By Prisca Sam-Duru
As a literary genre, drama has been known for ages to be instructive, educative, informative, and above all, entertaining. Its use of dialogue as a unique feature makes it quite interactive, engaging and attention-arresting.
While this branch of literature plays significant roles in fostering socio-cultural and religious integration in the society, it most often, serves as a tool for correction and, criticizing political leaders through its use of irony, comic, sarcasm and satire.
Drama oftentimes, presents itself as an antidote to stress; physical, mental and emotional stress.
Whether reading or watching play, people derive pleasure; their feelings are aroused especially when the act is spell-binding.
This is why drama is therapeutic as the audience find themselves laughing away their worries.
Of a fact, when staged, drama helps to build and develop confidence and curb stage fright in people. This is reason, Nigeria’s quintessential author and academic, Prof Akachi Ezeigbo, noted that “Drama enhances individual and group communication skills”.
Theatrical performances from the early ages to the medieval period, served as a viable means for producers to make revolutionary changes on the society.
The importance of drama cannot be over-emphasised as evident in works of pioneering figures in Nigerian theatre history such as Hubert Ogunde, known as the father of Nigerian theatre who opened the doors in 1945; Duro Ladipo and Moses Olaiya Adejumo popularly known as Baba Sala, etc.
Interestingly, at some point in the 60s, these pioneer thespians began publishing their plays in magazine format so people could also read them as literary dramas. Along came authors like Professor Wole Soyinka who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986. He has made tremendous impact on the entire globe as a playwright.
Upon his return from England, he founded an acting company and wrote his first important play, ‘A Dance of the Forests’ which was produced in 1960 and published in 1963 for the Nigerian independence celebrations. Other plays- ‘The Lion and the Jewel’, ‘The Trials of Brother Jero’, etc, followed.
Nigeria boasts of numerous playwrights who have written their names in gold, among whom are; late Ola Rotimi, Ben Tomoloju, Late Rasheed Badamosi, Ahmed Yerima (2006 winner of the Nigeria Prize for Literature in drama category); Dr Esiaba Irobi (2010 winner of the Nigeria Prize for Literature in Drama category); Chidubem Iweka(whose ‘August Inmates’ made the longlist of the 2018 The Nigeria Literature Prize; Sam Ukala whose drama ‘Iredi War’ won the Nigeria Prize for Literature 2014; Soji Cole, won same prize in same drama category in 2018, to mention but a few.
These iconic playwrights, whose works have been re-enacted several times on local and international stage, have effected dramatic changes in the society. A lot still needs to be done with this aspect of creativity even as Nigeria struggles for survival. This is reason, drama must not be allowed to be relegated to the background as it appears to have been swallowed up by prose.
Its heart-warming therefore that it is the turn of drama to shine once more in the 19th edition of the Nigeria Prize for Literature; with a whopping $100,000 from Nigeria LNG’s treasury up for grabs.
The Prize, established in 2004 and sponsored by the Nigeria LNG has endured in its commitment to improve the quality of writing, editing, proof-reading, and publishing in the country with far–reaching positive effect on print, broadcast journalism, film and theatre production.
This year’s competition which focuses on drama no doubt, serves as a real boost. $100,000 is quite a huge reward for the winning book. It will help reawaken the morale of authors to express themselves more in this genre as well as improve on theatre-going culture of the people. And speaking about theatre-going culture, production outfits such as BAP, Duke of Shomolu, Hornbill House of Culture, Crown Troupe of Africa and few others must be commended for helping to keep the theatre alive through staging of musical dramas and re-enactment of some classics.
This edition of the coveted literature prize, as is customary, begins with the call for entries by the Advisory Boards for The Nigeria Prize for Literature and The Nigeria Prize for Literary Criticism, sponsored by Nigeria LNG (NLNG) Limited. The Call for Entries for the Literature prize and Literary Criticism will close on 31st March 2023 . From the total number of entries that will be received, best 11 will emerge. It will later be pruned down to 3 finalists and then, a winner, if any, will be announced.
The Literature prize, which is now in its 19th year, as earlier mentioned, comes with a cash prize of $100, 000 while the Prize for Literary Criticism has prize money of $10,000. The prize, honouring the author of the best book by a Nigerian, rotates among four literary genres, namely Prose Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Children’s Literature. The Literary Criticism Prize, which also aims to promote Nigerian Literature, will receive entries on works in literary criticism of Nigerian Literature, especially critical essays on new writings in Nigerian Literature.
This edition, like the previous ones, parades an array of professionals as panel of judges, with Professor Ameh Dennis Akoh as chair of judges for both Literature and the Literary Criticism competition. Professor Akoh is a Professor of Drama and Critical Theory at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ebonyi State, with over 50 publications in refereed local and international journals and books. Other panel members include Professor Osita Catherine Ezenwanebe and Dr. Rasheedah Liman. Professor Ezenwanebe is a professor of Creative Arts, the University of Lagos while Dr. Liman is a Senior lecturer at the Department of Theatre and Performing Arts, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, Kaduna State.
The Advisory Board chaired by Prof Akachi Ezeigbo, also announced Prof Victor K. Yankah from the Department of Theatre and Film Studies, the University of Cape Coast, Ghana as the International Consultant.
The winners of the Nigeria Prize for Literature and the Nigeria Prize for Literary Criticism, if any, will be announced at an award ceremony in October 2023 to commemorate the anniversary of the first LNG export from the NLNG’s Plant on October 9, 1999. The Nigeria Prize for Literature is one of the Prizes through which Nigeria LNG contributes towards helping to build a better Nigeria.
The situation with drama calls for more collaborations between playwrights, theatre and screen producers. This will not only keep them in ‘business’ but also inject life into this branch of literature; it will rekindle people’s interest in reading.
Considering how much interest the NLNG has shown through its support for the creative industry, throwing their weight behind such productions would be a delight. An enactment of the winning drama, for instance, with the Nigeria LNG’s support will have a tremendously impact on drama. Such stage performances will also create jobs for our teeming unemployed but very talented youths.
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