Young Africans Amazed By Nigeria, Trouble Was There
YES o, this is Nigeria. What you are seeing, as you say, are wonderful, Lagos is incredible and all Nigerians are great Fela Kuti mesmerizers with voice and musical instruments; we are Wole Soyinkas hurling verbs of powerful vowels at all who remain silent in the face of tyranny; Dangotes and Hakeem Bello-Osagies with investment portfolios destined to African countries; and incredible support systems and funds to continue to found and carry the arts. Yes all this is Nigeria, and even Nigeria could be more! And it will be more.
In the second year of the Etisalat Prizes for African Literature, Everywhere two young Africans came to Lagos for the award ceremony taking place in the Economic Capital of Nigeria. There are two prizes in contention. There is the Flash Fiction Prize in which participants must tell a story in three hundred words. The winner takes home a cash prize of one thousand pounds, an i-pad and an engraved pen. There is also the prize for the first published novel or collection of short stories. The winner goes away with a cash prize of fifteen thousand pounds, an engraved pen, an i-pad, three months sojourn at the now famous school of writing at Norwitch University in the south of England. But that’s not all.
Etisalat publishes a thousand copies of the winning title along with the other two titles in the short list to distribute to libraries and schools throughout the continent. There is more. Etisalat arranges for the winning writer and short listed colleagues to do book reading tours in at least three African cities. Last year the cities were Nairobi in Kenya, Kampala in Uganda and Johannesburg in South Africa.
Above is the reason why two young Africans in their twenties, one male and one female, arrived in Lagos in the middle of March 2015. Songeziwe Mahlangu hails from Alice in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. He moved to Cape Town as a child and grew up in the township of that city of Table Mountain. He holds a university degree in business and works for a business company in the city.
Mr. Mahlangu is a tall leaning towards large young man, almost withdrawn, virtually unable to utter all he wants to say without encouragement. He had just published his first novel Penumbra. To say he arrived in Lagos is to ignore the drama of the process that got him to Lagos Nigeria.
Songeziwe, like millions of young Africans has never travelled outside of his country South Africa. He had no passport and when eventually one was gotten for him he wanted to know if he should take it to the airport with him! On the fifteenth of March, Songeziwe’s novel Penumbra (a place of light and darkness) won the Etisalat Prize for the first novel. His life has changed forever, changed by something that happened in Lagos Nigeria.
The second young African is Neema Komba, a lady of regal bearing and almost permanent smile comes from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. The only African country she has ever been to is her neighbouring Kenya but she has been to the United States of America. She manages a Soap Making Factory in Dar es Salaam.
Her first publication is a collection of poems called See Through The Complicated. Coming to Lagos for Neema is like coming to some magic land full of plenty for everyone. On March 15, 2015, Neema’s short fiction We set Something on Fire won the prize for Flash Fiction and her life has changed for the better because of what happened in Lagos Nigeria.
The night of the awards was redolent with great possibilities, in the presence of great personalities. Wole and Folake Soyinka were there. To see the legend Kongi funrare walk into that hall at the Intercontinental hallowed the surrounding. Wanle Akinboboye of La Campaigne Tropicana was there. And when the awards were done Angelique Kidjo, our lady of songs set the hall on fire. Angelique Kidjo of Benin Republic comes from the ancient town of Whiddah and sings a unique blend of French and Yoruba.
Both hall and stage pulsed with rhythms dictated by Kidjo’s restless stage performance. And as if to show off their possibilities, Hollywood stars, young still struggling writers, even one in two acrobats did summersaults to the eyes of tens of cameras professional and cell phone. Did anybody remember that there is a furious political party election campaign for transformation or change outside?