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Abubakar Adam Ibrahim awarded $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature in glittering ceremony

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim awarded $100,000 Nigeria Literature Prize in glittering ceremony

 
Season of Crimson BlossomsAbubakar Adam Ibrahim: The man, his dreams and prize

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, who emerged from Nigeria’s generation of “intellectual terrorists”, recently won the Nigeria Prize for Literature. The award ceremony in Abuja was nothing short of grand – Michael Jimoh was there

Soon after the Swedish Academy delighted Nigerians with news that Wole Soyinka had won the Nobel Prize in Literature in October 1986, a national tragedy followed to dampen whatever excitement there was to savour of that historic feat. Dele Giwa, a stylish journalist and one of the founding editors of Newswatch, was letter-bombed. His demise, Soyinka later mourned, turned “the euphoria of the Nobel Prize into ashes in our mouths”.

When Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, winner of the 2016 edition of the Nigeria Prize for Literature, met and spoke with the press on Friday, November 25 in a clinically-clean, modest meeting room at the Protea Hotel, Maryland, Lagos, he briefly experienced the same emotional low as his senior colleague 30 years ago. His father, the one person he would have wished to be around to share this one unique moment with him, had died eight months before. In recounting it, Ibrahim’s voice became understandably low, his mien more pensive; a few journalistic heads drooped on shoulders, an expression of collective grief shown to individuals in moments of distress.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim awarded $100,000 Nigeria Literature Prize in glittering ceremony

 

But four days later, on Tuesday, November 29, this time in Abuja, at the NAF Conference Centre in Kado, part of the Federal Capital Territory, there was no such emotion. Instead, there was celebration, celebration and recognition of an achiever. It was a mood of unpunctuated happiness from the moment MC Richmond Osuji took up the microphone to start off the public presentation of the award to Ibrahim mid-morning. The location was ideal, a quiet and easily accessible part of Abuja, with ample parking and uniformed security on guard from start to finish. The decorated tables with real white roses could have made anyone conclude that a wedding reception was about to begin.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim awarded $100,000 Nigeria Literature Prize in glittering ceremony

 

Indeed, there was a union – not of man and woman, but of business and literature. And the result of that joint effort was evident before all by way of large posters in the lobby and in the hall: A medium shot of Ibrahim welcomed guests, his winning novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms, published by Lagos-based Parresia Publishers, beside him with the sponsor’s logo, a stylised NLNG, in smaller letters at the top.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim awarded $100,000 Nigeria Literature Prize in glittering ceremony

 

Season of Crimson Blossoms is Ibrahim’s first novel and won the gas company’s $100,000 prize easily, trouncing 171 other entries by Nigerian authors home and abroad. In its tradition, NLNG had come all the way from Port Harcourt to honour the laureate publicly at a venue of his own choosing.

Though he was schooled and once lived in Jos, Ibrahim has resided and worked in Abuja these past years, where he is Arts Editor of Daily Trust. Fortyish with a contemplative look reminding one of F Scott Fitzgerald’s brooding visage in one of his rare sober moments, Ibrahim has said that nothing took him to writing, “I grew into it. The only thing that came naturally to me, almost as natural as breathing, was writing.”

From that first love, the Mass Communication graduate from the University of Jos has never looked back. A collection of short stories and a novel later, Ibrahim has, in the words of an acquaintance, “consistently developed himself”.

At various times an electrician and a football wannabe, he never deviated from his avowed métier. If anything, he has lived the dream of writing, thus bringing to reality what the incomparable Frenchman of American history, Henry David Thoreau, once said of dreams. “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined,” Thoreau mused centuries ago, “he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

The gathering of literati, diplomats, company execs, politicians and common folk in Abuja that Tuesday morning confirmed Ibrahim’s “success unexpected in common hours”.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim awarded $100,000 Nigeria Literature Prize in glittering ceremony

 

The ceremony was scheduled to begin at 10pm, but the capacious hall was packed to the rafters in no time, and late arrivals had only standing space. After a mandatory frisk by security at the entrance, guests arrived in pairs and in groups or alone, filled the chairs, most of the women in hijab setting off their well-defined faces, the men in babban riga with caps caved in on one side. Female children with beaded hair and lale-designed hands complemented the northern ambience of the event.

