The judges for the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature have since been unveiled, signaling the commencement of work on the submissions presented for consideration by African authors for the prestigious prize. Soon, the judges will be expected to unfold the longlist, then the shortlist and pick the eventual winner of the pan-African prize for first fiction. The contest rewards the winner with £15,000 and a creative writing scholarship at the University of Angelia. The profiles of the judges of 2016 Etisalat Prize are, no doubt, intimidating to say the least.
The judges are as follows:
Helon Habila – He is the Chair of Etisalat Prize 2016 Judging Panel. Habila is an accomplished author, poet, teacher and journalist. Multiple-award winning Nigerian-born Habila critiqued Noviolet Bulawayo’s novel, which won the first Etisalat Prize for Literature, as an African pun on poverty. The critique, which was published by Guardian of London Newspaper, opened the discourse among African writers on what is most crucial to pen about Africa. Habila recently worked on a non-fiction on the Chibok Girls. He is currently an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at George Mason University, United States. His novels include Waiting for an Angel, 2002, Measuring Time, 2007 and Oil on Water, 2010. He also edited Granta Book of African Short Story in 2011. His novels, poems, and short stories have won many honours and awards including the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Novel, Africa Section, Caine Prize, Virginia Library Foundation Prize for Fiction and most recently the Windham-Campbell Prize. Habila has been a Contributing Editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review since 2004, and he is a regular reviewer for the Guardian, UK.
Elinor Sisulu: Another judge of the Etisalat Prize for Literature is Elinor Sisulu. A writer, human rights activist and political analyst, Sisulu was born in Harare, Zimbabwe in March 1958 and grew up mostly in Bulawayo. She combines training in History and English Literature with Development Studies and Feminist Theory. She completed her first two degrees at the University of Zimbabwe and studied at the United Nations Institute for Economic Planning and Development, IDEP, in Dakar, Senegal. From 1984 to 1985, she studied for Masters of Art in Development Studies at the Institute of Social Studies at The Hague. During her stint in Holland, she met and got acquainted with the man who later became her husband, ANC activist Max Sisulu, who was the recipient of the Govan Mbeki Fellowship at the University of Amsterdam.
In April 2003, Elinor was commissioned by the Independent Electoral Authority of South Africa to write a report on the Africa Conference on Elections, Democracy and Governance in Africa. In August 2003, in her capacity as a Resource Person to Themba Lesizwe, the South African Network of Trauma Service Providers, she helped plan and organise a symposium on Civil Society and Justice in Zimbabwe held in Johannesburg from August 11-13, 2003. From May to June 2004, she carried out the first phase of a study for the World Food Programme (WFP) on how to introduce advocacy on HIV/AIDS, nutrition and education at WFP food distribution sites in Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia and Angola. Since 2003, Elinor has been advising on projects on democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe. She is currently the Media and Advocacy Manager of the Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe’s Johannesburg Office, which she was instrumental to in establishing in 2004. Elinor is a member of the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA) Board, the National Arts Festival Board, the Independent Media Trust of Zimbabwe, and the Anthony Sampson Board. She is also a Trustee of the Heal Zimbabwe Trust, a South African-based trust that facilitates humanitarian assistance for Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa.
Edwige- Renée Dro– The third judge for the Etisalat Prize for Literature is Edwige- Renée Dro. She has worked as a Marketing Assistant and Community Journalist in the UK before moving back to Cote d’Ivoire. Her stories have been published in Prima Magazine and africanwriter.com. She is currently completing work on her first novel and is the founder of Abidjan Lit, an African fiction book group. The ball is now in the court of these judges. Which of the books they are considering now will arouse their interest to make the long list, the shortlist and ultimately win the coveted prize? Only time will tell.