The Girl with Louding Voice by Abi Dare, The Son of the House by Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia, and Colours of Hatred by Obinna Udenwe have been announced as the three finalists for The Nigeria Prize for Literature 2021. The prize is worth USD$100,000. Chair of the Advisory Board, Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, made the announcement at a virtual press conference on August 27, 2021.
The novels were selected out of a long list of 11, announced recently by the board from 202 entries received for the 2021 competition that focuses on Prose Fiction. All three novels centre on strong female characters, different unraveling 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 is forced out of poverty to marry at an early age to an elderly polygamous man. Her marriage to the man is 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. Also, it seeks 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 cross during captivity. But they soon realize their path has 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 lives 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 centers around the protagonist, Leona of the Dinka tribe, who ends up killing 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, ProfessorOlutoyin 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 Arts, 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, describe the novels as full of suspense and intrigue. They state 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 an 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 20th 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 KareZvako, (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 Nigeria Prize for Literature 2007 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 the Prize for Literary Criticism, which 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.