* We can build a brighter future where the power of words, ideas knows no bounds, says Qfest Conever, Shasore
* Nigeria is teeming with abundant poetry talent, says Kenyan culture journalist, Murua
By Anote Ajeluorou
THE stage of the Ballroom of Eko Hotel, venue for Quramo Festival of Words, literally exploded on Friday and Sunday nights respectively when two writers emerged winners from two competitions from festival organisers. The contests were the flagship Quramo Writers’ Prize (QWP) and Poetry Slam competition. As the festival curtains drew to a close on Sunday night, judges for the star competition of the festival – Quramo Writers’ Prize – read citations of the five shortlisted fiction manuscripts before the eventual winner, Chiziterem Chijioke, was announced. She won with her manuscript entitled Dear Zini.
The Quramo Writers’ Prize jury made up of head judge, writer and publisher, Dr. Eghosa Imasuen, literary scholar, Mrs. Lechi Eke and journalist and writer, Mr. Anote Ajeluorou, said of winning story: “Dear Zini is a poignant exploration of a young woman’s journey through life’s unexpected twists and turns. The manuscript skillfully employs the first-person point of view to immerse readers in Zimife’s world, capturing the nuances of her emotional rollercoaster with authenticity. The narrative’s originality shines through its portrayal of contemporary issues in Lagos, Nigeria, including unplanned pregnancy and the societal pressures that follow. The coherence of the story is maintained as it delves into the complexities of relationships, family dynamics, and the search for identity.
“Zimife’s character is a testament to the writer’s talent for creating relatable and multidimensional protagonists. Her struggles with depression and the desire for acceptance make her a compelling and sympathetic figure. The language employed effectively conveys the depth of her emotions, drawing readers into her inner turmoil. The dramatic intensity steadily builds as Zimife navigates her challenges, and her evolving relationships with Jereme, Belema, and Ned add depth to the narrative. The writing sample masterfully captures the emotional depth of the story, particularly in the scene where Zimife confides in Belema. The evocative descriptions of the setting and Belema’s character bring the scene to life.
Quramo Writers’ Prize (QWP) jury head, Dr. Eghosa Imasuen (left); jury member, Mrs. Lechi Eke; Qfest Convener, Mrs. Gbemi Shasore; QWP winner, Chiziterem Chijoke displaying her cheque and plaque; Director, Qfest 2023, Lolade Alaka and jury member, Mr. Anote Ajeluorou
“In summary, Dear Zini offers a compelling narrative that explores themes of love, friendship, and self-discovery against the backdrop of contemporary Nigerian society. The manuscript’s originality, coherence, narrative strength, language, and dramatic intensity make it a deserving contender for the Quramo Writers’ Prize.”
Jury head, Imasuen, gave its assessment of the works it evaluated when he said, “Our journey began with great enthusiasm and anticipation as we embarked on the meticulous task of evaluating twenty manuscripts. These submissions, all meticulously anonymized to ensure impartiality, were carefully assessed based on the five key parameters we emphasized earlier: originality, literary quality, thematic depth, character development, and overall impact. The diverse voices and narratives that graced our judging table served as a testament to the vibrant literary landscape that our contemporary writers inhabit.
“After several weeks of rigorous assessment and scoring, we emerged with a shortlist of five exceptional manuscripts. These works not only demonstrated remarkable creativity but also captured the essence of storytelling in distinct and compelling ways. The shortlisted authors deserve commendation for their dedication and artistic vision. Subsequently, our dedicated panel of judges spent an additional two weeks engaging in spirited discussions, meticulously evaluating, and ranking these five outstanding works. It is with great pleasure that we announce that we have now arrived at a decision—a decision that reflects the essence of this literary prize and the standards it upholds.”
Truth Bakare’s Summer Blooms came second while Mujahid Ameen Lilo for Landscape of Loss came third. The other two works that made it to the last five are Zainab Imam’s The Lagos Love Story and Vera Sorochi David’s Walking with Abba. Chijoke was awarded the cash prize of N1m and a handsome publishing contract for her work, Dear Zini.
Chijoke was excitement at winning the coveted writers’ prize and expressed her gratitude to the organisers of Quramo Festival of Words. She said it was her third time entering for the prize and was glad she won this time around.
Also, 20 male and female poets lit up the stage with poetic vibes at the Quramo Poetry Slam competition that was part of the festival as they outdid each other to clinch the N100,000 prize money on offer while second place went to Saheed Sunday, who gave a good poetic account of himself. He got N50,000 for his efforts by popular demand from the audience, as it was a winner-takes-all contest. After over two hours of slamming, Afolabi Olayinka-Bello, (stage named Bespoke) finally got the nod of the audience that included writers, journalists and poetry enthusiasts such Jude Idada, Ajeluorou, Kenyan James Murua and the Convener of Quramo Festival of Words, Mrs. Gbemi Shasore and Festival Director, Lolade Alaka, among others. Olayinka-Bello’s poetry pieces that got him the slam prize included ‘The Protest’, ‘Lagos Palava’, ‘Parental Guidance’, ‘Redemption Computed’ and ‘The Price for Redemption’. Among the other contestants was fast-rising writer and performer, Achalugo Chioma Ilozumba, winner of Beeta Universal Arts Foundation’s playwright contest with her play, Daughters of the East.
Kenyan culture journalist, festival guest and publisher of the literary blog, WritingAfrica, Mr. James Murua, was excited at the exceptional performances of all the poets and admitted that Nigeria is indeed a powerhouse of African poetry. He noted that in his country, Kenyan, perhaps only a handful of poets, say about seven, would have shown up to participate in the contest, adding, “Nigeria is teeming with abundant poetry talents. This is incredible.”
Mrs. Aduke Gomez (left); Mr. Segun Aribisala; Poetry Slam second place, Mr. Saheed Sunday; Qfest Convener, Mrs. Gbemi Shasore; Poetry Slam winner, Mr. Afolabi Olayinka-Bello (Bespoke) and Qfest 2023 Director, Lolade Alaka PHOTOS: BEULAH WOKOMA
While declaring Qfest 2023 closed, its convener Mrs. Gbemi Shasore said through the power of words there was the possibility of building a better, brighter society. The festival had as theme ‘Connecting the Dots’, as part of efforts to connect creatives across the African continent and beyond for better, enhanced artistic and cultural relationships.
According to her, “As we bask in the glory of this grand finale, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the tireless efforts of the festival planning committee, our sponsors, partners, management and staff of Quramo, and all those who have contributed to making QFest 2023 a resounding success. Your dedication and hard work have been the driving force behind the magic of these past few days. Your commitment to nurturing the literary arts and culture is truly commendable, and we thank you for your invaluable contributions.
“As we bid farewell to QFest 2023, let us carry with us the knowledge, inspiration and connections we have forged during this incredible journey. Let us continue to connect the dots, not only within our literary and cultural landscapes, but also within our hearts and minds. Together, we can build a brighter future where the power of words and ideas knows no bounds. May this festival be a source of inspiration, knowledge and joy for all who have attended.”
And on Sunday when the festival came to a close, the audience that was made up of secondary school students from Vivian Fowler College, Lagos, and diplomats were treated to the presentation of the star prize award – the Quramo Writers’ Prize after Festival Convener, Mrs. Shasore had the Q Conversation with the founder of Society of Performing Arts of Nigeria (SPAN), Mrs. Sarah Boulus.