By Irene Gaitirira
Published June 8, 2017
A Nigerian writer has won the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature.
And After Many Days, a novel by Jowhor Ile, earned £15000 prize money, an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen, and an Etisalat-sponsored fellowship at the University of East Anglia in Britain in a ceremony held in the Nigerian commercial capital, Lagos, on May 20, 2017.
As part of the prize for winning the Etisalat literary prize for first-time novelists of African origin, Jowhor Ile will be mentored by Professor Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland.
A three-member judging panel headed by Nigerian novelist and poet, Helon Habila, unanimously selected Ile’s novel as the winning book among the three shortlisted titles: Mr & Mrs Doctor by Julie Iromuanya of Nigeria, The Seed Thief by Jacqui L’Ange of South Africa and And After Many Days by Jowhor Ile.
The 256-page And After Many Days is set in Port Harcourt in the oil-rich Niger-Delta region of Nigeria where Ile was born in 1980, bred and took to writing. It is the tale 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 is torn apart, as their search for answers uncovers several family secrets.
Habila, speaking on behalf of the jury that also included Edwige-Renée Dro and Elinor Sisulu, said Ile’s novel 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.
“From the outset, our vision at Etisalat has been to support innovation, creativity and talent development. This is why we have stayed focused on providing platforms that enable people, not only communicate and stay in touch with one another, but also to express their individual creative abilities,” said Matthew Willsher, Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat Nigeria.
As part of the annual prize, Ile and the two runners-up,Iromuanya and L’Ange, will participate in an Etisalat-sponsored multi-city book tour as Etisalat buys 1000 copies of their books for distribution to schools, libraries and book clubs across Africa.
Past winners of the Etisalat Prize for Literature include Congo-Kinshasa’s Fiston Mwanza Mujila (2015), South Africa’s Songeziwe Mahlangu (2014) and Zimbabwe’s NoViolet Bulawayo (2013).