Àtẹ́lẹwọ́ heralds Yorùbá Literature Prize

60 YEARS AFTER FEMI JEBODA’S OLOWOLAIYEMỌ: ÀTẸ́LẸWỌ́ PRIZE FOR YORÙBÁ LITERATURE AND THE JOURNEYS AHEAD

It is irrefutable that Yorùbá is lush and fecund in many areas. Apart from the mouth-watering use of language for communication, the traditional and cultural resources possessed by this tribe also attest to their love and passion for growth, to their constant building of communities across places. The use of pitchy words, and the elevation of the ordinary to extraordinary or esoteric level are associated with these people who are extremely versed in shaping humanity with their narratives.

In 1960, the epic celebration of Nigeria’s Independence after years of colonialism also extended to the celebration of ‘Femi Jeboda’s “Olowolaiyemo”. Olowolaiyemọ’s unforgettable narrative is a testament to the sublimity of stories shunned out by indigenous writers who displayed faultless deployment of language to capture our lives and express our feelings.

However, it is quite worrisome that 60 years after Independence, the Yoruba literary space doesn’t have viable literary prizes after Femi Jeboda’s Olowolaiyemọ won the first prize in a competition for the celebration of Nigeria’s Independence. It is beyond pathetic that we patronize more of English prizes while our roof leaks, ushering in a generation of children who joyfully fail Yorùbá Language in school and rejoice in passing English.

The questions are legion. How did we arrive here? It is irrefutable that most of us read some great Yorùbá texts in school. We relished consuming canonical Yorùbá books written by Oládẹ̀jọ Òkédìjí, Láwuyì Ògúnníran, Bánjọ Akinlabí, Kọ́là Akínlàdé, and other brilliant writers. However, these writers were only recognized because they wrote books. None of them received awards for these books. None of them have prizes named after them. None.

Like I wrote in my post days ago, literary prizes are essential because they offer assurance and hope in a writer’s life. Winning a prize fuels a writer’s confidence. Not winning a prize doesn’t depreciate a writer’s values. However, winning it is not bad. Especially in a country that is pillaged excessively by political looters. Surviving as a writer in this part of the world is a great task. So, winning a prize is quite fine.

But here, apart from prizes for literary work written in English, we don’t have formidable prizes for work written in indigenous languages. We don’t have indigenous prizes that can compete with Commonwealth Prize, Nobel Prize, Windham-Campbell Prize, Caine Prize, etc. There are young writers who are interested in writing in their languages. We can’t continue to fold our arms and watch some of our indigenous languages go into extinction. Nigeria is a multilingual society. There are languages whose speakers are very few. Not to talk of the ones whose people do not value at all.

Is it not funny that we don’t have prizes named after the duo of Akínwùnmí Ìshọ̀lá and Adébáyọ̀ Fálétí? Before Láwuyì Ògúnníran transited to the beyond, our visitation to his house unravelled many things that saddened us. For someone who wrote extensively about his people and the world, he deserved to be celebrated beyond the reading of his books. In our way of appreciating him, Àtẹ́lẹwọ́ honored him by presenting an award to him in his house. Sadly, that would be the first award ever received by Bàbá Láwuyì Ògúnníran.

In our own way of contributing to the propagation of indigenous literacy in our society, Àtẹ́lẹ́wọ́ launched her first prize for Yorùbá Literature yesterday. It is an annual competition for Yorùbá writers. We really want to appreciate our writers. They deserve all the recognitions and accolades. They who shape humanity with their beautiful narratives. Do submit for this prize if you have a full length manuscript written in Yorùbá. It could be prose, poetry or drama. There are prizes to be won. Kindly read and follow the guidelines here. We await your daring narratives. Do check:

https://www.atelewo.org/idije-iwe/

Also, we thank everyone that shared our fliers on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Adúpẹ́ púpọ̀. Elédùà yóò túnbọ̀ maa ran gbogbo wa lọ́wọ́.

(- Rasaq Malik Gbolahan is a writer, poet and the co-founder of Àtẹlẹwọ́.

PS. We’re open to sponsorship, support and collaboration in any form. We need as much support as we can get. Ẹ ṣeun.

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