Bellagio Publishing Network  

BPN Newsletter Issue No 20, Autumn 1997 

 
 

Ghanaian History Book Wins 1997 Noma Award

A. Adu Boahen's Mfantsipim and the Making of Ghana: A Centenary History, 1876-1976, published in 1996 by Sankofa Educational Publishers Ltd, Accra, Ghana, has been named as the winner of the 1997 Noma Award for Publishing in Africa. The book was cited by the jury as `no ordinary history book. It is a fascinating story, elegantly told by a meticulous historian. The author, a major historian and great political figure, skilfully presents the story of the making of modern Ghana through the life history of one school. Through detailed and rigorous research, he situates the story in its historical context with an easy and magisterial professionalism. Whilst combining thematic and chronological styles in such an ingenious way as to excite the reader's imagination, the language and style remain simple, straightforward and fluent.'

The history of the school is linked to the evolution of modern Ghana, from its colonial inception to independent nationhood. The founders were fired in their determination by the rising tide of nationalism which inspired the search for knowledge as a weapon of liberation. The story is woven around this nationalist spirit, linking it creatively with the larger struggle for national independence and sovereignty which culminated in the birth of modern Ghana. The story illustrates how Mfantsipim was the trailblazer for institution-building in Ghana's educational institutions, and how it helped to instil in the national psyche the pursuit of excellence in scholarship and in service, patriotism, competitiveness, and pride in Ghanaian culture.

The $10,000 award was presented on 7 November during the Uganda Book Week, in Kampala.

Guia Bibliografico para o Estudante de História de Moçambique by Amelia Néves de Souto, published in 1996 by the Centro de Estudos Africanos, Universidade Eduardo Mondolane in Mozambique, was awarded `Special Commendation'. The guide, in Portuguese, is the first significant and substantial bibliography of Mozambican history to appear outside Mozambique, filling a lacuna in the bibliographical infrastructure for African history. A bibliographic guide to the country's history from the third century up to 1930, some 1,000 entries, many annotated, are supplemented by judicious interpretative essays. The jury praised the guide as `a work of exceptional academic importance and genuine scholarship. Authoritative, highly utilitarian, comprehensive, innovative, the work is a genuine guide for scholars which can be used with confidence throughout the world scholarly community.'

133 titles, from 80 African publishers, in 19 countries, were submitted for the 1997 competition. Publishers were limited, for the first time, to a maximum of three entries, to encourage publishers to be selective in submitting titles; and the jury noted with satisfaction that this resulted in a continuing high level of entries, and an increase in the number of publishers submitting titles from 49 in 1995 and 72 in 1996, to 80 in 1997.

The Noma Award jury is chaired by Walter Bgoya from Tanzania, one of Africa's most distinguished and respected publishers, with wide knowledge of both African and international publishing. The other members of the jury are Adewale Maja-Pearce, Nigerian writer and critic; Kay Raseroka, University Librarian of the University of Botswana, and a children's book expert; and Thandika Mkandawire, a noted social scientist and former head of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) in Senegal. The fifth member of the jury is Mary Jay, Secretary to the jury.

The jury considered the changing publishing conditions in Africa, particularly questions of ownership and autonomy. They decided to draw the attention of African publishers to the spirit of the Noma Award - to encourage and reward genuinely autonomous African publishers, and African writers; and to ask publishers considering submissions to take this condition and spirit into account in deciding whether to submit titles.

In 1996 the jury noted with concern the continuing deterioration in production standards of many entries. Critical attention was given to this aspect in 1997 and, notwithstanding the difficult manufacturing conditions prevailing in parts of Africa, they were disappointed to note may instances of unacceptable low standards not accounted for by lack of facilities.

The jury also singled out three further books for `honourable mention'. They are (in alphabetical order by author): The Jailer's Book by Ken Barris (Groote Schuur, South Africa: Kagiso Publishers, 1996); Propaganda by Monuments and Other Stories by Ivan Vladislavic (Cape Town, South Africa: David Philip Publishers, 1995); The Road Out by Dan Wylie (Plumstead, South Africa: Snailpress, 1996)

For further information about the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa, contact Mary Jay, PO Box 128, Witney, Oxon OX8 5XU, UK. Tel +44 1993 775235, Fax +44 1993 709265, E-mail maryljay@aol.com. [end] [BPN, no 20, 1997, p. 11]

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