Monday, October 09, 2006

Ahmed Yerima wins 2006 Nigeria Prize for Literature

Ahmed Yerima, CEO, National Theatre is the 2006 Nigeria Prize for Literature Laureate
Ahmed Yerima moments after winning the $20,000 2006 NLNG Literature Prize (Drama)


2005 Nigeria Prize for Literature longlisted author (poetry), Chiedu Ezeanah (facing camera) - congratulating 2006 winner, Yerima, moments after the announcement.

Theodora Akachi Ezeigbo, award-winning novelist, short story writer and Professor of English, University of Lagos.


Wale Okediran, medical doctor, parliamentarian, novelist and National President, Association of Nigerian Authors

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I arrived late at the Muson Centre, venue of the 2006 Nigeria Prize for Science and Nigerian Prize for Literature Award Ceremony. I travelled out of Lagos Saturday morning, intending to return in time for the ceremony. The IV said 6:00p.m. I was delayed by a traffic jam along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway (caused by an accident), finally arriving at Muson at a few minutes to 9p.m. I assumed I had missed "most" of the programme, but it turns out I hadn't. I sat at the same table with Uduma Kalu, poet and arts journalist with The Guardian; and Henry Akubuiro, editor of the Sunday Sun Literary Pages. (I was meeting Henry for the first time, though he has published my work in his pages. he actualy informed me that a poem of mine was appearing in the next day's (Sunday October 8) issue of The Sun. (The poem Love & Death appears, beneath an interview with Ivorian writer and animator Veronique Tadjo).

I missed Folake Solanke's keynote speech, but not James Iroha's (Gringory of New Masquerade Fame) rib-cracking "address". Every word Gringory uttered drew hearty laughter, and you could feel the audience hanging on to his every word as if their lives depended on it. Evidently his legendary sense of humour preceded him, and completely intimidated whatever (anti-laughter) defences the audience might have been tempted to deploy. A masterful (& unselfconscious) control of the audience was very evident, and he switched effortlessly between his trademark "Gringoringlish" and proper English as he narrated anecdote after anecdote. The old man certainly hasn't lost anything of the (comic) genius that made The New Masquerade (the TV serial where he played "Gringory"), a hit on the Nigerian Television Authority in the 80s. (You may read a James Iroha interview in the Sun Newspaper here)

I missed the early course(s) of the dinner proper, but made up for it with the red and white wines (that wine, oh that wine!) that still abounded, and I didn't miss out on the main course. . And of course I did not miss the announcement of the 2006 Prize Laureate. Immediately Yerima was announced as winner, Osofisan sprang up from his seat and moved over to Yerima's table to embrace him.

T i d b i t s

* I was surprised to hear that Ahmed Yerima has never won an award in his writing career. He has written several plays, and his work is regularly staged in the country. His play Idemili was staged through August at the National Theatre, Lagos, to flag off the (recently revived) drama season.

*Osofisan has won virtually every winnable award. He is the 2006 winner of the prestigious Fonlon-Nichols Award bestowed annually on an African writer for excellence in creative writing and for contributions to the struggles for human rights. You can read a profile of him on Molara's blog. He has been a Judge of the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa, and a former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA)

*Interestingly, Osofisan handed over to Yerima as CEO of the National Theatre. Osofisan spent four years as the CEO, but sadly seemed to leave the theatre as moribund as he met it. The imposing structure has lain idle for many years now, bereft of theatrical activity (instead serving as a venue for weddings and stand-up comedy shows), in a state of extensive disrepair (leaking roofs, absence of power supply), and under threat of privatisation by the current Government. Yerima's (recent) emergence as helmsman has seen the beginning of a revival (infrastrural and artistic) at the Theatre. But there is of course still a long way to go in recapturing the glory of the architectural masterpiece (its design was taken from the Palace of Culture and Sports in Wama, Bulgaria) built specially for the 1977 International Festival of Black Arts and Culture, FESTAC.

*Emeka Egwuda is a much younger dramatist, and former Chairman of the Lagos chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors; and relatively unknown outside the Lagos literary community. He has published plays and children's books. He was shortlisted for his play Esoteric Dialogues

*Culture Activist Toyin Akinosho in his Artsville column in the Sunday Guardian of September 10 wondered aloud why Osofisan decided to enter for NLNG single-work $20,000. He argued that Osofisan should have left the jostling to younger writers - and instead contented himself with garnering recognition for LIFETIME achievement. It is of course an indisputable fact that Osofisan is Nigeria (perhaps even Africa's) most accomplished playwright after Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka. He has actually produced more plays than Soyinka, and is more widely performed (at leats in Nigeria)

*From next year, the Nigeria Prize for Literature will have a monetary value of $30,000. It is the turn of Children's Literature next year. The prize rotates annually amongst the genres of Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Children's Literature.

4 comments:

Shylle said...

Tolulope o!

How come I never saw you at the NLNG prize night? Was there too, but sat down at the artistes' table. (That explains how people like me, without VIP status like you, get into shows. Thank God for my affiliation to Crown Troupe!)

I agree with you that it was a nice show. Pity that you missed Solanke's speech. Wonderful lady, I must say. As for the wine and the food you spoke highly of, I must say it was crap. Again, the usual "Nigerian mentality" at play. What ever happened to food like amala or eba? Instead I got served, as first course, something that slept on the plate as if it was made of putty. Of course, I didn't touch the darned thing! And the rice, the main course? My dear Iya Basira would have shamed the shameless NLNG cooks! But the chocholate and cup cakes were wonderful. (Remind me to spend this month's salary at Chocolate Royal, abi ki lo n pe sef?)

Yeah, yeah. The show was tight, but it was a little bit overdrawn. I left there immediately the winner was announced. ( Again, the plight of people like me without VIP status. Had to take a cab home. Darned thing cost me N1800! A molue would have been fifty bucks. Standing, of course.)

Love your blog, man. Hilarious. Your writing is definitely greater than the crappy genre called poetry. (You know I have something against poetry.) Channel your energies into something less mundane. (Guess I'd get berated for this, but who gives a f...k? Poetry is crap... like NLNG food!)

Ciao, man.
Shylle.

BOA said...

Hey, Shylle, thanks for dropping by! You're right, the food could have been much better, but, in my opinion, that wine SHOULDN'T have been any "better"... else I might have FLOATED home seeing three of everything...

I also had to take a cab home, instead of the usual bike (I stay in Ikoyi, that's why), but it cost me only N400... so, in other words, you paid N1800 for that meal :))))

I didn't know you had anything against poetry! I want to very boldly put it to you that you don't know what you're missing! :))) Bad poetry is crap, good poetry ain't!

obiazi onyemechi roselyn said...

Yerima has always been a great writer, the play that earned him the award was a great play 'HARD GROUND'.He is also doin g a great job as the CEO of the National Arts Theater.I have always wished Wole Soyinka were my lecturer but thank God one of his student is one of the best lecturer in theatre dept, UNILAG, Yerima.The food wasn't such a bad idea but I think Iya Basira's meal would av flaged the occasion.

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