Bellagio Publishing Network  

 BPN Newsletter Issue No 29, December 2001 


Benchmark cultural work on Ifa wins 2001 Noma Award

Odun Ifa / Ifa Festival by Abosede Emanuel is the 2001 Noma Award Winner. The book was published in 2000 by West African Book Publishers Ltd in Lagos.

The jury praised the work as

an outstanding and significant cultural document, and an important part of the movement of cultural reclamation from within Africa. It assumes direct intellectual responsibility by the Yoruba for their collective history and culture; and extends the scope of Ifa studies in a new and original way. It is uniquely subtle, the coverage is extensive and well informed, and the author displays deep familiarity with indigenous sources, living practitioners and scholarly literature. The book, the product of thirty years' work, will stand as a benchmark for years to come.

Ifa is a system of divination and one of the oracles comprising the traditional religion of the Yoruba. Odun Ifa is the annual Ifa festival, during which specific rites and ceremonies are performed. In addition to history, rites and rituals, the book provides an extensive sample of Ifa verses - in Yoruba and English translation - relating to the sixteen principal paired Odu of Ifa. The jury further commended the book as 'providing a holistic view of Ifa, reflecting the power of its historical myth, morality and place in the Yoruba worldview'.

The �10,000 22nd award will be presented at a special ceremony to be held at the Nigerian International Book fair in Abuja on Saturday, 18 May 2002.

The jury singled out two further books for special commendation: From Cane Fields to Freedom. A Chronicle of Indian South African Life by Uma Dhupelia Mesthrie (Roggebaai, SA: Kwela Books, 2000) and Richtersveld. The Enchanted Wilderness by Graham Willamson (Gauteng, SA: Umdaus Press Pty Ltd 2000).

From Cane Fields to Freedom is a pictorial account of the social history and political experiences of the South African Indian community. 'The photographs in the book are described as visually stunning and beautifully reproduced; and the introductory account and photograph captions are remarkably comprehensive, surefooted and scholarly. The author succeeds in illuminating the way Indians in South Africa have created a specifically Indian, yet genuinely South African Indian identity. She has a fine sense of the richness of the history and conveys it with flair and subtlety.'

Richtersveld is commended as 'a superb description of one of Africa's last truly untamed wildernesses. It covers the ecology of the Richtersveld, an arid area on the border of Namibia and South Africa. In an accessible style, the reader is led through the evolution of the wilderness over its whole geological and biological contribution to African natural history, It is a stunningly beautiful book, a work of scholarship, a valuable contribution to African natural history and a work of love and passion. The scholarship is impeccable and impassioned; the text is comprehensive in scope. The illustrations, layout and reproduction are excellent.'

The novel for young people about an African rite-of-passage story, Because Pula Means Rain by Jenny Robson (Cape Town; Tafelberg Publishers, 2000) also received an honourable mention from the jury. Robson explores the depths of the isolation, suffering and search for self-acceptance by an adolescent boy with albinism.

Eighty-five titles from 56 African publishers in 19 countries and in nine languages were submitted for the 2001 competition.

The Noma Award was established in 1979 as annual prize for an outstanding book from Africa. It is open to any author who is indigenous to Africa, and the work must be published by an indigenous African publisher. The jury is chaired by Walter Bgoya from Tanzania, one of Africa's most distinguished and respected publishers, with wide knowledge of African and international publishing. The other members of the jury in 2001 were: Luli Callinicos, South African scholar and historian, currently writing the biography of Oliver Tambo; Dr Ato Quayson, Director of the African Studies Centre and Fellow of Pembroke College, University of Cambridge; and Mary Jay, Secretary to the Managing Committee (the jury). The Award is sponsored by Kodansha Ltd. Japan.

Entry conditions are available on request from the Secretary, The Noma Award, PO Box 128, Witney, Oxon OX8 5XU, UK. Tel: +44-(0) 1993-775235; Fax: +44-(0) 1993-709265; email:


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