Prof Tanure Ojaide and Harriet Anena are the joint winners of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature 2018. The announcement was made at a ceremony in Lagos, Nigeria on Sunday, December 9, 2018.
The Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature, worth US$10,000, is awarded every two years to the best book written by anAfrican. Previous winners of the prize include Sefi Atta for Everything Good Will Come in 2006 and NnediOkorafor, Zahrah the Windseeker in 2008. In 2010, Kopano Matlwa (Coconut)and Wale Okediran (Tenants of The House) shared the honours while Sifiso Mzobe won it in 2012 for Young Blood. Akin Bello would take the honours in 2014 for his play The Egbon of Lagos.
This year’s edition of the prize was for poetry and there were 110 submissions from 11 countries on the continent, including Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, and Rwanda. The longlist of nine poets in the running for the prize was announced early in November before the shortlist of three was revealed later in the month. It was judged by a jury chaired by Margaret Busby supported by University of Texas’ Professor Toyin Falola, author of A Month Sweeter than Salt and the Lagos-based international literary scholar, Olu Obafemi.
The winners of the award are Tanure Ojaidefor Songs of Myself and Harriet Anenafor A Nation in Labour which first launched in 2015. Tanure Ojaide is a Nigerianpoet and writer noted for his unique stylistic vision and for his intensecriticism of imperialism, religion, and other issues. He has won major nationaland international poetry awards, including the Commonwealth Poetry Prize forthe Africa Region (1987), the BBC Arts and Africa Poetry Award (1988), twicethe All-Africa Okigbo Prize for Poetry (1988 and 1997), and thrice theAssociation of Nigerian Authors’ Poetry Prize (1988, 1994 and 2004). Songs of Myself is said to be deeply rooted in the indigenous African poetictradition.
Ugandan Harriet Anena has been making a name for herself in recent years being shortlisted for her prose in the Commonwealth Short Story Prize this year and the Short Story Day Africa 2017 longlist. ANation in Labour is described as a collection of social conscience poetrythat paints a picture of the giant politician, the restless citizen, theclueless youth, those struggling to heal from life’s scratches and the ones hunting for words to describe fiery flames of affection.