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General News of Friday, 4 March 2011

Source: GNA

African Women Writers in pole position for Commonwealth Writers' prize

Accra, March 4, GNA - The Commonwealth Writers' Prize, which is internationally recognised for promoting ground-breaking works of fiction from across the globe, on Friday, announced the African Regional finalists for the 2011 competition. They are Aminatta Forna, a Sierra Leonean writer and Cynthia Jele, a South African author.

Aminatta Forna won the prize for the Best Book category with her novel: 93The Memory of Love," while Cynthia Jele won the Best First Book category with her book: 93Happiness is a four-letter Word." Announcing the winners in Accra, Ms Ajoa Yeboah-Afari, Africa Region Chairperson of the Jury of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2011, indicated that similar events were being held in the other three Commonwealth Regions to announce the Regional winners.

She said the two African finalists would be heading for Sydney, Australia, on May 16 to compete with the other winners from the Caribbean and Canada, South Asia and Europe, South East Asia and the Pacific for the overall Best Book and Best First book prizes. Ms Yeboah-Afari explained that the eight Regional winners of the Best Book and the Best First Book would be awarded cash prizes of 1,000 pounds sterling each, while the Overall Best Book and Overall Best First Book at the grand finale in Sydney would receive 10,000 and 5,000 pounds sterling respectively.

She said though the levels of entries in this year's Commonwealth Writers' Prize were outstanding and the competition was fierce, there was poor participation of Ghanaian writers. Ms Yeboah-Afari said out of the 60 entries only five came from Ghanaian writers, which was very disappointing and gave cause for great worry.

She said the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, which was in its 25th year and supported by the Macquarie Group Foundation, had been unique in offering both established and emerging writers the opportunity to showcase their work.

Ms Yeboah-Afari said the Prize continued to identify and promote the best of Commonwealth fiction written in English and in doing so helped to create new literary icons across the Commonwealth. Professor Atukwei Okai, General-Secretary, Pan African Writers' Association, congratulated the Africa Regional winners and wished them luck in the grand finals.

He expressed grave worry about poor reading culture in Ghana, particularly among the youth, saying this had also contributed to the lack of interest and skills in the writing of award winning books. Prof Atukwei Okai appealed to the Ministry of Education to initiate a special programme for schools to help develop creative writing and also revamp state and community libraries and bookshops to help increase reading and provide market for writers and publishers. He stressed that if Ghana refused to tackle the problem now, not only would the country be denying talented people the opportunity to exploit their God-given creativity, but would also bar the nation the opportunity to add new names to the steadily rising number of African authors.

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