Mariama Bâ

Throwback Thursday: The Noma Award for Publishing in Africa

On this edition of Throwback Thursday we focus on The Noma Award for Publishing in Africa which ran from 1980-2009.For many followers of the literary establishment who could be considered to be younger, many believe that publishing in Africa started in 2000. This was the year that Leila Aboulela was awarded the first Caine Prize for African writing at the Nairobi Book Fair. This prize given by the estate of a late Englishman has been considered to be the main way of identifying the next big writer to come out of the continent. The prize would go on to be won by Hellon Habila and Binyavanga Wainaina kicking off a new wave of writing from the continent.

There was another prize that started at the beginning of a decade that was sponsored by someone who wasn’t African that influenced our writing in a big way. The year was 1980 and prize was the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa known in French as Le Prix Noma de Publication en Afrique.

The prize, worth $10,000, was established in 1979 by Shoichi Noma, the president of Kodansha Ltd, the largest publishing house in Japan, to encourage the publication of works by African authors. The award was annual and given to any new book published in three categories: literature, juvenile and scholarly. Books were admissible in any of the languages of Africa, whether local or European. He would pass in 1984 making it another prize named after a late non-African influencing our literature. The award was ended in 2009 after the Noma family ceased its sponsorship.

So who won the award in the years that it was running? Well the most influential of writers for their time. The award winners wrote in English, French, Arabic, and Gikuyu. and women featured a lot. The more recent winners are names we see around a lot like Sefi Atta the last winner in 2009, as well as Lebogang Mashile, and Shimmer Chinodya.

Lebo Mashile
Lebo Mashile

Then there were the names from previous times that featured like Mariama Bâ the first winner in 1980, as well as Meshack Asare, Mongane Wally Serote, Njabulo Ndebele, Chenjerai Hove, Niyi Osundare, Werewere Liking, and Hamdi Sakkut.

Below is the full list of the winners from 1980 to 2009 and their works of literature.

1980: Une Si Longue Lettre by Mariama Bâ

1981: Health Education for the Community by Felix C. Adi

1982: The Brassman’s Secret by Meshack Asare

1983: Criminal Procedure in Ghana by Austin N.E. Amissah

1984: Mesandiki wa Mau Mau Ithaamirio-in [prison memoirs in Gikuyu] by Gakaara wa Wanjau, Fools and other stories by Njabulo Ndebele

1985: La Trahison de Marianne by Bernard Nanga 1986: Sobreviver em Tarrafal de Santiago [poetry] by António Jacinto

1987: Villes de Côte d’Ivoire, 1893-1940 by Pierre Kipré

1988: Working Life. Factoris, Townships, and Popular Culture on the Rand, 1886-1940 by Luli Callinicos

1989: Bones by Chenjerai Hove

1990: Uprooting Poverty: The South African Challenge by Francis Wilson & Mamphela Ramphele

1991: Waiting Laughters [poetry] by Niyi Osundare

1992: A comme Algériennes by Souad Khodja; One Day, Long Ago. More Stories from a Shona Childhood by Charles Mungoshi, illustrated by Luke Toronga

1993: Third World Express by Mongane Wally Serote

1994: A Modern Economic History of Africa. Volume 1: The Nineteenth Century (Dakar: CODESRIA, 1993)

1995: Triomf by Marlene van Niekerk

1996: Destins paralleles by Kitia Toure

1997: Mfantsipim and the Making of Ghana: A Centenary History, 1876-1976 by A. Adu Boahen

1998: The Politics of Liberation in South Sudan: An Insider’s View by Peter Adwok Nyaba

1999: L’interpretation des reves dans la region Senegambienne. Suivi de la clef des songes de la Senegambie de l’Egypte pharaonique et de la tradition islamique by Djibril Samb.

2000: Ufundishaji wa Fasihi: Nadharia na Mbinu by Kimani Njogu & Rocha Chimera

2001: Odun Ifa/Ifa Festival by Abosede Emanuel

2002: The Arabic Novel: Bibliography and Critical Introduction, 1865-1995 by Hamdi Sakkut

2003: Walter and Albertina Sisulu. In Our Lifetime by Elinor Sisulu 2004:

In 2004 the jury decided not to select a winner, but did give four titles Honourable Mention: The Cry of Winnie Mandela by Njabulo Ndebele The Plays of Miracle and Wonder by Brett Bailey Lanre and the Queen of the Stream by Tunde Lawal-Solarin A Dictionary of Yoruba Personal Names by Adeboye Babalola & Olugboyega Alaba

2005: La mémoire amputée by Werewere Liking

2006: In a Ribbon of Rhythm by Lebogang Mashile

2007: Strife by Shimmer Chinodya

2008: Beginnings of a Dream by Zachariah Rapola

2009: Lawless and Other Stories by Sefi Atta

This list shows that there was a vibrant literary community before that famous English based prize showed up.

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