By Henry Akubuiro firstname.lastname@example.org 08070965586
South African novelist and journalist, Sifizo Mzobe, last Saturday became the second South African to clinch the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa with his novel, Young Blood, after Ms Kopano Matwa, who jointly won the 2010 prize with Dr. Wale Okediran. Organised by the Lumina Foundation and sponsored by the telecommunications giant, Globacom, the Grand Award Night of the fourth edition of the pan-African prize, chaired by the former President of Ghana, John Kuffour, took place at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos. Mzobe triumphed over the Nigerian novelist, Akachi Adimora-Eziegbo, the author of Roses and Bullets and another South African writer, Bridget Pitt, author of The Unseen, to grab the $20,000 dollar cash prize.
The Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, in his speech, commended the Lumina Foundation’s effort in promoting reading culture in Africa, adding that literature on the continent would continue to grow with encouragement from organisations like Lumina Foundation. Therefore, he called on African youths to work assiduously towards promotion of African culture and heritage.
In his goodwill message on the occasion, Globacom’s chairman, Dr. Mike Adenuga, the major sponsors of the awards, commended the organisers of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa for keeping the flag flying very high since it was established in 2005 as a biennial award for the best literary work produced by an African, adding that it has, within its short life span, carved a niche for itself in the literary circle by recognising and encouraging professionalism and excellence.
“Like the Colossus that he is, Professor Wole Soyinka has towered above the global cultural and literary milieu to emerge as the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature … he is not only one of the world’s greatest writers of all times, he is also Africa’s most credible advocate of culture, due process, democracy and social justice,” he added. Represented by the company’s National Sales Coordinator, Mr. David Maji, the Globacom boss reiterated:
“The association between Globacom and the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka is premised on the similarity of our aspirations and characteristics in terms of developing a strong, virile African society”, adding that added that the company’s involvement in the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa was a further demonstration of Globacom’s irrevocable commitment to giving value to our subscribers as well as contributing to the intellectual development of the communities where we have our footprints. Through the collaboration between Globacom and the Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa, he said the brightest and best writers on the continent would be identified and encouraged. The Chairperson of Lumina Foundation, Mrs. Francesca Yetunde Emmanuel, restated the objectives of the Wole Soyinka Prize to honour only those who bring pride to Africa but also Africa’s giant writers and cause their works to be appreciated worldwide.
“This prestigious Pan African award (akin to an African Nobel Prize) is aimed at unifying Africans and celebrating Africa’s great minds,” she remarked. Mrs Emmanuel also informed that the growth of the prize was not only in quality, but also in scope and scale. From 87 entries received in the first edition of the prize from eight African countries, she said the figure had risen to 402 entries from 26 African countries in the fourth edition. The night featured entertainment by the masked Afro-Calypso musician, Lagbaja, and music groups of Nerfetiti and the Crown Troupe, with their spectacular performances. The event had in attendance Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos (as the host governor), while the Guest of Honour was the Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
In appreciation of Soyinka’s significance to African literature and the prize, Promise Ogochukwu, founder of the prize, said in her vote of thanks: “Had you not mastered your art, you wordsmith par excellence, had you not recreated Africa’s prodigious forms, wisdom, colours and traditions in profound diction and elegance, bringing the ordinators of the English language to their figurative knees; had you not fearlessly wielded your pen over and above oppressive regimes, single-handedly resisting tyranny the world over and achieving excellence on all fronts, in 1996 earning the Nobel Prize in Literature, this prize would have been much the poorer for its inspiration.”
In partnering the Lumina Foundations, Ogochukwu affirmed: “Globacom has matched our enthusiasm with uncommon zeal, bringing with them their business expertise and their commitment to excellence, celebrating Africa in its diversity and promoting the nurturing of talent and artistic grace.” The next edition of the Wole Soyinka Prize in Africa comes up in 2014.