The Noma Award, sponsored by the Japanese publisher Kodansha Ltd, is given annually to “an outstanding book published in Africa”. South Africa’s Lebo Mashile was the 2006-7 winner. The jury’s citation for Strife reads:
“The brilliance of this powerful and haunting story, in notably innovative form, brings a new dimension to African writing. The novelist reverses the traditional relationship between family and nation, concentrating on the social energies in an African family, rather than the individual or the nation. Powerful and haunting, with memorable portraits of individuals, the story is driven by a deep and distinctive sense of the tragic. The novelist’s psychological sensitivity illuminates the dominant themes of disease and death; and the constant tension between the pull of the past and the aspiration of modernity is expressed in a prose that makes everything original and new, recasting old themes.”
Here’s more from the Noma Award press release:
Shimmer Chinodya has published eight novels novels to date, as well as children’s books, educational texts, and radio and film scripts. His work has appeared in numerous anthologies. He has won many awards, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Africa region). He seeks primarily to present an African worldview, but wants his literature to speak to the world as a whole. He describes his works as “experiments on the effects of time and change on humans, and human relationships tangled in the eternal quest for happiness and fulfilment”.
The Noma Award, under the auspices of UNESCO, will be presented to Shimmer Chinodya at a special ceremony details of which will be announced later.
107 titles, from 66 African publishers, in 12 countries, in 5 languages, were submitted for the 2007 competition. The Jury singled out a further four titles for Honourable Mention.
Room 207 by Kgebetli Moele
Cape Town: Kwela Books, 2006
Set in a dilapidated building in Hillbrow, the notorious suburb of Johannesburg, this novel is preoccupied with the theme of a new South Africa trying to cope with the burden of its past and its ambivalent presence in Africa. The tone is of celebration and mourning, and the writing is very strong, poetic, vivid, and often moving.
At Her Feet by Nadia Davids
(Johannesburg: Oshun Books, 2006)
Created for a one-woman performance, the play is an exceptional piece of work: probing, acutely perceptive, with a superb ear for individual characters’ speech patterns. Dealing with the relationship between women and Islam specifically in the South African context, the material is thought provoking and moving, and the writing distinctive and often poetic.
Le Lièvre et la Pintade by Gina Dick Illustrated by Mossoun Ernest
Teki Abidjan: CEDA & Les Nouvelles Editions Ivoiriennes, 2006
An enchanting children’s story, beautifully illustrated in colour, and published to a high standard in hardback. The story tells how the animals lived in harmony, until the drought struck. The wicked hare breaks ranks and behaves selfishly, until he is finally outwitted by the guinea fowl. Rich in language, the story illustrates the importance and values of loyalty.
Readers’ Theatre: Twelve Plays for Young People by Mabel Segun
(Lagos: Maybelline Publications, 2006)
Twelve short plays for children, with clear objectives and excellent presentation, both educational and entertaining. The plays for the youngest are based on folktales, and for the older children on heroes and heroines, both legendary and historical. Some clever narrative devices are employed, with a real awareness of the voice of children and their skill as performers.
The Noma Award Jury is chaired by Walter Bgoya from Tanzania, one of Africa’s most distinguished publishers, with wide knowledge of both African and international publishing. The other members of the Jury in 2007 were: Professor Simon Gikandi, Professor of English at Princeton University; Professor Peter Katjavivi, Ambassador of the Republic of Namibia to the Federal Republic of Germany and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Namibia; and Mary Jay, Secretary to the Managing Committee (the Jury).
Photo courtesy the University of KwaZulu Natal.