“This is the first time a writer from northern Nigeria is winning the prize,” a longtime resident of Abuja, and president of Association of Nigerian Authors, Denja Abdullahi told me. To Abdullahi, therefore, Ibrahim’s prize is “an affirmation of so many writers in the north who have been writing without the opportunity of promotion.”

Abdullahi’s veiled comment alludes to the fact that writers in the north get far less traction than their southern counterparts whose proximity to Lagos, culture capital of Nigeria, gives them more exposure and publicity. However, the presentation more than made up for whatever publicity mileage Ibrahim may have been denied in the press. It was the most attended and most high profile literary event in recent memory in the Federal Capital Territory.

The MD of NLNG, Tony Attah, led a retinue of senior staff, including Dr Kudo Eresia-Eke, the GM External Relations. Dr Bola Afolabi, Group General Manager of the gas company, represented the GMD of NNPC, Dr Maikanti Baru. The British High Commissioner, Peter Arkwright, sat all through the event, just as two diplomats from the US and Spain did. Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed filled in for the Federal Government, calling Ibrahim “my friend” several times even though he may only have heard of him days before. It helped no more when, in his well-delivered acceptance speech, the laureate swiped at the Federal Government, declaring that “no civilisation or people achieve anything without imagination. The dire state of the Nigerian nation is a testament to this fact. We are not only conditioned to abhor imagination and creativity but to stifle it.”

Ibrahim’s creative spirit was momentarily stifled some time in Jos where, after a sectarian clash in 2008, his house was razed – along with all his books. Despite that, his dedication to writing only got stronger. “He is particular about his craft,” Mallam Denja Abdullahi recalls of the author.

The president of the writers’ body insists he is not surprised Ibrahim won the most prestigious literary award in Africa. Equally not taken unawares is the laureate’s younger sibling, Abdulkadri Adam Ibrahim.

Anyone could easily mistake him for the writer, the same visage and height, and even build. Abdulkadri has followed his sibling’s writing career closely, right from the beginning. “I wouldn’t say this is a surprise because he has been winning other competitions before. I had my fingers crossed that he was going to win and when it came, I wasn’t surprised.”

The winning entry itself, Season of Crimson Blues, published by Parresia Books under the competent headship of Azafi Omoluabi-Ogosi and Richard Ali, is a riveting love tango between a notorious, dope-dealing, hard-eyed criminal, Hassan “Reza” Babale, and a middle-aged widow, Hajiya Binta Zubairu. Though these two dominate the story, others come alive with the realism of Flaubertian characters. Mallam Haruna, a comical figure dying of suffocating jealousy, is one.

He it was, burdened by unrequited love, who hastened to Munkaila, son of Binta, with gossip about his mother’s fornication with a loathed neighbourhood crook. From then on, nothing could avert the tragedy that wound around Binta’s family like a soiled turban.

Ibrahim has a mastery of language and he deploys it expertly. In one scene, the author describes Reza and Binta, spent after making love: “the lovers lay on the bed watching the ceiling fan turning, slicing the air like an indolent scythe”. In another passage, we read of “memories eddying in little swirls around” Binta’s mind.

Season of Crimson Blossoms comes across as one of those ancient oriental tales by moonlight, complete with djinns, fragrances, incense and perfumes, sometimes used to cover up the “objectionable stench of fornication clinging” to the long-suffering widow.

It is not for nothing that the panel of judges wowed with deserved praise for Ibrahim’s novel. By a unanimous decision, they plumped for Ibrahim’s gripping tale of romance and tragedy.

