Jowhor Ile is the winner of the Etisalat Prize for Literature 2016.
There was a buzz at the Federal Palace Hotel in Lagos, Nigeria when the most hype award ceremony in African literature happened on May 20, 2017. The event kicked off with poeting from one of the brightest in the today as Titilope Sonuga gave one of her signature bad ass poems entitled Between The Pages. Her poetry is on another level is our Titilope. Sample this, “we have no past, no present… Tell them, what is not yours is not yours…”
It then went on to the part of the evening where there were plays directed by Ifeoma Fafunwa which depicted scenes from the books that were in the running for the hefty prize. The consensus from those who were tweeting was that the best book award should go to Julie Iromuanya for her book Mr and Mrs Doctor. Would the judges following the directors lead? It would be known soon enough.
The performances then gave way to the official part of the ceremony where the chair of judges Helon Habila alongside his colleagues Elinor Sisulu and Renee Edwige Dro came on stage. After a few remarks by Helon, the time came to know the identity of the winner. It would be Nigerian Jowhor Ile. Jowhor goes home with the UK pounds 15,000 prize money as well as a fellowship at the University of East Anglia, under the mentorship of Giles Foden.
— Lola Shoneyin (@lolashoneyin) May 20, 2017
This win must have come with much joy in the Nigerian literary community as the prize one of the leading companies in their country conceived eluded them. It all started when Noviolet Bulawayo started the pain in 2013 followed by Songeziwe Mahlangu in 2014 and Fiston Mwanza Mujila last year. We can expect to see Nigerian writers take a commanding lead in the Etisalat stakes now that they have owned their own homegrown prize. Unless of course the rest of the continent also ups their game. We’ll be there watching for you in the years that follow.