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Archive for the ‘Nigeria’ Category

Jowhor Ile awarded Etisalat Prize for Literature

Nigerian author Jowhor Ile has been announced as the winner of the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature for his novel And After Many Days.

The Etisalat Prize is the first ever pan-African prize celebrating first time writers of published fiction books.

Award-winning novelist and poet, Helon Habila, served as the chair of the judging panel for the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Fiction and declared And After Many Days as a novel which met the required standards of originality, creative excellence and African sensibility, in keeping with the objective of the Etisalat Prize – to promote literary excellence in Africa.

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Six West African books with unconventional approaches to gender and power, as recommended by Chinelo Okparanta


Nigerian-American author Chinelo Okparanta recently compiled a list for Electric Literature of six West African books with an unconventional, defiant approach to gender relations and relationships.

Okparanta drew upon her own experience as a child of parents whose marriage was based on inequality and oppression; she writes: “Perhaps I recognized it in my parents’ marriage as my mother underwent one painful and exhausting move after another, following my father everywhere he went, because, she too, had not yet conceived of happiness outside the realm of marriage.

In my novel, Under the Udala Trees, I explore the themes of betrayal and rebirth and happiness in the context of gender and power. In writing the novel, I imagined, unlike Ramatoulaye, a sort of happiness that existed outside of the traditional schema of marriage. Or rather, I imagined the pursuit of that sort of happiness. The fundamental desires of my protagonist, Ijeoma, are unconventional in her West African setting in the sense that she does not find her value via an attachment to a man. Lately, I’ve been interested in finding other West African authors who are also unconventional in their portrayal of love and marriage, of gender and power. The following are my top six:”

Stay With Me
1. Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
Akin and Yejide have trouble conceiving a child. Years of struggling leads Yejide to a prophet who stipulates that she find a goat and engage in a goat ceremony. Yejide even winds up breastfeeding the goat. With expertly maneuvered, almost incredible, certainly unpredictable plot twists, the end result is a deconstruction of the concepts of masculinity and femininity and a rejection of traditional customs of marriage. The novel asks us: What does it mean to be strong? Is strength a woman who carries on serving her husband his meal even after he has betrayed her, or is she in fact weak? Is weakness a man who acquiesces to his mother’s persistent demands, rather than resisting — rather than summoning up the strength to stand proudly by his wife?

 
 
 
 
 
What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky
2. What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Arimah

In this collection, we see love in many forms, but particularly, we see stories with young Nigerian women whose sexuality is not boxed up like some shameful secret, tucked away beneath a pile of blankets. These young women do not apologize for their existence as sexual beings; or at least they do not apologize in the traditional, self-deprecating sort of way. “Wild” presents a young woman who has had a baby outside of marriage and refuses to give in to her mother’s condemnation of her. The story itself is not quite an embracing of untraditional ideals, but a lifting up of the veil of taboo enough that by the end of this story, the young woman and her child are still portrayed with dignity. “Light” begins with the beautiful description of Enebeli’s fourteen year old daughter, who sends a boy a note, and it is not the first time. She writes, “Buki, I love you. I will give you many sons.” What is beautiful about this declaration is the girl’s own ownership of her intentions. The script is flipped here, which is to say that the demand is not being put upon her. NOT: “You must give your husband many sons.” Rather, she is the one in the power position here, and she acknowledges not only her authority to give, but also the fact that it is her will.
 
 
Homegoing
3. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Two half-sisters grow up not knowing about each other. One sister becomes the “wench” of a British officer, unable to claim the title of “wife” — “wife” being a word reserved for white women. The other sister becomes a slave to the British, and goes on to give birth to a girl who also becomes a slave in Mississippi, USA. The bulk of literary criticism on Homegoing thus far has focused on the slave narrative and the purported complicity of Africans in selling themselves. What interests me, however, is the highly women-focused bent of the novel, the story really beginning with Esi and Effia. Though men certainly have their parts in the novel, these women are at once the subject and object of the story, both the water and the fire, whose lineages scald and flow into contemporary times. Effie and Esi are the ancestral characters whose spirits linger, long after they themselves, and their husbands, are gone.
 