“The novel moves from its evocative and passionate first sentence,” the Professor Dan Izebvaye-led panel of adjudicators commented, “through a web of anxious moments to a tragic and painful conclusion with hardly a moment of respite”.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim awarded $100,000 Nigeria Literature Prize in glittering ceremony

 

Ibrahim comes from a generation of writers who senior journalist and writer Uzor Maxim Uzoatu classifies as “intellectual terrorists”. All of them are graduates of the University of Jos or have association with the city of Jos – the Helon Habilas, Obi Nwakanmas, Tony Kans, Dave Njokus, Richard Alis and others. So formidable is their intellectual prowess, it is said, that a UJ grad is almost always likely to win in a literary competition in Nigeria. At one time in a national poetry competition in the same year, Habila and Kan came first and third respectively.

Now teaching at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, Habila was the first Nigerian to win the Caine Prize for African Fiction, after Aboulela, a Sudanese writer and the first African to be so honoured. Ibrahim himself has been shortlisted for the Caine Prize. He has won the BBC African Performance Prize as well as the Amatu Braide Prize for Prose. And now, the Nigeria Prize for Literature.

Tony Attah put it aptly for both the winner and the sponsoring company in his speech as the number one man in the NLNG gas company. “With respect to the prize, wherever possible, it has been the tradition to celebrate the winner of the Nigeria Prize for Literature in the author’s homestead. By so doing, we believe that we bring the celebration to the people who contributed to making this author, to those who helped shape the experiences and personality of the winner, and to the place where his creativity was fueled. In addition to that, how best could we give today’s celebration its peculiar flavour other than to have it with family and friends of both the winner and Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas.”

The highlight of the presentation came much later, when Kudo Eresia-Eke asked to recognise the mother of the author. As she stood up, wearing a brown hijab, Ibrahim strolled dramatically from the stage for a long embrace with his mother. The ovation was loudest at this time. His wife also got an ovation, the woman who stood by the author all the way through.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim awarded $100,000 Nigeria Literature Prize in glittering ceremony

 

For every seated guest, young and old, man and woman, literate or not, there was a copy of Ibrahim’s novel gifted by the gas company as a gift, some with Ibrahim’s autograph. Giving out copies of winning entries is a long-standing tradition of NLNG. At a similar reception two years ago in Lagos, Tade Ipadeola’s poem, The Sahara Testaments, was passed out freely to guests.

The reason, according to Eresia-Eke, is for educational purposes. “For anyone serious about building people, whether ordinary individuals or communities or nations, the most important gift is education because it is what makes the individual, he becomes master of his own destiny … education is extremely important to us because a people denied education is a people denied all rights.”

Michael Jimoh is a Nigerian journalist living in Lagos. He has worked with some of the major newspapers in Nigeria but now freelances.

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Announcing the shortlist for the 2016 Gerald Kraak Award for African writers and artists

 
The Jacana Literary Foundation and The Other Foundation have announced the African writers and artists shortlisted for the inaugural Gerald Kraak Award.

Drawn from a range of African countries, these written and photographic pieces on the topics of gender, human rights and sexuality on our continent represent a new wave of fresh storytelling.

The shortlist will comprise the resultant anthology, titled Pride and Prejudice, which will be published and distributed by Jacana Media and its project partners across Africa in May 2017.

Judges Sisonke Msimang (chair), Eusebius McKaiser and Sylvia Tamale reviewed close on 400 anonymous individual entries over the past four months in order to select the 14 pieces for the shortlist.

Msimang says:

In the current political environment, we are hopeful that expressions like the ones we have chosen – that do not shy away from pain but that are also deeply inventive – find their way into the public consciousness. We think Gerald Kraak would have smiled at a number of these entries, and above all, we have aimed to stay true to his love of fearless writing and support of courageous and grounded activism.

In alphabetical order by surname, here are the shortlisted authors and entries, and short judges’ notes:

  • Poached Eggs by Farah Ahamed (Fiction, Kenya)

A subtle, slow and careful rendering of the everyday rhythms of domestic terror that pays homage to the long history of women’s resistance; yet with wit and humour and grit, the story also sings of freedom, of resistance and the desire to be unbound.

  • A Place of Greater Safety by Beyers de Vos (Journalism, South Africa)

Covers, with empathy and real curiosity and knowledge, underground issues that are seldom discussed in the South African LGBT+ movement – homelessness, poverty, as well as attraction and violence.

  • Midnight in Lusikisiki or The Ruin of the Gentlewomen by Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese (Poetry, South Africa)

This poem hums with sadness and sings with anger. It is full of the sort of melancholy that marks the passing of something very important. It provides an opportunity to connect the themes of gender this collection takes so seriously, with issues of poverty and political corruption.

  • Two Weddings for Amoit by Dilman Dila (Fiction, Uganda)

A fresh piece of sci-fi, written in a clear and bright way, that surprisingly draws on covert and subversive love.

  • Albus by Justin Dingwall (Photography, South Africa)

The choice of exquisitely beautiful high-fashion models to represent people with albinism – who are so often depicted as unattractive, as others – is just breath-taking. It makes its point and leaves you wanting more.

  • For Men Who Care by Amatesiro Dore (Fiction, Nigeria)

A complex and thoughtful insight into a part of elite Nigerian life, as well as the ways in which buying into certain brands of patriarchy can be so deeply damaging – and have direct and unavoidable consequences.

  • Resurrection by Tania Haberland (Poetry, Mauritius)

An erotic poem that is powerful in its simple celebration of the clit.

  • Intertwined Odyssey by Julia Hango (Photography, South Africa)

A solid and thought-provoking collection. The range of poses force questions about power. The photos make the lovers (or are they fighters?) equal in their nakedness and in their embodiment of discomfort.

  • Dean’s Bed by Dean Hutton (Photography, South Africa)

An important contribution to conversations about bisexuality, attraction, age and race.

  • On Coming Out by Lee Mokobe (Poetry, South Africa)

Literal and lyrical, this powerful poem draws one in through its style and accessibility.

  • You Sing of a Longing by Otosirieze Obi-Young (Fiction, Nigeria)

A thoroughly modern epic but with bones as old as time. This is a story of love and betrayal and madness and music that is all the more beautiful for its plainspoken poignancy. Yet there is prose in here that steals your breath away.

  • The Conversation by Olakunle Ologunro (Fiction, Nigeria)

Provides valuable insight into issues of intimate partner violence, family acceptance and the complexity of gender roles in many modern African contexts.

  • One More Nation Bound in Freedom by Ayodele Sogunro (Academic, Nigeria)

An informative piece that gives a crisp and “objective” voice to the many themes that cut across this anthology.

  • Stranger in a Familiar Land by Sarah Waiswa (Photography, Kenya)

This collection of photos showcases the best of African storytelling. The images take risks, and speak to danger and subversion. At the same time they are deeply rooted in places that are familiar to urban Africans. The woman in this collection is a stand-in for all of us.

The winner, who receives a cash prize, will be announced at an award ceremony in May 2017, hosted by The Other Foundation and attended by the authors of the top three submissions as well as the judging panel and project partners.

For more information visit www.jacana.co.za or email awards@jacana.co.za.

This project is made possible in partnership with The Other Foundation: www.theotherfoundation.org.

 

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2016 Morland Writing Scholarship shortlist announced

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The Gonjon Pin and Other StoriesFeast, Famine and PotluckIncredible JourneyStationsThe Myth of This Is That We're All in This TogetherThe Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other Stories
Mr. and Mrs. DoctorSeason of Crimson BlossomsSaturday's ShadowsReading the Ceiling

 

Alert! The Miles Morland Foundation has announced the shortlist for the 2016 Morland Writing Scholarships.

There are four South Africans on the shortlist this year: Amy Heydenrych, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Nick Mulgrew and Bryony Rheam.

Of the 22 names, 11 are from Nigeria, four from South Africa, two each from Somalia and Kenya, and one each from Gambia, Ghana, and Zimbabwe.

There are two Caine Prize winners on the list, 2016 winner Lidudumalingani and 2014 winner Okwiri Oduor.

Lidudumalingani was also awarded the 2015 Short.Sharp.Stories Judges’ Choice Runner-Up Award.

