CORA, NLNG celebrate Nigeria Prize for Literature finalists at Grand book party
The city’s literary scene came alive as the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) in conjunction with Nigeria LNG Ltd. hosted a grand book party honouring the longlisted authors of the Nigeria Prize for Literature. The event marked the 14th edition of the Book Party and drew together writers, literary enthusiasts and dignitaries from all walks of life.
In the first public gathering of the writers on the longlist recently released by the panel of judges led by Professor Ameh Dennis Akoh, a Drama and Critical Theory professor at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ebonyi State, the book party featured the readings from the longlisted plays and a panel session with the playwrights who either participated in person or virtually.
Other panel members include Professor Osita Catherine Ezenwanebe and Dr Rasheedah Liman.
Playwrights on the longlist who attended the event include Victor S. Dugga (Gidan Juju), Obari Gomba (Grit), Cheta Igbokwe (Home Coming), Christopher Anyokwu (The Boat People) and Abuchi Modilim (The Brigadiers of a Mad Tribe)
Other authors who attended were Olubunmi Familoni (When Big Masquerades Dance Naked), Olatunbosun Taofeek (Where Is Patient Zero) and Henry Akubuiro (Yamtarawala – The Warrior King).
Abideen Abolaji Ojomu (Ojuelegba Crossroads), Ade Adeniji (Dance of The Sacred Feet) and Bode Sowande (The Spellbinder) joined the panel session virtually.
In his speech read by Ropo Ewenla, a member of the CORA Board, Toyin Akinosho, Secretary General of CORA, emphasised the importance of literary engagement and audience interaction.
He said the idea of a book party sprung from a review of the prize in 2010 when some argued that stakeholders should do more for the publishing industry. He said CORA came up with the book reading event to create an opportunity for the authors to discuss their books with the audience, adding that nothing beats a book reading.
He said further that the prize money of $100,000 makes the competition one of the most keenly contested literary prizes in the world. Still, he added that writers primarily want to distinguish themselves with their writing and be recognised.
He stressed the need for authors to connect with their readers and highlighted the value of events like the Book Party and the forthcoming Lagos Book and Art Festival (LABAF).
Akinosho outlined CORA’s initiatives, including the return of the “BOOKTrek” programme, which features author-audience interactions and readings at various bookstores and cultural spaces.
The LABAF, set to take place from November 14 to 20, 2023, at Freedom Park in Lagos Island, promises to be a platform for writers to engage with readers and explore the theme “Pathways to the Future.” Regardless of who ultimately secures the Nigeria Literature Prize, Akinosho invited all laureates to join the LABAF’s celebratory activities.
In his remarks, the General Manager of External Relations and Sustainable Development at NLNG, Mr Andy Odeh, said the annual book party brings NLNG, the sponsor of the prize, together with the literary community to promote excellence and creativity, and to project outstanding books to Nigerians and the world.
“Nineteen years of successful administration have produced 17 winning works, and over $1 million has been won. This prize stands out as the biggest and most prestigious literary prize in Africa, and one of the world’s biggest and most reputable. We are happy that today presents an opportunity to interact with these 11 playwrights. We are just two steps away from announcing the winner of the $100,000 prize in October.
“We instituted The Nigeria Prize for Literature because we were concerned that standards of reading, writing, editing, proof-reading and publishing were drastically falling in Nigeria, a country that largely founded and dominated the African Writers Series; a country that is also known to have produced reputable writers and winning works. Today, we are glad that Nigeria can showcase great literary works published in Nigeria. Our library and bookshelves have been enriched with many great works by Nigerian writers. The Nigeria Prize for Literature alone has received over 2400 entries in the four genres, many of which are top-quality entries,” he said.
Dame Taiwo Ajai Lycett, a renowned figure in theatre, graced the event as the guest of honour, delivering a poignant speech on the state of Nigerian literature. She highlighted the underappreciated genre of drama, asserting that while poetry and prose often take the spotlight, drama remains a vital form of literary expression in the country.
The celebration showcased the finalists for the prestigious Nigeria Literature Prize, an award that holds the distinction of being the continent’s most substantial cash prize for a literary competition. The event highlighted the partnership between CORA and NLNG, a significant contributor to the Nigerian literary space, as it expands its operations and continues to support the arts.
The event also highlighted the writers’ aspirations for recognition and the opportunity to connect with a broader audience. The prize money, equivalent to $100,000, underscores the significance of the award and the fierce competition it fosters among Nigerian writers.
As the evening unfolded, attendees engaged with the star-studded lineup of authors, through the moderator for the night, Mr Anote Ajeluorou, relishing the unique opportunity to interact with literary luminaries and celebrate the art of storytelling. The event underscored the vibrant literary community in Nigeria and the commitment of organizations like CORA and NLNG to nurture and promote the country’s literary talents.
There was also music, dance and drama to add spice to the evening of literature.
As the sun set on the event, participants left with a renewed appreciation for the power of literature to shape culture and society, and with eager anticipation for the upcoming Lagos Book and Art Festival.
The 11 entries were selected out of 143 for this year’s prize round, which focuses on Drama. The final verdict on the winning entry is expected to be announced in October 2023.
The Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates yearly among four genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature.