South African writer, Songeziwe Mahlangu emerged winner of the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature at a grand event held at Lagos Intercontinental Hotel on Sunday, the 15th of March 2015. This marks the 2nd year of Africa’s most prestigious literary prize.
The 29-year-old, who was presented with a cash prize of £15,000, clinched the number one slot for his book Penumbra, ahead of his contemporaries, Nigerian Chinelo Okparanta, author of Happiness, Like Water and South African, Nadia Davids, author of An Imperfect Blessing.
Songeziwe Mahlangu will also embark on the Etisalat Fellowship at the University of East Anglia under the mentorship of multiple- award winning author, Professor Giles Foden, which affords him the opportunity to network with other writers and publishers and provides him the time and resources to work on his next book.
Neema Koba of Tanzania was announced the winner in the Flash Fiction category of the Etisalat Prize. She won a cash prize of £1,000 for her entry Setting Babu on Fire. The runners up, Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto, writer of the short story I saved my marriage and Irabor Justin Ikhide, writer of the short story These words I do not speak, were presented with a cash prize of £500 each.
The event hosted a long list of prestigious guests and notable personalities such as Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, Chief Opral Benson, Nike Oshinowo, Kunle Afolayan, Tolu Ogunlesi, Darey Art-Alade, Bimbo Akintola, Bimbo Manuel, the Etisalat Prize for Literature judges: Kole Omotoso, Margaret Busby, Dele Olojede, Ellah Allfrey and the Chairman of Etisalat Nigeria, Hakeem Bello-Osagie amongst others.
Speaking at the event, the Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat Nigeria, Matthew Willsher, said that Etisalat is committed to helping Africans tell their stories and is doing so through the Etisalat Prize for Literature, an initiative designed to recognize and reward debut writers of fiction of African citizenship.
“The core of our vision is to encourage and inspire creativity. Having realized that there are lots of burgeoning writers in Africa who are yet to be published, we created the Etisalat prize for Literature to celebrate and encourage these great talents”, said Willsher.
“As an innovative company committed to excellence, Etisalat created the Etisalat Prize for Literature to celebrate and encourage talented African writers”, said Willsher.
Expressing his joy at winning this year’s Etisalat Prize for Literature, an elated Mahlangu commended the telecommunications company for the literary prize which he said would further give wings to young African writers. “This is a wonderful opportunity that opens doors for African writers, especially the young ones, to tell their stories. Penumbra was my first shot at a novel and I am excited that I won the coveted prize.”
For her part, Okparanta observed that the purchase of 1000 copies of each shortlisted book by Etisalat is unique because it aims to promote the publishing industry and encourage reading.
In addition to the prize money of £15,000, Mahlangu also received a high-end mobile device and a book tour to three African cities. Highlights of the ceremony included 3 thrilling stage plays that brought to life the shortlisted books. The stage plays were directed by Ifeoma Fafunwa one of the best stage directors in Nigeria with a string of successfully directed plays including hear word.
The event culminated with an electrifying performance from two-time Grammy award winner, Angelique Kidjo joined on stage by the graceful Evelle, winner of Etisalat-sponsored Nigerian Idol Season Four.