 
 
 
Season of Crimson Blossoms
4. Season of Crimson Blossoms by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
Embracing desire, fifty-five year old widow Binta falls into a love affair with a twenty-five year old gang leader and weed dealer named Reza. And why not? After a marriage marked by sexual repression, she craves intimacy. Set in Northern Nigeria, this bold new narrative tackles romance and eroticism in ways that defy the conservative culture of the North. Things get a bit tricky when Binta’s son confronts Reza about the affair.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun
5. Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by Sarah Manyika
This beautiful, compact novel is a meditation on female aging and desire, as Dr. Morayo Da Silva, a seventy-four year old Nigerian woman living in San Francisco, narrates aspects of her life, past and present, in delightfully witty and poignant prose. Aging was never so hip, femininity never as powerful.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Behold the Dreamers
6. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
There is a married couple here. In fact, no, there are two married couples in this utterly beautiful and absorbing novel — Cameroonians Neni and Jende Jonga, and Americans Cindy and Clark Edwards. And yet, it is a triangular affair. Imagine an equilateral triangle where two sides are represented by each couple and the third by a country. You see, both couples are also in the midst of a tumultuous love affair with America. America becomes a genderless character whose power crumbles as the financial crisis takes root and the human story progresses.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Literary Crossroads with Imraan Coovadia (SA) & Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Nigeria)

Literary Crossroads is a series of talks where South African writers meet colleagues from all over the continent and from the African diaspora to discuss trends, topics and themes prevalent in their literatures today. The series is curated by Indra Wussow and Sine Buthelezi.

The guest speakers for the upcoming talk (to take place on May 16) will be Imraan Coovadia and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim. The discussion will be moderated by Danyela Dimakatso Demir.

About the guests:

Imraan Coovadia is a writer and director of the creative writing programme at UCT. His most recent novel is Tales of the Metric System (2014), which appeared in the US, South Africa, India, and Germany.

He is the author of The Institute for Taxi Poetry (2012), winner of the M-Net Prize, and a collection of essays, “Transformations” (2012), which won the South African Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction. In 2010 his novel High Low In-between won the Sunday Times Fiction Prize and the University of Johannesburg prize. He has published a scholarly monograph with Palgrave, “Authority and Authorship in V.S. Naipaul” (2009), two earlier novels, and a number of journal articles. His fiction has been published in a number of countries, and he has written for many newspapers, journals, and magazines here and overseas, including the New York Times, N+1, Agni, the Times of India, and Threepenny Review.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is a Nigerian writer and journalist. His debut collection of short stories The Whispering Trees was long-listed for the Etisalat Prize for Literature in 2014, with the title story shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing. His debut novel Season of Crimson Blossoms was published in the UK in May 2016 by Cassava Republic Press. Abubakar is a Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellow (2013) and a Civitella Ranieri Fellow (2015). In 2014, Abubakar was named in the Hay Festival Africa39 list of the most promising writers under the age of 40 who will define future trends in African writing. Abubakar is the recipient of the 2016 Goethe-Institut & Sylt Foundation African Writer’s Residency Award. He lives in Abuja, Nigeria.

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The Institute for Taxi Poetry

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Tales of the Metric System

 
 
 

The Whispering Trees

 
 
 

Season of Crimson Blossoms


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Book Bites: 9 April 2017

NestNest
Terry Goodkind (Head of Zeus)
Book fiend
***
Imagine you could spot a murderer just by looking at a photograph of his face? Not only recognise him, but know the intimate details of his crime. Kate Bishop discovers she has this ability — as did her recently murdered brother. Then there’s author Jack Raines, who is an expert on evil, with unique abilities of his own. Jack and Kate make a formidable team, posing a real threat to the world’s “super-predators”, but becoming targets themselves. Goodkind is famous for his epic fantasy series The Sword of Truth and although Nest is not fantasy, it’s the first in a solid series. – Aubrey Paton

Born on a TuesdayBorn on a Tuesday
Elnathan John (Cassava Press)
Book buff
****
I love unadorned writing. Quite often it’s more effective than the purple prose and over-writing favoured by the likes of Ben Okri. In his debut novel Born on a Tuesday, the twice Caine Prize-nominated Elnathan John writes as simply as he does devastatingly. His coming-of-age novel follows the story of Dantala, a Muslim boy in northern Nigeria who finds a home first in a gang that commits atrocious acts of violence (described in detail with unnerving nonchalance) and then within the belongingness of religious extremism. Dantala is reminiscent of the protagonist in Albert Camus’ The Stranger, except instead of world-weariness, his emotional distance from the world around him seems to be the result of a lack of emotional growth. Dantala is an observer of not only others’ behaviour and lives, but of his own too. This is a dark and intense read, but there’s also a strange beauty at its core that shines through when you least expect it. – Pearl Boshomane @Pearloysias

