By Prisca Sam-Duru

The Advisory Board for the Nigeria LNG-sponsored The Nigeria Prize for Literature, has announced “The Girl With The Louding Voice” by Abi Dare; “The Son Of The House” by Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia and “Colours of Hatred” by Obinna Udenwe as finalists for the 2021 competition.

The announcement was made by the Chair of the Advisory Board for the Prize, Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo during a virtual press conference held Friday, August 27, 2021.

The announcement followed the longlist of 11 books released recently out of 202 entries on prose fiction, received for the Prize.

The Nigeria Prize for Literature, Africa’s most prestigious literary award, rotates yearly amongst four literary categories: prose fiction, poetry, drama, and children’s literature.

The three shortlisted novels revolve around strong female characters, different unravelling circumstances and experiences of women in the modern world.

‘The Son of the House’ is a profoundly unconventional novel that portrays the lives of two women in different worlds whose paths crossed during captivity. But they soon realised their path had earlier crossed at various points. The stories of Nwabulu, a one-time housemaid and now a successful fashion designer, and Julie, an educated woman who lived through tricks, deceits, and manipulations, are told through a mosaic plot structure against the backdrop of modernity and traditional patriarchy, poverty, and neglect.

‘The Girl with the Louding Voice’, tells the story of a girl-child from a first-person narrative mode. It unravels the plight of Adunni, a girl-child, who was forced out of poverty to marry at an early age to an elderly polygamous man. Her marriage to the man was for her to raise funds for her father’s survival. In essence, the novel also tackles the issue of early marriage, child sexual abuse, childlessness in marriage, and domestic violence, while at the same time, beaming the light on the urgent need for female bonding or sisterhood in transcending the constraints in the life of women.

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The third novel in the shortlist of three is Colours of Hatred. This confessional tale centres on the protagonist, Leona of the Dinka tribe, who ended up killing her father-in-law. The novel is a thriller that explores love, hatred, war, revenge, oppression, extra-judicial killings, military rule, displacement, and exile with attendant tensions that leave lasting emotional scars through introspection and re-telling of the story.

The judges who will decide the winning novel, which will be announced in October 2021, disclosed that the selection of the three novels was unanimous.

The judges, in their report, described the novels as full of suspense and intrigue. They stated that the novels “tell human and indeed universal stories of rural as against urban life, suffering and survival, loss and redemption, decline and renaissance, destruction and reconstruction, and death and rebirth.”

The chairperson of the panel of judges, Professor Olutoyin Jegede, is a Professor of Literature in English at the University of Ibadan. Other panel members include Professor Tanimu Abubakar, a Professor of Literature in the Faculty of Art, Ahmadu Bello University, and Dr. Solomon Azumurana, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Lagos.

The Advisory Board of the Prize also announced the appointment of the International Consultant for this year’s prize, TsitsiDangarembga, an acclaimed Zimbabwean author. Her first novel, Nervous Conditions (1988), was hailed as one of the most important novels of the twentieth century and was included in the BBC’s 2018 list of the 100 books that shaped the world. Her novels, The Book of Not (2006) and This Mournable Body (2018) were longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020. Her plays have been performed at the University of Zimbabwe, and her short musical Kare KareZvako, (Mother’s Day, 2005) was screened at Sundance. Her films have also received international recognition.

The chair of the board, Professor Adimora-Ezeigbo, is a professor of English. She won the 2007 Nigeria Prize for Literature in the Children’s Literature category, alongside Mabel Segun. Other members of the Advisory Board are Professor Olu Obafemi, the 2018 recipient of the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM), playwright, poet and Professor of English at the University of Ilorin, and Professor Ahmed Yerima, a professor of Theatre and Performing Arts, a playwright, theatre director, and a 2006 Laureate of The Nigeria Prize for Literature.

The award will run concurrently with NLNG’s Prize for Literary Criticism. The literary criticism prize carries a monetary value of N1 million.

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