By Walter Wilson Nana
(Originally published in the The Post, Friday, July 22, 2011)
Rosemary Ekosso and Wirnzerem Barfee, Cameroonian fiction and poetry writers, respectively, distinguished themselves at the second edition of EduART Awards, which took place at the Eta Palace Hotel, Buea, recently. Ekosso, international translator and interpreter was shortlisted for the EduART Jane & Rufus Blanshard Award for fiction for her debut novel, The House of Falling Women.
In the Bate Besong Award for Poetry 2011, Barfee, an employee of the Ministry of Finance, chanted to the literary limelight for his poetry collection; Bird of the Oracular Verb. Also shortlisted were Bongasu Tanla Kishani for his poetry collection; A Basket of Kola Nuts and John Nkemngong Nkengasong for his poetry collection; Letters to Marion (And the Coming Generations).
A new twist at the ceremony was the introduction of the Community Readers Awards, whose citation is the most avid reader. Without a better way to determine this, the winners were nominated this year by a recognized newspaper vendor in Buea. The winners were Messrs Mbwang Ngwesse , Lyonga Esuke and Charles Mbella Moki, the Mayor of Buea Council. The hope is that these avid readers will transfer some of their enthusiasm for reading newspapers and magazines to Cameroon literature in English.
For the EduART Life Time Achievement Awards for Trailblazers 2011, the following personalities stood tall; Prof. Steve Arnold for his promotion of English-speaking Cameroonian literature, Prof. Bole Butake for his endless quest to promote drama and performing arts in Cameroon and Dr. Linus Asong for his output as a novelist and his tenacity in writing, even at the time that when there were no publishing outlets for English-speaking Cameroonian writers.
Earlier, Dr. Nalova Lyonga, Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Teaching at the University of Buea, while reminding the audience that awards are intended to celebrate the best, expressed worry that Cameroonian literature is underreported. She enjoined Cameroonians to educate their children to write, "even if we have to use the Whiteman's language to glorify ourselves, we must do it."
To her, Dr. Joyce Ashutantang, Cameroonian-born and US-based lecturer in Comparative African Literature and initiator of the EduART Awards should be supported in her endeavour of promoting literary creativity in Cameroon. In a message from the Board Members of the EduART Inc, Tabenyang Iyok said the awards are not only out to encourage the production of more creative writing, but equally to boost publishing in Cameroon. He said EduART awards are people's choice, which means the winning entries are selected by a cross-section of the reading public and not only by literary experts. Southwest Governor's representative, Handerson Quetong, said there are a lot of potentials in English-speaking Cameroonian writing, which must be exploited.
Meanwhile, Barfee felt rewarded, but quickly exhorted stakeholders of Cameroonian literature; writers, publishers and Government to look at writing as part of the cultural industry, which must be seriously promoted and not left only in the hands of cultural enthusiasts like EduART. Barfee's views were corroborated by other shortlisted writers like MacViban and Mbah Afuh.