Eyes Like MineEyes Like Mine
Sheena Kamal (Bonnier)
Book thrill
****
Thrillers set in unusual places seem to have a certain edge – the environment being another fascinating character to get to know. This debut novel is set in Vancouver, Canada, where the constant rain and drabness of the city in winter is another adversary that taciturn loner Nora Watts has to deal with. She is contacted by the parents of Bonnie, a teenage girl she gave up for adoption as a baby and who is now missing. Nora has to confront what happened to her 15 years ago and how to save Bonnie from her violent past. At first, the story is dense and Nora’s character is not easy to like but then she becomes firmly stuck in your mind – like Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson’s books. Thank goodness Kamal is writing a sequel. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

The Child GardenThe Child Garden
Catriona McPherson (Little, Brown)
Book thrill
***
Gloria’s small and simple life is changed when she narrowly avoids a head-on collision with her childhood crush, Stig. The meeting leads them to poking around at the secrets surrounding a 30-year-old tragedy. As truths begin to emerge, it becomes clear that what began with only a single life lost is still claiming bodies to this day. This bucolic Scotland has a sinister edge, where rocking stones are rumoured to house the devil and bridges might steal your soul. An eerie tale with more twists and turns than a garden maze. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

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Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

The 28-year-old Nigerian author Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ has become the fourth African writer to be shortlisted for the annual Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Adébáyọ̀ has been nominated for her debut novel, Stay With Me, which was published to critical acclaim in March 2017.

Fellow African authors Fiona Melrose (Midwinter) and Yewande Omotoso (The Woman Next Door) were longlisted for the award.

Titles which appeared on the longlist include The Mare by Mary Gaitskill, The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, and Barkskins by Annie Proulx.

“It has been a great privilege to Chair the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction in a year which has proved exceptional for writing of both quality and originality,” said Tessa Ross, 2017 Chair of Judges. “It was therefore quite a challenge to whittle this fantastic longlist of 16 books down to only six… These were the six novels that stayed with all of us well beyond the final page.”

The other five novels shortlisted for the award are The Power by Naomi Alderman, The Dark Circle by Linda Grant, The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan, First Love by Gwendoline Riley and Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien.

Read more on this prestigious award commemorating woman writers here.
 

Stay With Me

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Karina Szczurek reviews Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle

Easy Motion TouristVerdict: carrot

From luxurious hotel rooms to the gutters of Lagos, Easy Motion Tourist presents an uneasy, brutal metropolis where only the toughest survive: “a city of armed robbers, assassinations and now, it seemed, ‘ritualists’ had to be added to the list.” But among the ruthless violence and corruption there are rays of light, and Easy Motion Tourist offers an intriguing ending which might mean a promising sequel.

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Fiction Friday: read award-winning Nigerian author Sefi Atta’s short story Unsuitable Ties

Sefi Atta was born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1964 and schooled in England, where she qualified as a chartered accountant. Numerical knack aside, Atta’s aptitude for writing has not gone unnoticed. Atta was awarded the 2006 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa, shortlisted for the 2006 Caine Prize for African Fiction, and the recipient of the 2009 Noma Award for Publishing in Africa, among others. Her short stories collection, News From Home was published in 2010. Read an extract from her short story Unsuitable Ties, originally published in Expound here:

She would rather not be here tonight. For her, a dinner party at a hotel – especially a five-star hotel like this in London – is research work. She might notice a seating-card design, a flower arrangement or some other catering idea she can use when she returns to Lagos. She will study the menu from hors d’oeuvres to desserts. As for the company, she knows what to expect; rich Nigerians, all connected to each other.

The hotel, Greek Revival style, is in Knightsbridge. It is cold for May, so she and her husband, Akin, wear coats, which they leave at the cloakroom near the lobby. The cloakroom attendant hands her a ticket and she puts it in her clutch bag. She is conscious of her heels clip-clopping along the marble- floored corridor that leads to the bar. At the entrance of the bar, a waiter lifts a silver tray with flutes of champagne and Buck’s Fizz. She goes for the champagne, as does Akin. They thank the waiter, a woman.

The bar resembles a candle-lit library in a stately home. It has shelves of old, leather-bound books and maroon patterned wallpaper. Cocktails are at 7 p.m., dinner is at 7.45 p.m., followed by dancing. Carriages are at 1 a.m. The dress code is black tie. Akin has decided that means he can get away with wearing a tie that is black.

She took the time and trouble to go from their flat in West Kensington to Kensington High Street to buy a new dress the day before. It was typical of Akin to forget he needed a bow tie until the last moment, yet he was the one who insisted that she come.

