2013 Golden Baobab Prizes Longlist Announced

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Accra, August 30th, 2013: The 2013 Golden Baobab Prize longlist has been announced.

The prize, celebrating its 5th year, was set up to inspire the creation of enthralling African children’s stories. Golden Baobab offers three prizes: The Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books, The Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books and The Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers. The Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books and The Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books is open to all African citizens. The Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers is open to budding African writers under the age of eighteen years.

According to Nanama B. Acheampong, coordinator of the Golden Baobab Prizes, “Golden Baobab is really excited about this year’s stories and we are looking forward to growing further by publishing a collection of these amazing stories we have received. We are currently looking to partner with corporations that share in our vision to bring these stories to the doorsteps of African children everywhere.”

The longlist had the strongest representation from Nigeria and South Africa. Other countries that featured were Zimbabwe, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania. Philip Begho and Ayibu Makolo, both Nigerian, had two stories each on the longlist. Below is the full longlist:

Longlist for the Picture Book Prize
Carol Gachiengo – Grandma Mimo’s Breakfast (Kenya)
Mandy Collins – Dad Goes to School (South Africa)
Philip Begho – The Princess with the Golden Voice (Nigeria)
Liza Esterhuyse – The Little Hippo (South Africa)
Nneoma Ike-Njoku – Elelenma (Nigeria)
Philip Begho – The Two-Headed Monster (Nigeria)
Regina Malan – The Butterfly Tree (South Africa)
Ansie Nel – Thumisang and Pulane (South Africa)
Ayibu Makolo– The Little Yellow Frog (Nigeria)
Nahida Esmail – Bibo Learns to Speak the Truth (Tanzania)

Longlist for the Early Chapter Book Prize
Fawa Conradie – Kay Cera Cera (South Africa)
Sabina Mutangadura – Seven (Zimbabwe)
Edith-Susan Uchenna – Christmas in Kemah’s Home Town (Nigeria)
Richard Street – Rhino (South Africa)
Sedem Abla Agbolosu – Kwame Gets a Job (Ghana)
Tunji Ajibade – In the End (Nigeria)
Karen Hurt – What’s Going on at 179 Jabulani Street? (South Africa)
Ayibu Makolo – Madam’s Maid (Nigeria)
Derek Lubangakene – Of Ghosts and Grave-Robbers (Uganda)
Olorunfunmi Temitope – Grandma’s Hens (Nigeria)

Longlist for The Rising Writer Prize
Jennifer Sarfo – Songs of Gods (Ghana)
Kanengo Diallo – Pieces of Africa (Tanzania)
Fego Martins Ahia – The Little Secret (Nigeria)
Asantewa Owusu-Darko – The Busting of the Greedy Gangster (Ghana)
Freda Sarfo – Making a Wish (Ghana)

The shortlist for the Golden Baobab Prizes will be announced on 30th October and the winners will be announced on 13th November, 2013. Past winners of the Golden Baobab Prizes have included Joy Nwiyi from Nigeria, Jenny Robson from Botswana and South Africa and Rutendo Chabikwa from Zimbabwe who won the 2012 Rising Writer Prize.

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Esmeralda

By Cuba Ukoh (@CubaUkoh)

 

She sits there telling me to go make sure the dog house is shut when we all know Bingo is let out by seven thirty every evening. Father doesn’t say one word. He gives her a look instead, it’s passing but slow. They always exchange a trail of looks, even at church. It is always more intense than their bickering, these looks.

She lets a few minutes simmer then she orders me to go clear her wears from the clothesline, even though they’re still wet, because Bingo will soon rip them, like the last time. I give a fleeting glance at the clock, it’s almost eight.

I walk out calm but once I have shut the door, I do it all in a flash that then when I return my breath is still racing. Three minutes to eight. She waits for me to pass the dinning before she remembers she is much too thirsty, this woman. I want to roll my eyes but instead I smile.

She’s taught me how to make a smile hurt. When there is no soul to a smile, deficient sincerity turns it stiff. Then the muscles around your lips begin to twitch, dance, frantic to depart from this facial lie. Many a twitching smile I have lied to this woman.

I return with a full glass beaded with cold water sweat. After a sip, she feigns a migraine and scolds me to dilute it. I glance again, a minute to eight. At the filter I think to myself, what if I could just spit inside?

Just as I sit back down and Tega rests his head on me, she says aloud how the lights need to be dimmed. Who else could she be talking to? Tega is too young to reach the switch, and Father?

I heave and get up again. It is my breath screaming how I cannot stand her … this woman. She acts like she doesn’t notice but I can feel her eyes all over my body, calculating like a crocodile’s, waiting for me to make a mistake so she can transfer her anger to me. But I do not give her the opportunity.

Her stare follows me like she has found a neighbourhood thief on the prowl. And I never stole a thing from this woman. Not her jewelry or her weaves, not five naira. Not a freckle, dimple or crease from her face. Sometimes, I doubt she brought me into this world.

I only bear traces of Father and then the rest of me just … hovers. A question mark is my reflection in the mirror every morning when I dress for school. I feel often like the piece you force into a puzzle gap, waiting for a little more meaning to appear. But I have never asked why I do not look a day like my mother. We cannot say these types of things in my house. But we think them.

The clock strikes eight and the soundtrack to Esmeralda at last filters in with that profound comfort of a Spanish guitar. It streams with the tearful voice of a lonely woman singing. We do not know the meaning of the words but the song brings us to a pensive start every evening.

