Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Etisalat Prize for Literature now 9mobile Prize for Literature

Etisalat Prize for Literature now 9mobile Prize for Literature

Following the successful launch of its new brand identity, Nigeria’s most innovative telecommunications company, 9mobile, has equally changed the name of its pan-African literary prize to 9mobile Prize for Literature.

The management of the company affirms that the Prize will continue to underscore the unwavering commitment of the brand to the discovery and nurturing of talent.

According to the Chief Executive Officer, 9mobile, Boye Olusanya, “9mobile, is proud to be at the forefront of promoting creativity and innovation among Nigerians and will continue to support the discovery and growth of home grown talents by creating platforms that help African writers to tell authentic African stories”,
The company revealed that the call for entries for the 2018 edition of the Prize which was announced on July 3, 2017 remains open till September 18, 2017, after which the Judging Panel will screen the submitted entries to select the books that will make the longlist. The entries on the long list will go through a second round of screening in the selection process, and then the judges will announce a shortlist of three finalists ahead of the grand finale/award ceremony in 2018.

The judges for the 2018 edition are Harry Garuba (Chair), Doreen Baingana and Siphiwo Mahala.

To meet the entry criteria, books submitted must have been published 24 months prior to the date of the call for entries. Such books should contain no fewer than 30,000 words and must be the author’s first published fiction book. The author must be an African citizen, but may reside anywhere in the world.

Also, all entries must be submitted by incorporated publishing houses that have existed for three years or more, with registered ISBN or the equivalent, and the publishers must have published a minimum of three authors. A publisher may enter a maximum of three titles. Seven copies of each title entered must accompany the application form, along with an acceptance of the publicity terms of the Prize.
For more information, interested parties can visit the website literature.9mobile.com.ng or @9mobilereads on Twitter and Facebook.

9mobile Prize for Literature is the first pan-African literary prize that celebrates debut African writers of published fiction. The winner receives £15,000, an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen, and a 9mobile-sponsored fellowship at the University of East Anglia, where he or she will be mentored by Professor Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland‘.

The winner and the two runners-up also participate in a multi-city book tour sponsored by 9mobile. 9mobile purchases 1,000 copies of each of the shortlisted titles for distribution to schools, libraries and book clubs across the African continent.

Alongside the 9mobile Prize for Literature is the Flash Fiction Award, an online-based competition open to all African writers of unpublished short stories of no more than 300 words. The winner of the Flash Fiction Award receives £1,000 and a high-end device, while the two runners-up for the Flash Fiction Award receive £500 each in addition to high-end devices.

The 2017 edition of the prestigious literary prize concluded on May 20, 2017 with an award ceremony in Lagos, where Nigerian writer, Jowhor Ile, emerged winner for his debut novel, And After Many Days. Ile is the first Nigerian to win the Prize which was launched in 2013.

New book focuses on the African-Jamaican aesthetic in literature

Lisa Tomlinson's new book, The African-Jamaican Aesthetic: Cultural Retention and Transformation Across Borders, adds to the body of research examining the ways in which diasporic African-Jamaican writers create their works by tapping into the cultural aesthetics of their African and Caribbean roots to interpret their place in their new homes and local cultures abroad.

Tomlinson, a researcher and scholar, who teaches at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, in Kingston, Jamaica, explores the writings of Jamaican pioneers, authors Claude McKay and Una Marson, to highlight their ability to draw from the indigenous knowledges around them to counter the Eurocentric focus in literature in the early 1900s.

She also examines the works of dub poets Lillian Allen, Afua Cooper and Adhri Zhina Mandiela in Canada; and Linton Kwesi Johnson, Jean 'Binta' Breeze and Benjamin Zephaniah in the United Kingdom. Also featured are the writings of novelists Makeda Silvera of Canada and Joan Riley of the UK.

"This study examines the African-Jamaican aesthetic impulse in diasporic dub poetry and fiction, paying particular attention to how these art forms have developed and been mediated in Canadian and British contexts. More specifically, I explore how African-Jamaican cultural productions of the Diaspora are employed as a means of recovering, rearticulating, and remaking cultural identities that have been disrupted by histories of slavery and colonial conquest," notes Tomlinson in the introduction of the book.

She notes, "My research demonstrates how the cultivation of an African-Jamaican aesthetic plays a key role in inspiring community activism, creating cultural spaces, and forging and sustaining cultural identities in Caribbean Diasporas."

Referencing the work of Professor George Dei to help provide the context of her research, Tomlinson notes that according to Dei, "indigenous knowledges provide an anti-colonial framework and constitute a kind of 'knowledge consciousness that arises from the colonised presence'".

"Within an African-Jamaican diasporic framework, these knowledges may include nation language (Patwa), religion, music, dance, folk culture, and ritual, all of which inform African-Jamaican diasporic writing," she notes.

Drawing from her experience as a young child going to school in Canada in the late 1970s and 1980s, Tomlinson notes that it was through the oral tradition that she learnt about her Jamaican heritage and culture.
In school, there was very little reference to Jamaica, the Caribbean, or Africa, and she felt alienated until her Grade 6 teacher introduced Caribbean folk songs into the classroom.
This delighted her, and she was able to translate the Jamaican creole words to her classmates.

The reggae played in her home also fuelled her interest, and in her teenage years, she "came to understand that the various forms of orality that were at the root of my home were so empowering and meaningful because they offered me a means to recentre myself in an environment with which I often felt at odds".
Tomlinson begins her research with an examination of work songs, proverbs, and storytelling. which she views as the "early and instrumental markers of indigenous African-Jamaican aesthetics".

She charts the importance of these folk cultural art forms in the genesis of a national literature of the island.
"Jamaica's rich legacy of oral cultures offers counter-narratives to dominant discourses of the region by reimagining the social realities of African-Jamaican communities, retelling African diasporic histories and restoring social agency," she writes.

Tomlinson examines the African-Jamaican aesthetic, pan-Africanism, and decolonisation in early Jamaican literature mainly in the works of McKay and Marson and crosses over to the Diaspora, where she focuses on the reggae aesthetics, dub, and the literary diaspora.

She also explores gender, race, and class in the chapter "Gendering Dub Culture Across Diaspora: Jamaican Female Dub Poets in Canada and England" and focuses on the writings of novelists in the chapter, " Home Away from Home: The African-Jamaican Aesthetic in Diaspora Novels."

Having lived in Toronto, where she had access to the dub poets Allen, Cooper, and Mandiela, Tomlinson conducts a close examination of their works to highlight the feminist aesthetics therein.

She notes that following in the tradition of Una Marson and Louise Bennett, these three dub poets "all employ an African-Jamaican aesthetic to articulate the social conditions of black women in Africa and the Diaspora and to call for opposition to patriarchal systems of oppression and black male dominance in the private sphere".

To provide a comparative analysis, Tomlinson includes the works of Breeze and does a similar examination in the novels of Silvera and Riley.

What Tomlinson's new book does is to critically examine the ways in which African-Jamaican writers in the Diaspora source their creativity from their homeland, Jamaica, and from their African ancestry, while creating works that mediate their understanding of themselves and their situations in their new home countries, new environments.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Karin Barber : Indelible footprints of British-born Yoruba culture enthusiast


Professor Karin Barber, British national, remains one of the most verdant voices on the rich aspects of the Yoruba language, culture, religion and worldview. Her research interests and works, which spanned decades, speak of her undying affection and affinity with Yoruba cosmology, making her one of the leading anthropologists of repute as far as the Yoruba language and its dynamics are concerned. LiteMag writes about the immense contributions of this 68-year-old British scholar who not only found a home in Nigeria’s South-West but a devotion that is fascinating.

One of the most significant foreign contributors to the study, documentation and dissemination of compelling parts of Yoruba language, culture and episteme is Karen Judith Barber. Barber’s attraction to aspects of Yoruba language and the dynamics of its culture grew through the years, culminating in her celebration as one of the vigorous voices championing the rich signifiers of the Yoruba language, literature and culture.

Eventually appointed a Professor of African Cultural Anthropology in 1999, Barber’s scholarly experimentation and influence in Yoruba literary scholarship started after she changed her research focus, pinpointing her interest in social anthropology at the University College London. Here, she completed a graduate diploma. After her diploma, Barber decided to go to the University of Ife, now known as the Obafemi Awolowo University, here in Nigeria. The depth of scholarship and the significance of Barber’s research endeared her to many teachers, students and enthusiasts of Yoruba culture, language and literature. For her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree, Barber prioritised the role of oral poetic performance in everyday life in Okuku, Osun State. For her, exploring the intrinsic underbellies of the Yoruba language could only open a vista of allure which the Western world may not really understand. Uniquely, Barber refused to recognise that there could be barriers whether created or imagined.

Barber was born on July 2, 1949 to Charles and Barbara Barber. She had her early education at Lawnswood High School, Leeds. After which she attended the Girton College, Cambridge where she studied English and graduated with a First Class Bachelor of Arts. Her academic career has spanned many years of rigour and the fruits of which have become quite beneficial for interdisciplinary engagements. Given her fascinating research interests, Barber became a lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, particularly at the Department of African Languages and Literature. Quite instructive to note is the fact that Barber had taken not just a research interest in Yoruba language but assimilated both the language and culture. She began to employ the language as medium of tutelage. This was between 1977 and 1984. After 1984, Barber returned to the United Kingdom where she worked at the Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham. This she did between 1985 and 1999 before her appointment as Professor of African Cultural Anthropology.

Aside her academic engagements, Barber accepted visiting appointments. These included her time as Preceptor of the Institute of Advanced Study and Research in the African Humanities at Northwestern University in Ilinois, United States of America. She was also Mellon Foundation Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. She rose to become the Vice President of the British Academy which represents the United Kingdom’s academy for the social sciences and the humanities.

Part of the glowing recognitions of Karin Barber’s work and contribution to knowledge, particularly in Yoruba and African studies, was her appointment as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. The Royal Anthropological Institute equally awarded her, in 1991, the “Amaury Talbot Prize for African Anthropology. She also got the Melville J. Herskovits Award. This was given by the African Studies Association. Also the Media Ecology Association recognised her work and bestowed her the Susanne K. Langer Award for Outstanding Scholarship in the Ecology of Symbolic Form.

