Two Eastern Cape writers on list for literary award

Two of the Eastern Cape’s newest literature voices have made the longlist for the prestigious Etisalat Prize for Literature 2016.

Piggy Boy’s Blues by Nakhane Touré and Nwelezelanga: The Star Child by Unathi Magubeni are two of the nine titles gunning for the pan-African prize, which celebrates debut African writers of published book-length fiction.

Both these titles are published by new kid on the block Blackbird Books.

Publisher Thabiso Mahlape launched Blackbird last year with the intent to create a home and a platform for black writers and stories.

Speaking to the Daily Dispatch after the list was announced, Mahlape said she probably paid more attention to awards than she should and that the work alone should be gratification enough.

“But in a country where book sales aren’t what they should be, award recognition goes some way to filling that gap. So how do I feel? So great, and this validates Blackbird which works because it is the right thing at the right time, not to discount my own genius,” said Mahlape.

The longlist is made up of entries from first-time authors, whose books were published in the past 24 months.

South African authors make up most of the list with six out of the nine authors nominated.

Award-winning musician and now author Touré said the seven years he put into the book were not worthless and that he had been recognised as a good writer.

“Awards are a strange thing for me. As much as it feels good when I’m considered for one, or when I actually win one, there is always a voice at the back of my head that reminds me that this doesn’t mean anything; that what matters is the work and why you created it,” said Touré.

He said career-wise “this is a nod and an acknowledgement from a group of people, a society, that has been entrusted with pushing the art forward by picking the best of the bunch and exposing them to people.”

Sangoma, trainee herbalist and poet, Magubeni said considering that his book had been in stores for only six months, the nomination brought the book to the attention of literary enthusiasts outside our borders.

“This awareness will contribute in our quest of getting the message of the book to the many. It is also a great honour to be chosen among such great literary talent,” said Magubeni.

He added that competitions like this contributed greatly in the development of literature. “They bring attention, recognition and prestige to literary talent that is rising in the continent. They also serve as a pat on the back for the hard work the writers have put in and inspiration to reach greater heights,” he said.

The winner of the 2016 Etisalat Prize will be announced in March next year and will receive £15000 (about R265000), an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen, and an Etisalat-sponsored fellowship at the University of East Anglia where they will be mentored by renowned Professor Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland. —