Winning African Writer to Receive Prize in Namibia

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By Staff Reporter

Windhoek – Unam will co-host the presentation of the NOMA Award for Publishing in Africa at a celebration ceremony and dinner to be held at the Windhoek Country Club this Thursday, it was announced in a press statement.

The Noma Award, under the auspices of UNESCO, will be presented by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Theo-Ben Gurirab MP.
This year’s winner of the Award is Zimbabwean author Shimmer Chinodya for his novel Strife. The book was published in 2006 by Weaver Press, Zimbabwe.
The Noma Award Jury’s citation 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.”

Shimmer Chinodya is a Zimbabwean writer who has published eight novels, children’s books, educational texts, radio and film scripts, and has also contributed to numerous anthologies. He has won several awards, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Africa region). He seeks to primarily present an African worldview, but wants his literature to speak to the world as a whole.

Chinodya 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”.

A total of 107 titles from 66 African publishers in 12 countries, in five different languages, were submitted for the 2007 competition. The jury singled out a further four titles for honourable mention.

Now in its 19th year, the Noma Award was founded and is sponsored by Kodansha Ltd, the major Japanese publishing house. The annual US$10 000 award is open to African writers and scholars whose work is published in Africa. The spirit within which the award is given is to encourage and reward autonomous African publishers and African writers.

An impartial committee, comprising of African scholars and book experts, and representatives of the international book community are entrusted with the selection of the annual prize. The jury is assisted by independent opinion and assessments from a large and distinguished pool of subject specialists throughout the world, including many in Africa.

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, then 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 award is the only pan-African book prize: scholarly, literary and children’s titles are eligible in any of the languages of Africa. All categories have won in the past, including titles in African languages.

In 2006, Namibian authors Colleen Mannheimer and Gillian Maggs-Kolling received an honourable mention from the Noma Award Jury for their Tree Atlas of Namibia, published by the Namibia Botanical Research Institute.
The presentation of the Noma Award is made every year to the winner at a ceremony in Africa. Many distinguished Africans have presented the award, reflecting its unique status in the cultural life of Africa.

Among more recent presenters have been the presidents of Tanzania and Mozambique, the prime ministers of Ghana and Ethiopia, and the Nobel Prize laureate Wole Soyinka in Nigeria.

This is the first time the award is being presented in Namibia.
The presentation of the Noma Award is always an occasion to provide focus on writing, publishing and many activities relating to the book. Unam therefore also co-hosting with the Noma Award Committee a round table discussion on ‘Prospects and Problems of Independent Local Publishing in Namibia’, to be held at the university on Wednesday, June 18. This will bring together publishers, agencies supporting publishing in Namibia, and government representatives.

This will be followed by a reading by Shimmer Chinodya from his novel Strife, and an interactive with the author. The reading is open to the public. Details can be obtained from Emilia Aniceto at telephone number 061-206-3094.

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