Other guests are on time. All are appropriately turned out, a few in colourful traditional Nigerian wear. She and Akin return their smiles and waves as they approach their host, Saheed Balogun.

“How now, my brother?” Saheed asks.

“Hey,” Akin says, shaking Saheed’s hand.

“Saheed,” she says, with a nod.

Saheed looks as if he has only just recognised her. “Yemisi! Long time no see!”

She winces involuntarily as he hugs her. She has become used to seeing his face under newspaper headlines since his fraud investigation began a month ago. He was also recently listed in an online magazine as one of Nigeria’s top ten billionaires. He is remarkably slight in person and sports a grey goatee. His bow tie is not quite as symmetrical after he hugs her. She was not expecting him to welcome her that way. Feeling hijacked, she looks around the bar and asks, “Where is Funke?”

“She’s taking care of last-minute seating arrangements,” Saheed says.

Yemisi grimaces. Nigerians don’t always RSVP and sometimes show up with extra guests. Funke is Saheed’s wife. Yemisi might call her an old friend, though she is more accurately someone Yemisi socialised with when they were both law undergrads. Funke was at the University of Lagos while she was at University College London. Their paths often crossed in Lagos and London. For reasons she can’t explain, she doesn’t mind Funke, but she absolutely cannot stand Saheed.

She leaves Akin with him. She told Akin she intended to stay as far away from Saheed as possible. That was the condition on which she came.

You can continue reading Unsuitable Ties here.

 

News From Home

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Ayòbámi Adébáyò’s Stay With Me explores 1980s Nigeria, the undoing of family, and the bonds of motherhood

‘There are things even love can’t do… If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But even when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love…’

Yejide is hoping for a miracle, for a child. It is all her husband wants, all her mother-in-law wants, and she has tried everything – arduous pilgrimages, medical consultations, dances with prophets, appeals to God. But when her in-laws insist upon a new wife, it is too much for Yejide to bear. It will lead to jealousy, betrayal and despair.

Unravelling against the social and political turbulence of 80s Nigeria, Stay With Me sings with the voices, colours, joys and fears of its surroundings. Ayòbámi Adébáyò weaves a devastating story of the fragility of married love, the undoing of family, the wretchedness of grief, and the all-consuming bonds of motherhood. It is a tale about our desperate attempts to save ourselves and those we love from heartbreak.

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International Women’s Day: seven African woman writers you should have read by 2017

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a universal commemoration of the social, economic, political and cultural achievement of women.

The following quote by Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie encapsulates both the necessity of celebrating a day committed to the empowerment of women, and how writing can aid the continuing empowerment of women worldwide:

“Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

Here follows a list of African woman writers whose stories matter:

The Translator

1. Leila Aboulela: Acclaimed – one of the most suitable adjectives to describe Sudanese author Leila Aboulela. She has published five novels in 16 years, wowing literary critics with her debut The Translator, which was nominated for the Orange Prize and chosen as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times. Her novel second novel, Minaret, also received a nomination for the Orange Prize and her third novel, Lyrics Alley made the longlist for the same prize in 2011. Lyrics Alley was awarded the Fiction Winner of Scottish Book Awards and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize. In 2000, Aboulela was awarded the coveted Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story The Museum. Aboulela’s work has been translated into 14 languages, and is predominantly influenced by the Muslim faith and her experiences of cross-culturalisation.

Nervous Conditions

2. Tsitsi Dangarembga: Zimbabwean author, poet, activist and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga was born in Bulawayao and schooled in England. Her debut, the semi-autobiographical Nervous Conditions (1988), is themed around race, colonialism, and gender in post-colonial and present-day Zimbabwe. Nervous Conditions was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1989, and is still regarded as a significant contribution to African feminism and post-colonialist narratives. (PS – Dangarembga will be delivering a Women’s Day lecture in Johannesburg on whether feminism is divisive, unAfrican and anti-Black this coming Friday.)

