Page 21 - May 2021 Litterateur
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Around the world

                                                                                                                Afroplitanism, Diasporic
                     Sudan's           Leila
                     Aboulela  won  the                                                                      Literature and Africa’s Secret
                     inaugural         Caine                                                                           Literary War
                                                                                                                       Alexander Nderitu
                     Prize           (Photo:

                And  that’s  the  folly  of  using  immigrant  literature  as  a  barometer  to  measure  the

                cultural production of the world’s second-largest continent. The domicile of, now,

                1.3 billion culturally diverse people. It would be the equivalent of judging European
                literature  by  reading  the  books  written  by  Europeans  abroad,  the  likes  of  Out  of

                Africa and The Flame Trees of Thika. An estimated 95% of African story books do

                not  centre  Europe  or  North  America.  There  are  so  many  stories  that  can  be  told

                without the backdrop of ‘otherness.’

                Foreign-sponsored  ‘African’  literary  awards  have  also  become  popular  targets  of

                negative criticism. A perfect example of this is the UK-based Caine Prize for African

                Writing. In the first decade of this millennium, the Caine Prize was like an African
                Booker Prize. Highly prestigious and sweetened with a sizeable monetary boost (UK

                £10,000), it launched literary stars on an annual basis; stars who oftentimes went on

                to be signed by literary agents and/or define literary success for upcoming scribes.
                The  early  writers  associated  with  the  prize  include  Leila  Aboulela  (Sudan),  Helon

                Habila  (Nigeria),  Binyavanga  Wainaina  (Kenya),  Yvonne  Owour  (Kenya)  and  Brian

                Chikwava  (Zimbabwe).  But  after  about  fifteen  years,  interest  in  the  Caine  Prize
                began  to  fade.  Even  a  writer  and  arts  critic  like  myself  would  be  hard-pressed  to

                name the last five or so Caine winners.

                My own feeling about the issue of awards is that we, African literary stakeholders,
                should come together and create a continent-based super award that can effectively

                compete with the  Nobel Prize in Literature.

                Another theatre of the clandestine war is the literary festival circuit. In an interview
                with  TV’s  SABC  News,  Thando  Mgqolozana,  founder  of  the  Abantu Book Festival


                             ‘We want Abantu Book Festival to have a Pan-African outlook. In fact, we

                             don’t recognize these (national) borders because these borders were not

                             created for us and they were not created by us. So, if we’re going to create
                             a book festival for Black people, it has to be inclusive of everybody....

                  Litterateur                                          21

                             REDEFINING WORLD
                          EDITED BY SHAJIL ANTHRU
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