Writings of the general word's body

Monday, March 24, 2008

The IRN Awards

News Release

More than one hundred submissions were received for the first IRN collection; and, entries were highly competitive. After a rigorous assessment of all works, especially based on how well the theme of theorizing eroticism in Africa is captured, these contributors won the IRN awards for their outstanding bodies of work.

Shailja Patel: The IRN-Africa Fanny Ann Eddy Award for the poem “Screaming.” “Screaming” is striking because Patel illustrates how damage to the body is one of the many tools oppressive patriarchy uses to impose control over people who dare step away from the margins of its strictures.

Shailja Patel is a Kenyan poet, playwright and theatre artist; she has performed her work in venues ranging from New York's Lincoln Centre, to Durban's Poetry Africa Festival. Her one-woman show, Migritude, received Ford Foundation funding for a Kenyan tour, and an NPN Creation Fund Award. CNN describes Shailja as an artist "who exemplifies globalization as a people-centered phenomenon of migration and exchange."The Gulf Today (United Arab Emirates) calls her "the poetic equivalent of Arundhati Roy."

Crispin Oduobuk-Mfon Abasi: The IRN-Africa Outstanding Award in Creative Writing for the short story “Two-Step Skip.”

Two-Step Skip” is a unique narrative set in Abuja,Nigeria; it tells the story of a young gay man who arranges to secretly meet with a potential lover he meets on line. He is, however, brutally attacked and almost raped for being gay.

Crispin Oduobuk-MfonAbasi lives in Abuja, Nigeria. His work is included in Workshop Engelsk VG1 Bygg-Og Anleggsteknikk (eds. Janniche Langseth, Hege Lundgren, Jeanne Lindsay Skanke) and In Our Own Words Volume 6 (ed. Marlow Peerse Weaver), as well as several other anthologies. BBC Focus on Africa and Genevieve are some of the other markets where his work has appeared. Also, his stories have been published by East of the Web, Eclectica, Gowanus, 42Opus and other literary sites. Crispin’s "Petrovesky and Polarbywall" was named a Notable Story in the 2005 Million Writers Award. The story was also named one of the ten finalists in the 2006 Best of the Net. Moreover, his "Maiduguri Road" was named a Notable Story in the 2006 Million Writers Award.

Victor Ehikhamenor: The IRN-Africa Outstanding Award in Visual Arts. Victor's images and drawings are haunting, and leave lingering impressions; his art makes very strong statements.

Victor Ehikhamenor was born in Edo State, Nigeria. He is an artist and a writer whose works have been widely exhibited and published. He is currently an MFA fellow at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Yvette Abrahams’ essay “Your Silence Will not Protect You”: Silence, Voice and Power Moving Beyond Violence Towards Revolution in South Africa (# Khib Omsis) won the IRN-Africa Desmond Tutu Award. This award goes to the outstanding essay submitted to OUTLIERS. In this essay, Yvette offers a theoretical framework through which identity and specifically lesbian identity in Africa is theorized in ways that deconstruct preconceived ideas about feminism, patriarchy, empowerment, politics of embodiment and social activism. This essay speaks [to] both the academy and the non-academic worlds and will inevitably generate more discussions and contributions to the understanding of queerness in Africa. The strength of this essay is that none of the following, silence, protection, violence, voice, power and revolution is assumed. Instead, Yvette works us through all the steps and argues for every position she takes or do not take. “Your Silence Will Not Protect You...” enters the pantheon of classics in related subject on its own right.

Yvette Abrahams was born in Cape Town in 1963 to parents of slave and Khoekhoe descent. She grew up in exile and returned home in 1983. Since then, she has joyfully tried to practice “the constant vigilance” which she affirms is the price of freedom. She was trained as a historian, and after many years in the academia, she became the Commissioner of Gender Equality. She [got] married to a dyke on Freedom day (April 27, 2007) and now spends most of her time off the Cape Coast planting enough trees to offset two lifetimes of carbon emissions. She has no cat.

Notisha Massaquoi's essay "The Continent as a Closet: The Making of an African Queer Theory" won the IRN-Africa Audre Lorde Award.

This selected essay captures the notion of 'home', citizenship and belonging for queer immigrants and refugees. She elegantly bridges African queer identities with accounts of "complex, dynamic, and overlapping geographies while interrogating transnational subjects, their nation of origin and destinations as well as their understanding of sexual dynamics." The beauty of the essay is that both Africa as a "continent" as queer identities are revisited and re-articulated from and beyond the "intellectual landscape of academic theories and practices." The queer project she imagines functions discursively as anarrative of Africa's political history boldly resisting oppression, and embodying utopian stories and possibilities of life as queer Africans on the continent.

Notisha is originally from Sierra Leone and currently resides in Canada. She is the executive director of Women's Health in Women's Hands Community Health Center for Black women of color and a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto. Her most recent publication is the edited Theorizing Empowerment: Canadian Perspectives on Black Feminist Thought. She is currently working on a second collection with Selby K. Thiam entitled None on Record: Stories of Queer Africa.

The IRN-Africa Simon Nkoli Award goes to Professor Femi Osofisan 's article "Wounded Eros and Cantillating Cupids: Sensuality and the Future of Nigerian Literature in the Post-Military Era."

In this essay, Professor Osofisan retraces the shifts from erotic abstract symbolism to flesh, "as breathing, living, and corporeal presence, capable of sensual desire and carnality, and vulnerable to violation" in Nigerian Literature in the post-Military era. He uncovers the ideological erotic stereotype underneath early Nigerian Literature --and pan-African Literature-- and discusses why and how the option for "full disclosure and unrestrained loquacity" has dominated the post-Military era. He also analyzes the impact of globalization and globalized "American values" and the possibility that erotic full disclosure in Literature may not escape the intrusive lenses and the probing inquisitiveness of the West. However, what is seen as "license" may itself be attributed a judgment value that is telling about our Christian upbringing, which out of misplaced zealousness, systematically expunge the vulgar. Professor Osofisan deconstructs the fortress of the insensible and embraces the new bloom and heteroglossia of wounded Eros with measured skepticism. To interrogate Eros in Nigerian Literature and African society, one must grapple with the multiplicity of subtle strategies and channels through which Eros is represented as well as the inadequacies and brutalities committed in its name. The beauty of the essay is that it not only highlights the shift from abstract symbolism to full embodiment of Eros in the post-military era in Nigeria, it also reminds us that such disclosure is not costless when the market of modernism collides with the lingering pain of humanism in our society.

Professor Femi Osofisan is a renowned African Playwright and professor of drama. He is currently in the department of Theatre Arts at the University of Ibadan where he has taught many dramatists for many years.

Sybille Ngo Nyeck and Unoma N. Azuah.
Editors, OUTLIER collection.

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