Monday, November 2, 2009

Dancing with Life gets Noma Award Honourable Mention

Dancing with Life: Tales from the Township has won an Honourable Mention in the 2009 Noma Awards. The Noma Award has become the most significant book prize in Africa since its inception in 1980, with entries in the categories of scholarly or academic, books for children and literature and creative writing. Christopher Mlalazi’s collection of short stories was one of just four books from across the continent recognised this year, chosen from submissions from 43 publishers in 12 different African countries. The Noma Award went to Nigerian writer Sefi Atta’s for her short story collection Lawless and Other Stories, which won the US$10,000 prize. Tunisian writer Sonia Chamkhi’s Leila ou la femme de l’aube, and Love in the Time of Treason, by South Africa’s Zubeida Jaffer were also singled out for Honourable Mention.

The Noma Award Jury is chaired by Walter Bgoya from Tanzania, one of Africa’s most distinguished publishers, with wide knowledge of both African and international publishing. The other members of the Jury in 2009 were: Professor Simon Gikandi, Robert Schirmer Professor of English at Princeton University; Professor Peter Katjavivi, Chairman of the National Planning Commission in the Government of Namibia, and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Namibia; and Mary Jay, Secretary of the Jury. The Award is sponsored by Kodansha Ltd, Japan.

The judges said of Christopher Mlalazi’s book: ‘Mlalazi’s collection of short stories is an important addition to the new writing from Zimbabwe concentrating on the social disintegration of the country. The stories stand out by being set in Bulawayo, drawing on the distinctive identity of a provincial city, its Ndebele culture, and its marginal relation to the centre. The success of the stories lies in the experiences of ordinary people coping with violence, anger and angst, rather than any self-conscious sense of form.’

Christopher Mlalazi is a graduate of the British Council Crossing Borders Project, a mentoring scheme for writers. He feels that his skills as a writer were honed by his participation in this scheme. As well as being recognised by the Noma panel, Chris won a 2009 National Arts Merit Award in Zimbabwe for Dancing with Life for Outstanding First Creative Book.
Brian Jones, a director of the publishers ’amaBooks, said that he was ‘delighted for Christopher. It is a major achievement for Dancing with Life to be considered by the Noma panel as one of the best four books published in Africa last year, particularly as this is his first book. We’re proud that we were the first to publish Christopher with a short story in Short Writings from Bulawayo, and we have included his stories in each of the subsequent books in the Short Writings series. To me, Christopher’s strength as a writer lies in his keen powers of observation and in his writing remaining rooted in his personal experiences of life in the townships.'

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