Yesterday, Thursday, the 2012 edition of Nigeria Prize for Literature has been given to a Diaspora writer, Belgium-based, Chika Unigwe.
According to the Chairman of the prize’s Board, Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo, Unigwe’s work, On Black Sister’s Street, beat other finalists Only a Canvas by Olusola Olugbesan and Onaedo: The Blacksmith’s Daughter by Ngozi Achebe. The winner went home with $100,000.
Established in 2004 and organised by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), the 2012 edition had 214 entries. Last year the same worth of prize was won by Adeleke Adeyemi.
In 2004, Unigwe, had won the BBC Short Story Competition.
From her Belgium base, Unigwe sent a note: “I am humbled by this win. I have read some of the writers on the long list of 10 and admired their works, and so to come this far with my book is incredibly humbling. I am honoured as well.
“For a writer who constantly doubts her abilities, this is validation for me that maybe I am doing something right. To win especially with this book, a book that taught me a lot about myself, is gratifying.”
The organizers stated: “The Nigeria Prize for Literature was instituted in 2004 by The Nigeria LNG Limited to identify and reward excellence in literature. The overall objective of the prize is to encourage and stimulate authorship and the development of Nigerian literary culture in terms of creative writing, production and reading, and by so doing guide literary taste.”
Born in 1974, Unigwe holds a Ph.D in Literature from the University of Leiden in The Netherlands. She published her first novel titled De Feniks, in 2005 and was shortlisted for the Vrouw en Kultuur debuutprijs for the best first novel by a female writer. Her second novel, Fata Morgana, was published in Dutch in 2008 and will soon be released in English. Her first novel, De Feniks, was published in Dutch in September 2005 and it is the first book of fiction, written by a Flemish author of African origin. In 2009, Chika Unigwe’s novel On Black Sisters’ Street, about African prostitutes living and working in Belgium, was published in London by Jonathan Cape. She lives in Turnhout, Belgium.
She is also the author of two children’s books published by Macmillan, London.
In 2003, she was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing; won the BBC Short story Competition and a Commonwealth Short Story Competition award in 2004; her short story made the top 10 of the Million Writers Award for best online fiction, also in 2004.
A year after, Unigwe won the Third prize in the Equiano Fiction Contest.