The Advisory Board for The Nigeria Prize for Literature has announced The Girl with 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 The Nigeria Prize for Literature, worth a $100,000.
Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, the chair of the Advisory Board, made the announcement at a virtual press conference. The novels were selected out of a longlist of 11, announced recently by the board from 202 entries received for the 2021 competition, focussed on Prose Fiction.
All three novels centre on strong female characters, different unravelling circumstances and experiences of women in the modern world.
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. Thus the novel also tackles the issue of early marriage, child sexual abuse, childlessness in marriage, and domestic violence; on the other, the urgent need for female bonding or sisterhood in transcending the constraints in the life of women.
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 third novel in the shortlist of three is Colours of Hatred. This confessional tale centres around the protagonist, Leona of the Dinka tribe, who ended up killing of her father-in-law. The novel is a whodunit 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.
According to the judges, the selection of the three novels was unanimous. The judges will decide the winning novel, which will be announced in October 2021.
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 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 Advisory Board also announced the appointment of the International Consultant for this year’s prize, Tsitsi Dangarembga, 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 Kare Zvako, (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.
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.