By Prisca Sam-Duru
In the tradition of the Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG) in union with the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), the 2021 edition of CORA/The Nigeria Prize for Literature Book Party in honour of the eleven shortlisted authors for the Nigeria Prize for Literature, NPL, 2021, held Sunday, August 8, 2021.
The Book Party which failed to hold in 2020 due to the outbreak of Corona Virus pandemic was 12th in the series. And it held with total observance of Covid-19 protocols at Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos as well as on a digital platform.
The event followed the announcement of a longlist of 11 books out of 202 entries on prose fiction, received for the Prize, last month. The shortlisted authors and their books include; Neglected by Lucy Chiamaka Okwuma, The Colours of Hatred by Obinna Udenwa, The Girl with The Louding Voice by Abi Dare, The Return of Half- Something by Chukwudi Eze, The Son of The House by Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia and Your Church My Shrine by Law Ikay Ezeh.
Others in the competition are; Delusion of Patriots by Obianuju Chukwuorji, Give Us Each Day by Samuel Monye, Imminent River by Anaele Ihuoma, In The Name of Our Father by Olukorede Yishau and Mountain of Yesterday by Tony Nwaka.
A shortlist of three is expected in September from which a winner will be announced by the advisory board for the prize chaired by Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, in October. The winner receives a cash prize of $100,000.
The event featured music and book readings by Francis Onwochei, Bimbo Manuel, Tina Mba and Charles Ukpong while the shortlisted authors took turns to field questions from the moderator in a most interactive session.
In her opening speech, General Manager, External Relations, Nigeria LNG Limited, Eyono Fatayi-Williams, disclosed that the event provided her some sense of relief and upliftment, knowing that the Nigeria LNG-sponsored literature and science prizes are back on course after Covid-19 pandemic stalled the call for entries for the 2020 edition of the competitions.
Fatayi-Williams further said that “As has been our practice, this annual Book Party which connects Nigeria LNG, the sponsor of The Nigeria Prize for Literature, with the esteemed literary community, provides a cursory insight into the quality of works selected by the panel of judges.
“The Book Party has assumed a life of its own in the administration of the prize, as it showcases to Nigerians the top eleven books for each competition year. Although the competition was truncated last year following the restrictions occasioned by the pandemic which hampered submission of entries within the allowed window, we still found the courage to organise the Book Party, given the huge derivable value that connecting hearts and minds offers our creative thoughts”.
The Nigeria Prize for Literature runs a four-year cycle between Drama, Prose Fiction, Poetry and Children’s Literature, and to date, according to Fatayi-Williams, the prize has recorded well over 2,200 entries and celebrated 12 winning works.
Considering the volume of work inspired by the prize within the past 16 years, Fatayi-Williams hinted that “Nigeria LNG has used The Nigeria Prize for Literature to stimulate interest in writing and publishing excellent works. The prize has also contributed to popularising Nigerian Literatures in the global literary community, as our celebrated works compare favourably with other distinguished works of literature around the world in terms of content presentation style, structure, and packaging”.
Delivering an opening remark, Secretary General of CORA, Toyin Akinosho, said that it was in response to the urgent need to help elevate the Nigerian book trade and literary scene that the Book Party was initiated, to afford the top laureates an opportunity to engage with the public.
“For what is the worth of the riches when you don’t have an audience?”, Akinosho asked, adding that “That is the reason why we are here to engage! This is like an extension service; take the book to the community”.
“We know of podcast recordings of conversations between authors and moderators; we are aware of mailed excerpts of new books; we know of grand launchings. But nothing beats a Book Reading; an event at which an author sits and discusses his work with readers in the room. Whoever wins the NPL is the most literate Nigerian in the year of his winning”, He said.
Dr Sophia Horsfall, Manager, Corporate Communication and Public Affairs, Nigeria LNG Limited, in her closing remarks, commended Nigerian writers for continuously and ambitiously raising the bar towards winning the $100,000 prize money which The Nigeria Prize for Literature offers and other reputable international prizes.
According to her, “Our interaction tonight brought to life the value of literature to our reading community – enlightenment, entertainment, and education. Listening to the respective authors of the shortlist of eleven, one can tell that these fresh narratives are capable of eliciting scholars and readers’ interest in the books…I implore us all to make time to read each of these books and to savour the excellent writings”.