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2012 and Nigerian Literature: The Year in Review

By ZODML on 28 Feb, 2013

Happy New Year!
2012 was a good year for Nigerian literature and we hope to see much more achieved in 2013. This is a look at some of its best books, events and personalities - if we've missed anything, let us know by posting a comment.



The year started with the Nigerian government's announcement of the removal of the subsidy on fuel which sparked protests across the country and prompted 2007 Man Booker International Prize winner Chinua Achebe and 37 other Nigerian authors (including 1993 Commonwealth Writers' Prize winner Isidore Okpewho, Caine Prize and 2003 Commonwealth Writers' Prize winner Helon Habila and 2009 Caine Prize winner E.C. Osondu to issue a statement of solidarity with the Nigerian people in which they urged President Jonathan to address Nigeria's difficulties.
The Ghost of Sani Abacha by Chuma Nwokolo was published this month and Creative Alliance started a literary competition called Literary Star Search with a one million naira prize.


In February many writers gathered at the National Arts Theatre in celebration of Onuora Nzekwu's 84th birthday, fiftieth wedding anniversary and the publication of his new book Troubled Dust. Nzekwu is the author of the children's classic Eze Goes to School.
The month also saw the maiden editions of the ABC Literary Café and Kachifo Limited's New African Writing, a programme which is expected to provide an opportunity for emerging African writers to showcase their work.




Eyes of a Goddess by Ukamaka Olisakwe was published in March as was The Spider King's Daughter by Chibundu Onuzo. Onuzo's book, which was published by Faber and Faber, went on to be shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize.




The annual Nigeria International Book Fair was held in May at the University of Lagos. It is the biggest book fair in Africa today and the flagship event of the Nigerian Book Fair Trust, an organisation of the major stakeholders in the Nigerian book sector, including the Nigerian Publishers Association, Nigerian Book Foundation, Nigeria Booksellers Association, Association of Nigerian Printers, Nigerian Library Association, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and the Association of Non-Fiction and Academic Authors of Nigeria.

Also in May, Jekwu Anyaegbuna won the 2012 Commonwealth Prize (African Region) for his story "Morrison Okoli (1955 -2010)".


Segun Olusola, actor and playwright, died in June. Olusola was best known for the Village Headmaster, the popular television drama series that he created. He was also the founder of the African Refugees Foundation.

Biyi Bandele, author of The Street and Burma Boy among others, directed the film adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie's Orange Prize winning novel Half of a Yellow Sun starring Chiwetel Ejiofor in one of the lead roles.




In July Rotimi Babatunde was announced as the winner of the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story "Bombay's Republic". The story, which was initially published in the Mirabilia Review, was described by the judges as "ambitious, darkly humorous and in soaring, scorching prose exposes the exploitative nature of the colonial project and the psychology of Independence."




The 2010 Carl Brandon Kindred Award was presented in August to Nnedi Okorafor for her novel Who Fears Death.
Farafina Trust held a creative writing workshop in Lagos which was organized by Chimamanda Adichie.




South African author Sifizo Msobe won the 2012 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa. Msobe's debut novel Young Blood beat off competition from the other shortlisted novels: Akachi Adimora'sRoses and Bullets and Bridget Pitt'sThe Unseen Leopard.
Also in September, Dada Books published The Funeral Did Not End by Sylva Nze Ifedigbo.




The Garden City Literary Festival, organised by the Rainbow Book Club and sponsored by the Rivers State Government, took place in October. The old (Wole Soyinka, Elechi Amadi, Gabriel Okara) and the new (Chibundu Onuzo) names in Nigerian literature were in attendance. The theme for the festival was "Women in Literature" and six of the eight discussed books were written by female authors, many of whom - including Doreen Baingana and Lola Shoneyin - participated in its many events. Port Harcourt, the festival's host city, was named UNESCO World Book Capital for the year 2014.
Nnedi Okorafor won the 2012 Black Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Literature (Fiction) for her novel Zahrah the Windseeker.


The winner of the 2012 Nigeria Prize for Literature was announced in November: Chika Unigwe triumphed over a strong shortlist to win the prize for her novel On Black Sisters' Street.

ANA also announced the winners of its various prizes: the ANA Prose Fiction Prize went to Odili Ujubuono for Pride of the Spider Clan; the ANA Poetry Prize went to Umari Ayim for Inside My Head; the ANA Prize for Drama went to Sunnie Ododo for Hard Choice; the ANA/Esiaba Irobi Prize for Playwriting went to Nnamdi Okose for Children of the River; the ANA/Gabriel Okara Poetry Prize went to Karo Okokoh for Songs of a Griot; the ANA/NECO Teen Author went to Nuela Ononye for Behind the Dust and the ANA/Latern Prize went to Camillus Chima Ukah for Nkechi the Heroine.

The 14th Lagos Book and Art Festival organised by the Committee for Relevant Art was held this month, as was the 4th Coal City Book Convention (CCBC) organised by the Delta Book Club founded by Dilibe Onyema, author of Nigger at Eton.


In December the Sunday edition (IoS) of the Independent, a British newspaper, listed There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra by Chinua Achebe as one of its Books of the Year 2012 (Biography and Memoir) and referred to it as "the book that we've been waiting for since 1967, and the start of the Biafran War."
Harmattan Haze on an African Spring by Wole Soyinka, A Bit of Difference by 2009
Noma Award for Publishing in Africa
and 2006 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa winner Sefi Atta and Lasgidi Blues by Olufunto Oluwafemi were all published this month.
The second annual Mua'azu Babangida Aliyu Colloquium organised by the Niger State Government was held in Minna. The Cyprian Ekwensi Library was commissioned and Mua'azu Babangida Aliyu, the governor of Niger State, gave ten million naira to the Association of Nigerian Authors for the establishment of the Nigerian Writers Series.

This piece was first posted on January 23, 2013.

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