of creative writing at George Mason University, United States. His novels include Waiting for an Angel (2002), Measuring Time (2007), and Oil on Water (2010). He is the editor of the Granta Book of African Short Story (2011).
Habila’s novels, poems, and short stories have won many honours and awards, including the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Novel (Africa Section), the Caine Prize, the Virginia Library Foundation Prize for fiction and most recently the Windham-Campbell Prize. Habila has been a contributing editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review since 2004, and he is a regular reviewer for the Guardian, United Kingdom.

Edwige-Renée Dro
Edwige-Renée Dro is an Ivorian writer and a translator. She is one of the 39 most promising voices under 40 from Africa, south of the Sahara as decided by the Africa39 project. She was the 2015 PEN International New Voices award judge. Edwige-Renée currently works as the director of Danbé Collection, a new imprint of l’Harmattan Editions with a focus on the promotion of Ivorian literature in Abidjan. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and literary journals.

Elinor Sisulu
Elinor Sisulu is a Zimbabwean-born South Africa writer and human rights activist. She combines training in history, English literature, development studies and feminist theory from institutions in Zimbabwe, Senegal and the Netherlands. She is the author of the award-winning children’s book, The Day Gogo Went to Vote. Her biography on her parents-in-law, Walter and Albertina Sisulu: In Our Lifetime secured her the prestigious 2003 Noma Award for publishing in Africa.

Elinor’s involvement in book promotion and literary development efforts for many years has culminated in her work with the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation. She has been a judge for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, the Sanlam Youth Literature Prize and the Penguin Africa Writer’s Competition.

Certainly, the pedigree of these eminent judges clearly shows that that the stake is poised to go higher for the 2016 edition of the Etisalat Prize for Literature. Needless to say however that writers, literary scholars, book lovers, publishers and literature enthusiasts would take more than a passing interest in the final outcome of the judges’ assignment. And, in the spirit of excellent adjudication process that had seen the best of African writers stand on the dais to receive their prizes in the three consecutive seasons, all eyes are on the judges, just as the writers.
pix: Helon Habila.jpg, Elinor Sisulu.jpg and Edwige-Renee.jpg