Etisalat Prize for Literature 2016 has been announced. Jowhor Ilehas emerged the winner of the prestigious literature prize for first-time fiction writers of African origin.
For his novel And After Many Days, Ile was announced the winner at a prize presentation held Saturday night at the Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos. He received a cash prize of £15,000 and an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen, among several other rewards.
Another Nigerian, Julie Iromuanya, author of the book, Mr & Mrs Doctor, and a South African, Jacqui L’Ange, author of The Seed Thief, emerged the runners-up for the prize.
Ile’s announcement followed the unanimous selection of his book by the judging panel for the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature chaired by multiple award-winning novelist and poet, Helon Habila.
Habila, while congratulating the winner and runners-up, disclosed that the prize-winning book met the required standards of originality, creative excellence and African sensibility, in keeping with the objective of the Etisalat Prize, which is to promote literary excellence in Africa.
Chief Executive Officer, Etisalat Nigeria, Matthew Willsher, congratulated the winner and runners-up, and restated the company’s commitment to continuously offer Nigerians and other Africans the best platforms to express their passion and creativity.
“From the outset, our vision at Etisalat has been to support innovation, creativity and talent development. This is why we have stayed focused on creating platforms that enable people, not only to communicate and stay in touch with one another, but also to express their individual creative abilities in all forms of science and arts,” he said.
Born in 1980 and bred in the city of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Ile took to writing early and has had his short stories published in McSweeney’s Quarterly and Litro Magazine. His 256-page novel, And After Many Days, set in Port Harcourt in the oil-rich Niger-Delta region of Nigeria, tells the story of a family whose 17-year old son and sibling, Paul Utu, goes missing during the rainy season of 1995. Burdened with the sudden loss, the family gets torn apart, as their search for answers uncovers several family secrets.
In addition to the prize money, other rewards for Ile include an Etisalat-sponsored fellowship at the University of East Anglia where he will be mentored by Professor Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland. He and the two runners-up will participate in a multi-city book tour of three African countries also sponsored by Etisalat Nigeria.
Furthermore, Etisalat will purchase 1,000 copies of their books for distribution to schools, libraries and book clubs across Africa.
Past winners of the Etisalat Prize for Literature include Democratic Republic of Congo’s Fiston Mwanza Mujila, for his novel, Tram 83; South African writer, Songeziwe Mahlangu for his novel, Penumbra and Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo for her novel, We Need New Names.