Moxyland

3. Lauren Beukes: When it comes to writing about contemporary sci-fi cum fantasy cum speculative fiction, no one does it quite like Lauren Beukes. With a slew of awards behind her futuristically inclined pen, including the Arthur C. Clarke award for the perennial favourite and much-lauded Zoo City, Beukes has established herself as a South African author to be reckoned with. Her debut novel, the Cape Town-based cyberpunk Moxyland (2008) was nominated for the South African Sunday Times Fiction Prize; 2013′s time travel thriller The Shining Girls was the recipient of four prestigious South African literary awards; and – lest we forget – 2014′s Broken Monsters was commended by The Guardian for its unique adoption of the horror trope as means to explain the crazy reality we live in. And no one quite does crazy reality like Lauren Beukes…

A World of Strangers

4. Nadine Gordimer: A fearless political activist and recipient of the 1991 Nobel Prize for Literature, Nadine Gordimer garnered international recognition for her work which dealt with moral and racial issues, and a constant questioning of power relations and truth during South Africa’s apartheid regime. Gordimer’s The Late Bourgeois World, A World of Strangers, Burger’s Daughter and July’s People were either banned or placed under censorship by the apartheid government, owing to the strong anti-apartheid stance and her criticism of racial division. Gordimer is not only one of the most notable literary figures to emerge from South Africa, but also one of its most notable women.

Coconut

5. Kopano Matlwa: Addressing race, class and colonisation in modern-day Johannesburg, Kopano Matlwa had South African bibliophiles buzzing with her debut novel Coconut, published in 2007. Coconut was awarded the European Union Literary Award in 2006/07 and also won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa in 2010. Her second novel, Spilt Milk (2010), published to equally great acclaim, delivers an allegorical perspective on the born-free generation. Matlwa’s recent Period Pains explores social issues from the point of view of a young female protagonist, delivering an insightful and honest look at growing up in a post-1994 South Africa.

We Need New Names

6. NoViolet Bulawayo: The first black African woman and the first Zimbabwean to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, NoViolet Bulawayo rose to international acclaim with her debut novel We Need New Names (2013). Born Elizabeth Thsele, Bulawayo’s literary approach towards displacement, childhood, globalisation, social class and gender delivered subtle, yet powerful commentary on the existential realities of Africa. Named a ‘five under 35′ by the National Book Foundation in 2012, the recipient of the Caine Prize Award for African Writing in 2011, and a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award winner for We Need New Names, there’s no stopping NoViolet Bulawayo.

Americanah

7. Chimamanda Adichie: No ‘must-read-African-woman-writers-list’ will be complete without mentioning this critically acclaimed author and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient whose TEDx-talk on
feminism was appropriated in Beyoncé’s “Flawless”. Mense: take note of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. As a globally renowned writer, an advocate for gender equality, and vocal supporter of the representation of African culture in the international literary sphere, Adichie is one of the most influential authors – and women – of the 21st century. Viva, Chimamanda, viva.

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Yewande Omotoso and Fiona Melrose longlisted for Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction

The longlist for this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced on Wednesday, coinciding with International Women’s Day.

16 female authors appear on the list, including Margaret Atwood, Annie Proulx, Rose Tremain and local authors Yewande Omotoso and Fiona Melrose.

Of the 187 entries, Omotoso received recognition for her 2016 novel The Woman Next Door; a book exploring the relationship between neighbours Hortensia James and Marion Agostino – one is black, one white. Both are successful, recently widowed career women. Both despise one another.

One day the two adversaries are forced together due to unforeseen circumstances. The bickering is replaced with lively debate and the discovery of memories shared, yet the question remains whether this sudden connection could transform into a genuine friendship, or if it is too late to expect Hortensia and Marion to change.

Read an excerpt from Omotoso’s short story Cupboards in the Dark, which appeared on BooksLIVE in September 2016 for a sneak preview of what to expect from this talented writer.

Fiona Melrose is longlisted for her debut novel, Midwinter, set in both Suffolk and Zambia.

Father and son, Landyn and Vale Midwinter, are haunted by their mutual sense of grief brought about by the years the family spent farming in Zambia, where Vale’s mother died.

Confronted by the past, Landyn and Vale’s relationship explores guilt, grief, and the lengths we are willing to go for love. The podcast of Michele Magwood’s interview with Melrose, during which they discussed Midwinter and Melrose’s dyslexia, can be listened to on Soundcloud. Magwood’s review of this astounding debut can be read here.

Chairwoman of the award’s judging panel, Tessa Ross, commented on the diversity of the entries received, in addition to the necessity of women’s writing:

“What’s happening in the world is making us even more aware of how important it is that women’s voices are heard and that we talk about the rights of women and we support each other.

“We were looking for excellence in all ways, including stories that resonate with women and readers living now, even if they are not set in the present, because the exciting thing about reading is that it wakes you up to the world you are living in.”

Nigerian author Ayobami Adebayo’s 2017 novel Stay With Me also appears on the longlist.

A shortlist of the entries will be announced on April third, and the final awards ceremony will take place on June seventh at London’s Royal Festival Hall.

View the complete longlist here.

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