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West Africa Sweeps Regional Commonwealth Writers' Prizes

The Hangman's GameKaren King-AribisalaSade AdeniranImagine This

Alert! West Africa has shut out Southern Africa in the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize regional competition – despite the domination by South African titles on the prizes’ shortlists.

Sade Adeniran won the “Best First Book – Africa” prize for her novel, Imagine This (self-published – SW Books), and Karen King-Aribisala won “Best Book – Africa” for The Hangman’s Game (Peepal Tree Press). Adeniran is Nigerian, while King-Aribisala is Guyanese; they each take home £1000.

The Africa region awards were announced in a ceremony in Kampala, Uganda yesterday evening. Adeniran and King-Aribisala will be in South Africa at the Franschhoek Literary Festival this May, along with the other CWP regional winners, when the £10 000 overall prizes will be announced.

About the books

Imagine This has been described as a “compelling story about the human spirit and resilience against the odds”. It comprises the journal of Lola Ogunwole, which she starts at the age of nine, and charts her survival from childhood to adulthood. Born in London to Nigerian parents, Lola and her brother Adebola grow up in a temporary foster home after their mother abandons them. They are briefly reunited with their father when, in danger of losing them for good, he packs up and moves them back to Nigeria to live. For Lola, the trauma of leaving London and settling in Lagos is soon overshadowed by separation from her father and the only constant in her life, her brother Adebola. They are both sent to live with different relatives and Lola ends up with her aunt, in a small village called Idogun where her struggle for survival begins.

In The Hangman’s Game, a young Guyanese woman sets out to write an historical novel based on the 1823 Demerara Slave Rebellion and the fate of an English missionary who is condemned to hang for his alleged part in the uprising. The characters she invents make an altogether messy intrusion into her life with their conflicting interests and ambivalent motivations. As an African-Guyanese in a country where abBlack ruling elite oppresses the population, she begins to wonder what lay behind her “ancestral enslavement”, why fellow Africans had “exchanged silver for the likes of me”.

About the authors
Karen King-Aribisala was born in Guyana. She has travelled widely, having been educated in Guyana, Barbados, Italy, Nigeria and England. She is now living and working in Nigeria where she is Professor of English in the department of English, University of Lagos. She is previously the author of Kicking Tongues, “an exuberant modern-day ‘Canterbury Tales’ set in Nigeria”.

Sade Adeniran‘s life has been very much like that of the main character’s in Imagine This. She was born in London, but moved to Nigeria when still a child. Imagine This has sparked something of a cult following on the internet – the swell of support doubtless spurred on by the net’s growing legion of self-publishing advocates – with many dedicated fan sites and forums having turned Adeniran into a mini-literary celebrity before her CWP win.

Congratulations to both authors: we look forward to welcoming you to South Africa this May!

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