Osvalde Lewat Photo/St Chrislin

Osvalde Lewat’s Les Aquatiques was announced the winner of the inaugural Grand Prix Pan Africain de Littérature at a ceremony in Kinshasa, DR Congo on January 24, 2022. There was also a special mention for Rémy Ngamije’s novel The Eternal Audience Of One.

In 2021, DR Congo President Félix Tshisekedi took over as the new head of the African Union and announced the Grand Prix Panafricain de Littérature. The new prize was intended to recognize an author from the continent who has produced a remarkable work in prose or verse touching on fiction written in English and French.

A panel of judges that included Boubacar Boris Diop (Senegal), Ananda Devi (Mauritius), Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Nigeria), Abdourahman Waberi (Djibouti), Buthaina Khidir Mekki (Sudan), Fawzia Zouari (Tunisia), Julien Kilanga Musinde (DRC), William Ndi (Cameroon), and Zukiswa Wanner (South Africa) was announced in September.

The winner for the award was revealed at a ceremony in Kinshasa with special guest President Félix Tshisekedi in attendance yesterday. The winner is Cameroonian writer Osvalde Lewat’s debut novel Les Aquatiques. There was also a special mention for Rémy Ngamije’s debut novel The Eternal Audience Of One.

Les Aquatiques is both the inner portrait of a woman who reveals herself to herself and a deep reflection on the games of power in contemporary African society. Initially, the plot cleverly mixes two quests (a funeral and a death). Osvalde Lewat slips into the skin of the wife of the prefect of the capital of an imaginary country, Zambuena. With Katmé, her heroine, she immerses herself in the small arrangements of an elite who thinks only of herself, and the unfailing friendship that binds her to a high school friend, Samy, an artist. The audacity of the author is palpable.

The characters (Katmé, Samuel, Kizito, the children, Alexandre, etc.) remain convincing, embodied, full, while keeping their share of mystery. And a madness of touching details, rehashed prayers, evoked saints, mobilized rites which gives flesh to this novel of the emancipation of a woman who asserts herself in her difference.  

Osvalde Lewat will receive a diploma, a cash award of US$30,000 and the prize will be awarded to her on the sidelines of the 35th general assembly of the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the African Union scheduled for February in Addis Ababa. Special mention winner Rémy Ngamije goes home with a diploma of merit and US$5,000.