All these and many others came on the heels of quite seminal works of Barber. These works are largely centred on Yoruba culture, language, literature, civilisation and aesthetics. Some of them include Yorùbá Dùn ún So: a beginners› course in Yorùbá (1985); I Could Speak until Tomorrow: Oriki, Women, and the Past in a Yoruba Town (1991); The Generation of Plays: Yoruba Popular Life in Theater (2000); Africa’s hidden histories: everyday literacy and making the self (2006); The Anthropology of Texts, Persons and Publics: Oral and Written Culture in Africa and Beyond (2007); Print culture and the first Yoruba novel: I.B. Thomas’s ‘Life story of me, Sẹgilọla’ and other texts (2012). Going beyond this, Barber equally took interest in comparative interrogations of “popular culture across sub-Saharan Africa.”

Oral literature and its varied shades of manifestation represent the huge preserve of any people or any moment in their ethos. Finding a rich blend of orality, civilisation and development of the Yoruba people constituted the research interest of Barber. For many enthusiasts of Yoruba language, literature, religion and culture, the contributions of Karin Barber in the study of the people’s cosmology cannot be overemphasised. For Jude Nwabuokei of the postgraduate school of the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, “Karin Barber’s study about the richness of the Yoruba language remains one of her unparalleled contributions to African Studies as a whole. It is not only deep but calls our attention to the fact that we must come to the realisation that there are many un-researched aspects of our literature, language and religion. We must take this seriously and ensure that we do all we can to continue the interrogation.”

During one of the interactions of the former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola’s with Barber, he found the depth of Barber’s commitment to the use of the Yoruba language. Oyinlola was at Buckingham University to read law in 2000 and he wrote a letter in English Language to Barber, informing her that he was Oba Moses Oyinlola’s son and was in the United Kingdom. Oyinlola said he was embarrassed and surprised when Barber replied in impeccable Yoruba language.

She was last in Nigeria between August 23 and August 26, 2010, at the Conference of Black Nationalities, in Osogbo, under the auspices of the Center for Black Culture and International Understanding. At the event, Barber said she saw tourism as a great revenue earner. Culture, she noted, is inseparable from language and averred that everything is mediated through language. “When language is lost, a whole culture is lost. Learning another language brings immense pleasure. Technology can be employed in language retrieval,” she said.

Speaking on her findings about the place of the Yoruba pantheon in relation to the Yoruba community, Barber says that “Yoruba traditional thought an orisa’s power and splendour depend on its having numerous attentive (and wealthy) devotees to glorify its name. An orisa without devotees fades into insignificance as far as the human community is concerned. The devotee can choose, within limits, which orisa she will devote herself to If her original orisa fails to give her what she desires-a child, success in trading, recovery from a protracted illness-she may approach other orisa until she finds one that responds to her request.”

Barber’s major place of research interest was Okuku, an important town in Osun State. According to her, “Yoruba political structures are well known to be of great diversity, and no attempt is being made to generalise the conclusions. However, it is evident that the fundamental political structure of Okuku is similar to that of other Oyo-area towns, though much simpler than that of the big ones. The description of traditional institutions as they have survived to the present day is filled out with oral accounts of them as they were in the nineteenth century. There is not enough evidence to show whether or not they were very different before this period: it seems likely, however, that the turmoil of the nineteenth-century wars heightened characteristics of flexibility and openness which were already present.”

To say Karin Barber contributed to the global appreciation of the Yoruba language is to affirm the obvious. She collapsed walls in bringing out some of the unique richness of Yoruba life, language and lore.

Empowering women through literature

Lindiwe Mavimbela, Duduzile Sokhele, Xolile Ngcobo and Nthabiseng Manana at the Creative Writing Workshop in Duduza last Saturday.

Duduza – Last Saturday, Radical Arts Forum held a workshop with author Duduzile Sokhele to use literature to empower women.
The forum’s secretary, Bheki Radebe, says that their task is to revive theatre and literature.
“This is just one of the programmes we use to achieve our mission.”
Sokhele, a social worker by profession, was born and bred in Duduza.
“I started writing books in 2010 but I didn’t focus on women empowerment until 2013.”
In her latest offering, Within the Private Space of Black South African Women: The Open Secret, she explains how life as a black woman can be full of obstacles.
“It is how we come to terms with our differences and how we overcome our challenges together that makes us strong.”
Sokhele believes that the public library is one of the best resources in the community.
“I am disappointed in the state of this place because I used to study here.
“That is why I will use every avenue available to me, to make this library function to its full capacity.”
She says that people need to realise that the library is not just for children.
“My passion is to get women to read.”
Sokhele explains that she aims to dispel the notion: ‘If you want to hide something from a black person, put it in a book.’
Thirty-five-year-old teacher Xolile Ngcobo came to the workshop after she saw the invite on social media.
“Until now, I did not know that all of us have the potential to be writers.
“Her demonstrations proved to me that we all have a story to tell.”
Ngcobo says the workshop left her inspired enough to start writing.