The winner of Africa’s biggest literary prize, the NLNG prize for Literature will be announced tomorrow.
The big question is who?
Last month, 3 writers were shortlisted from a long list of 11 writers. The shortlisted writers are Chika Unigwe for her Night Dancer, Abubakar Ibrahim Adam for his Season of Crimson Blossoms and Elnathan John for his Born on a Tuesday.
Abubakar Ibrahim Adam was born in Jos, Nigeria. Season of Crimson Blossom, his first novel was published by Cassava Republic in Lagos. The story is set in conservative northern Nigeria, between a 55-year-old widow, Binta and 25-year-old ‘area-boy’ Reza, their lives become intertwined when Reza tries to rob Binta. It is a story of love, political violence, class, and religion.
Elnathan John, born in Kaduna, in northern Nigeria is a trained lawyer and writer. Born on a Tuesday which is also his debut novel, was also published by Cassava Republic. Elnathan John has been shortlisted for the Caine Prize for Literature, twice. His Born on a Tuesday, also set in northern Nigeria, is the story of a young boy struggling to find his place in a world divided along political and religious lines.
Chika Unigwe was the winner of the NLNG prize in 2012 with her On Black Sister’s street. She is on her way to making history if she wins the prize again this year. Although Unigwe’s Night Dancer was first published by Jonathan Cape in the Uk, it was published in Nigeria by Parresia. Chika Unigwe was selected among the Hay Festival’s Africa39 list of Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define future trends in African literature. Chika who holds a PhD in Literature is a judge for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize. She writes in Dutch and English.
All three writers are alumni of the prestigious Civitella Ranieri writing fellowship. While Elnathan and Abubakar became Civitella Fellows in 2015, Chika Unigwe won the fellowship in 2008.
It is a good year for fast rising independent publishers in Nigeria. Two of the three shortlisted books (Season of Crimson Blossoms and Born on a Tuesday) were published in Nigeria by Cassava Republic. Cassava Republic, was established in 2006 by Bibi Bakare Yusuf to change the way people think of African literature, seeing as many African writers are being published in Europe and America. Cassava Republic although small, has opened a branch in the UK and looks to do the same in the US.
Who will go home with the $100,000 NLNG prize money? Elnathan? Abubakar? Or will Chika Unigwe make history?
We keep our fingers crossed for the announcement tomorrow.