Mulgrew is deputy chair of Short Story Day Africa and the man behind uHlanga Press, and has had a productive 2016, publishing both a collection of short stories and a poetry collection.

Bryony Rheam had a short story featured in Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe in 2011, and her debut novel This September Sun was published in 2012.

Other published authors on the list include Julie Iromuanya, whose debut Mr. and Mrs. Doctor has just been longlisted for the Etisalat Prize for Literature; Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, who recently won the $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature for his debut, Season of Crimson Blossoms; Ayesha Harruna Attah, author of Saturday’s Shadows, who was also shortlisted last year; and Dayo Forster, whose debut Reading the Ceiling was published in 2008.

Miles Morland says: “The standard of the shortlist is always high but this year we had an even greater depth of talent than before, making the choosing of a shortlist particularly difficult.

“We had over 500 entries, up from 385 last year and they came from 37 countries, compared with 27 last year. We have two Caine Prize winners on it, and a number of writers who have received global recognition. We are pleased also to have writers early in their career who show terrific promise.

“We have been blown away by the talent, imagination, energy, and humour that characterises African writing. Our only disappointment is that, although we had a number of non-fiction submissions, only one made it to the short list. We are actively trying to encourage non-fiction, Africans telling Africa’s story.”

This year’s judging panel is Ellah Wakatama Allfrey (Zimbabwe, chair), Femi Terry (Sierra Leone) and Muthoni Garland (Kenya). The judges will meet on 12 December to select the five 2016 scholars. The winners’ names will be announced shortly afterwards.

The scholars each receive £18,000 (about R310,000), paid over the course of a year, to allow them to take time off to write the book they have proposed.

2016 Morland Writing Scholarships shortlist

Abdul Adan – Somalia
Jekwu Anyaegbuna – Nigeria
Ayesha Harruna Attah – Ghana
Rotimi Babatunde – Nigeria
Dayo Forster – Gambia
Amy Heydenrych – South Africa
Abubakar Ibrahim – Nigeria
Nneoma Ike-Njoku – Nigeria
Julie Iromuanya – Nigeria
Hamse Ismail – Somalia
William Ifeanyi Moore – Nigeria
Lidudumalingani Mqombothi – South Africa
Nick Mulgrew – South Africa
Otosirieze Obi-Young – Nigeria
Okwiri Oduor – Kenya
Adeola Oeyemi – Nigeria
Olawale Olayemi – Nigeria
Troy Onyango – Kenya
Mary Ononokpono – Nigeria
Koye Oyedeji – Nigeria
Bryony Rheam – South Africa
Sandisile Tshuma – Zimbabwe

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Call for entries: University of Johannesburg Prize for South African Writing in English

The Dream HouseSigns for an ExhibitionHunger Eats a ManRachel’s BlueThe Story of Anna P, as Told by Herself

 
The University of Johannesburg Prize for South African Writing in English is now open for the submission of works published in 2016.

The prize is open to works in any genre, in two categories: “main” and “debut”.

Entries close on 30 November, 2016.

See the press release for more details:

Please send your submissions (5 copies of each) to us by 30 November 2016. Second (and last date) for submission: 30 January 2017.

Works may be submitted in either or both of these categories:

  • UJ prize for South African Writing in English; and
  • UJ debut prize for South African Writing in English.

 
The value of the prizes is:

  • UJ Prize: R75 000
  • UJ Debut Prize: R30 000

 
The selection panel

The selection panel comprises the following five members:

  • Three members of the Department of English, UJ
  • Two academics from other universities; or one academic from another university and one member from the media industry or publishing

 
Genre

We do not link the prizes to a specific genre. This may make the evaluation more difficult in the sense that, for example, a volume of poetry, a novel and a biographical work must be measured against one another, but our intention is to open the prize to as many forms of writing as possible.
 
