Bellagio Publishing Network  

 BPN Newsletter Issue No 26-27, November 2000 


Awards to African books

The Nigerian Book Foundation Award

The Nigerian Book Foundation's 1999 Outstanding Achievement Award in Book Development was made to Chief Victor Uzoma Nwankwo, Managing Director and Chief Executive of Fourth Dimension Publishing Company Ltd. Reproduced below are extracts from the citation made at the award ceremony.

The preoccupation of the typical chief executive of a Nigerian publishing company is to maximise his company's annual turnover and profit margin. The broader issues of national, African, and international book development are of minimal concern to him. Chief Nwankwo is, naturally, concerned with the progress of his publishing company. Under him, Fourth Dimension Publishing Company Ltd. has built up an impressive list of titles, particularly on scholarly works and children's literature. His company set up the first in-house desktop publishing unit in a Nigerian publishing house. The company won the 1994 Legal Deposit award conferred by the National Library of Nigeria.

The significant difference between Chief Nwankwo and his fellow Nigerian publishers lies in his breadth of vision. He looked beyond his nose, and saw that the healthy growth of Fourth Dimension is inextricably linked with the state of national and international book development. Chief Nwankwo is also well known as a man of action, imbued with the philosophy to 'always make a difference'.

In 1989, after only five years as a full-time publisher (from a 13-year civil/structural engineering background), Chief Nwankwo was probably the first head of a publishing company located East of the Niger and away from the Lagos/Ibadan axis to become President of the Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA), a position he held from 1989 to 1991. While NPA President, he founded the Nigerian Book League, bringing together the major professional associations in the book sector, and served as its President from 1989 to 1992. He was appointed to the Board of the Nigerian Educational Research & Development Council (NERDC), representing the Nigerian book industry, from 1989 to 1993, at a time when a national book policy was in the making. He became an active contributor to the founding in 1991 of the Nigerian Book Foundation, Nigeria's non-profit, non-governmental, national book development organization. The Distinguished Publisher Award conferred by the NPA on Chief Nwankwo in 1995 bears eloquent testimony to the high rating he enjoys from his Nigerian peers.

In 1986 Chief Nwankwo became a member of the Council of Management of the African Books Collective Ltd. (ABC), Oxford, UK. ABC is a successful initiative which is helping African publishers to market their books overseas, particularly in Europe and the USA. Because of the quality of his contributions, Chief Nwankwo has remained on the Council ever since.

Chief Nwankwo's election in 1992 as the Founding Chairman of the Board of the African Publishers Network (APNET) launched him firmly into international book publishing and development. The impressive achievements of APNET in its first five years of existence, particularly in establishing a mutually rewarding relationship between African publishers, in grappling with some of the key impediments to book publishing in Africa, and in speaking as one respected voice for African publishing with such international bodies as the World Bank, UNESCO, and the Bellagio group, can be ascribed to Chief Nwankwo's astute and charismatic leadership. And his integrity. Uncharacteristic of 20th Century African leaders, Chief Nwankwo pegged the maximum term of any APNET Chairman to four years, and set a shining example by successfully resisting all attempts to waive the regulation in his own case. Little wonder that APNET conferred on him its Merit Award for distinguished service to publishing development in Africa at the end of his tenure.

Ghana Publisher of the Year Award 1999

In December 1999 Africa Christian Press received Ghana's Publisher of the Year award in recognition of the Company's 'immense contribution to book development in Ghana'

Caine Prize 2000

The first Caine Prize for African Writing was presented at ZIBF 2000 to Sudanese writer Leila Aboulela, for her short story 'The Museum', in Opening Spaces. Published in 1999 jointly by Heinemann's African Writers Series and Baobab Books of Zimbabwe, Opening Spaces is an anthology of African women's writing edited by award-winning Zimbabwean writer Yvonne Vera.

Four other writers shortlisted for the prize included three Zimbabweans, Charles Mungoshi for Walking Still, Shimmer Chinodya for Can We Talk?, and Rory Kilalea for 'Whine of a Dog' in The New Writer. Also shortlisted was Djibouti writer Abdourahman Waberi, for his story 'The Gallery of the Insane' in XciTes. The judges commended four other writers, Funso Aiyejina of Nigeria, Ama Ata Aidoo of Ghana, and Farida Karodia and Peter Horn, both of South Africa.

Launched in the UK, the prize is named after Sir Michael Caine, the founder of the Booker Prize, who died in 1999, bequeathing funds for a foundation to support African creative writing. The prize, worth US$15,000, focuses on the short story or the narrative poem, as reflecting the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition. The five-member international judging panel for the Caine award was chaired by Nigerian novelist and Booker prizewinner, Ben Okri.

Noma Award

The 2000 Noma award has been won by Ufundishaji wa Fasihi: Nadharia na Mbinu (the Teaching of Literature: Theory and Methods) by Kimanu Njogu and Rocha Chimerah. The book, in Kiswahili, was published in Nairobi 1999 by the Jomo Kenyatta Foundation.

The jury, chaired by Walter Bgoya of Tanzania, described the book as 'an invaluable contribution to the understanding and teaching of Kiswahili literature…It is probably the first book of its kind to be written and published in an African language.' They commended the book 'for addressing the marginalisation of African indigenous languages, and the tendency, through globalisation, for African languages to be silenced.'

The authors present a survey of the development of Kiswahili literary genres and discuss the major concepts and theories of literature. They propose the most appropriate theory for teaching in secondary schools and colleges: that which recognises the social basis of all literary phenomena.

The jury once again stressed the importance of production standards and stated that however excellent its content, a book would not be considered for the award unless production was good.

The $10,000 award will be presented at the Cairo International Book Fair, 24 January - 6 February 2001.

100 titles were submitted for the 2000 award from 50 African publishers, seven fewer titles and 17 fewer publishers than in 1999.
The 1999 Noma award was presented in November of that year in Australia during the Annual & International Conference of the African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific. The prize went to L'interprétation des rêves dans la région Sénégambienne, suivi de la clef des songes de la Sénégambie, de l'Egypte pharaonique et de la tradition islamique (The interpretation of dreams in the Senegambian region, with a key to dreams from Senegambia, Pharaonic Egypt and the Islamic tradition) by Djibril Samb, Les Nouvelles Editions Africaines du Sénégal, Dakar, 1998. This work is a study of the structure of ideas and symbolic significance associated with the dream. Focusing on dreams in Sénégambian culture, the study is set in the context of the ideas held by the ancient Egyptians, by writers and thinkers of classical Greece, and by the Judaeo-Christian and Islamic traditions. [end]  [BPN, no 26–27, 2000, p. 17.]

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