For the second time in a row, a Nigerian writer has won the AKO Caine Prize for African writing. This may not seem like a premise worth celebrating on a national level, probably because it’s literature.
Literature doesn’t hold a strong aura in today’s multi-diverse Nigerian media ecosystem as opposed to the African literary scene, even though Nigerian literary enthusiasts are a big part of the collective.
This has directly affected the number of young people interested in crafting a career from the system. A growing number of young people today would rather hustle through the dark underbelly of the entertainment system to become a Burna Boy or Wizkid, than navigate effortlessly through the literary world to end up a Wole Soyinka.
Seems a bit exaggerated, maybe?
Let’s try to prove the validity of the above assertion. Put together a local personality poll and ask a handful of young people to name one literary festival in Nigeria, and you will begin to understand my logic. The resulting data will be skewed heavily on the side of ignorance or at best forgetfulness.
This can’t be surprising statistics though, with heavy investment in entertainment based shows like Big Brother Naija and Detty December Festivals and little or no support for literary festivals.
But in the midst of the fledgling support for literary events and platforms, Nigerians have honed their way into the hearts of the African literary ecosystem in a way that it is mandatory for a Nigerian literati representative to be seated at the table.
For example, the shortlist of five for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing had three Nigerians on it. Something not altogether surprising, owing to the fact that Nigerians have always been on the list dating back to the origin of the renowned prize.
As Nigerians, we are a literary collective at heart but we need to make an effort to propagate it on a more national level, so the literary landscape can slowly begin to have an effect on the choices of young minds.
So congratulations to literary powerhouse, Irenosen Okojie for clinching this year’s esteemed AKO Caine prize for African writing.
And even though her worthy exploits may not be blared non-stop on radio and TV, it should be documented in the sands of time, so when the literary renaissance is finally televised, her accomplishment will be recorded alongside many others as an important part of the little successes that fueled the literary renaissance.
This article was written by Henri ‘Yire; connect on Instagram with him here