Please send all submissions to Mrs Nicole Moore at the address listed below:

  • By courier:

Nicole Moore
University of Johannesburg
English Dept
B-Ring 721
Kingsway Road
Auckland Park
Johannesburg

  • By mail:

Nicole Moore
University of Johannesburg
English Dept
PO Box 526
Auckland Park 2006
Johannesburg

Phone: 011-559-2063
Enquiries: Nicole Moore (nicolem@uj.ac.za)

Ends

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By mail:

Nicole Moore
University of Johannesburg
English Dept
PO Box 526
Auckland Park 2006
Johannesburg

Phone: 011-559-2063
Enquiries: Nicole Moore (nicolem@uj.ac.za)

Ends

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2 South African authors win the 2016 Golden Baobab Prizes for African children's books

2016 Golden Baobab Prize winners and shortlist announced

 
Alert! Golden Baobab has announced the winners of the 7th edition of the Golden Baobab Prize.

Established in July 2008, the Golden Baobab Prize is often referred to as the “African Newbery Prize”, and is a prestigious award in the African children’s literature industry. Its aim is to support the development of children’s books by African writers and illustrators.

2016 Golden Baobab Prize winners and shortlist announced

 
The Prize invites entries of unpublished stories and illustrations created by African citizens irrespective of age, race, or country of origin. The Prize is organized by Golden Baobab, a Ghana-based pan-African NGO dedicated to “creating a world filled with wonder and possibilities for children, one African story at a time”.

The organisation’s advisory board includes renowned authors Ama Ata Aidoo and Maya Ajmera.

The Golden Baobab Prize received over 150 stories from 11 African countries this year. Submissions were judged by a jury from diverse backgrounds who brought nearly 100 years of collective experience in children’s literature to the selection of the 2016 winners and finalists.

The winning stories of the 2016 Golden Baobab Prize are:

  • Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books: The Ama-zings! by Lori-Ann Preston (South Africa)
  • Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books: Kita and the Red, Dusty Road by Vennessa Scholtz (South Africa)

The winner of each Golden Baobab Prize receives a cash prize of US$5,000 (about R70,300) and a guaranteed publishing contract.

Those shortlisted were:

2016 Golden Baobab Prize winners and shortlist announced

 
The Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books

  • Maya and the Finish Line by Ayo Oyeku (Nigeria)
  • Lights and Freedom by Khethiwe Mndawe (South Africa)

The Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books

  • A Dark Night for Wishes by Kai Tuomi (South Africa)
  • Mr Cocka-Rocka-Roo by Lori-Ann Preston (South Africa)

Golden Baobab Executive Director Deborah Ahenkorah Osei-Agyekum said:

For the past seven years, The Golden Baobab Prize has focused on delivering a quality annual literature prize that raises awareness about the need for more African literature for children. Now, the Prize is excited to enter a new phase where we will focus heavily on setting up more publishing partnerships and opportunities for our writers to get more African books into the hands of children. For the first time, this year’s winning stories are guaranteed a publishing contract. The longlist also receives publishing services from Golden Baobab that will connect their stories to leading African and international publishers.

Congratulations to the winners – and those shortlisted.

Panashe Chigumadzi reacts to winning the 2016 K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award

Panashe Chigumadzi

 
Sweet MedicineSweet Medicine, the debut novel by Panashe Chigumadzi, won the 2016 South African Literary Awards K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award recently.

The winners were announced on 7 November 2016 at a gala dinner at Unisa. Chigumadzi shared her award with Willem Anker, who was honoured for his book Buys.

On receiving the award, Panashe had this to say:

It is deeply affirming whenever you receive external validation for what is most often a solitary and isolating experience. This award in particular is an honour because it bears the name of one of South Africa’s literary greats. Over and above that, as someone with Pan-Africanist ideals, I’m deeply humbled that South African readers were able to find resonance with a story set in Zimbabwe, despite what many prospective publishers had said to me. I’m truly grateful to be a writer who has been allowed the space to bring all of herself and her experiences and to have that appreciated by a reading audience.

Sweet Medicine is a thorough and evocative attempt at grappling with a variety of important issues in the postcolonial context: tradition and modernity,
feminism and patriarchy, spiritual and political freedoms and responsibilities, poverty and desperation, and wealth and abundance.

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