Most nights I sing it all in my head, thinking to myself how I would have understood the words if she let me stay at my former school where they thought us Spanish, and French. Tega sings it all through, pronouncing every word utterly incorrect.

Father hums with the weary smile that follows him home from work and she sits there on her favourite chair, sipping her water and singing along to random parts of Esmeralda. She thinks she can sing. I chuckle and shake my head, this woman.

We have never missed an episode of Esmeralda since its first season. The lead character, Esmeralda, has come to feel like a family member, lost to the Diaspora.

Tega whispers he will grow up and marry Esmeralda after he becomes a successful inventor but he’s still young and foolish so I refuse to take away from his childhood by telling him how our favourite soap opera is from as far back as the mid-nineties and he would probably grow up to marry Esmeralda’s granddaughter, if he can find her when wishes are horses. I just smile and pat his head.

The next hour is spent in silence watching and gasping at the melodramatic mini disasters ultimately inflicted by Don Alejandro and the close calls that almost reunite the beautiful Esmeralda with her beloved Diego Sanchez who happens to be the estranged son of the cruel Don Alejandro and his hideous distracting moustache.

And then the clock strikes nine. The woman in solitude returns, singing to the Spanish guitar again. She ferries us back to our parlour. As though it wasn’t him flinching at the unfortunate twists in tonight’s episode, Father’s head bows back to his newspaper, until sleep sways a gentle nodding. She goes to her room for a beauty routine and Tega excited to have the remote watches cartoons until the noise burps Father awake and he remembers it’s passed Tega’s bed time, so he scolds him goodnight.

From the kitchen, I hear the news channel come on. I’m washing our dinner dishes. Afterwards, I turn off the idle lights around the house and go to her room.

“Yes, enter,” she replies my knock.

There’s a whitish cream all over her face.

“Goodnight Mummy,” I smile. By now you know the smile?

Smiling back in the same way, she says, “Eheh,”

I walk to the parlour to meet Father. “Goodnight Daddy,” I have to say it twice because he’s in between our world and that of dreams.

“Goodnight,” his smile is more sincere, but dreary.

When I turn around he mumbles, “Say your prayers.”

Tega isn’t sleeping of course. I meet him playing a video game. If there’s a fight at home that night, I’ll find him sobbing. He has a lot to say, too much perhaps. But he doesn’t talk when he’s playing video games or when we are public. So people often say to me, that your quiet brother!

I don’t switch off the light because he’s frightened by the dark though he pretends not to be. I remind him to go to sleep before ten and we say goodnight.

My bed is a delight. I recap Esmeralda once more in my head. I just know for certain she’ll end up with Diego Sanchez. Good always triumphs in soap operas. Poor Esmeralda, she lives in a crooked shed with her mother who is her only company.

To think she had once come from wealth, then cheated out her inheritance after her father’s death. She reminds me of my friend Benita who’s got long hair, almost like Esmeralda’s. She lives in a little house with her mother and I think she walks to school really because she can’t spare her lunch money for transport.

To think her father lives in comfort just on the other side of town! Her parents are divorced, poor girl. Her father used to beat her mother to pudding. Back then, Benita would always come late to school crying.

Our other friend Ijeoma told me she now sees Benita’s mother with a younger looking man at her Aunt’s restaurant, laughing, eating, they even hold hands. It’s not so sinful as it is improper; a mother with a boyfriend!

My Parents always argue but I have never seen Father lift a finger on that woman. But we do have to change our china quite often because when Father is angry or insulting us, he shoves them to the floor or smashes them on the wall above our heads. Most times, minuscule particles hurt our feet in secret cuts the following day. But is it Father’s fault that china breaks to sprinkled crumbs?

He has become more withdrawn these days that I fear Tega might imitate him more. But Father thinks differently. He scolds Tega often for being thoughtless like his mother. Mother has her own thoughts. She warns Tega to improve in schoolwork if he doesn’t want to end up like his father who is managing to speak English.

She shouldn’t say these things! One day someone might overhear and discover Father never graduated secondary school. And what would we do with such embarrassment if jealous people decide to use it against us? That would be the day Father would perhaps beat her. Or worse, divorce her. Just before slumber takes me away, I remember to thank my stars that we are lucky to keep a complete home. What if I were in Benita shoes?

 

“Esmeralda” by Cuba Ukoh was highly commended in Sentinel Nigeria’s All-Africa Short Story competition, 2013.

My Thoughts On My Way Down

By Nate Mamman (@NateMamman)

The window shatters and I begin to fall in an arc. I know it is an arc as I studied Physics in Secondary School. I have forgotten most of what I learned, but for some reason I still remember Projectile Motion. Shards of glass surround me, and I watch them in fascination, thinking of how complicated the Math needed to describe the individual and collective rotational and projectile paths. I try to think about all the variables that would need to be included, but which the mathematicians and physicists would ignore to make their work easier. I start to get a headache.

It occurs to me that for someone falling to his death, I am very calm. I remember a line from that song: “forty floors or four, it makes no difference once you hit the ground.” Can a person die if he (or she) falls from the fourth storey? And it just occurs to me that I am falling from the twenty-second floor; or twenty-frist, if you prefer the British system. Forty plus four divided by two. I know it is just a coincidence, but I can’t help but wonder.

I look down and see people becoming bigger very quickly. “so this is how I die”, I mutter to myself. I may fall on some poor human and the person would die, while I may get to keep mine. Or Super-man (or maybe Mr. Incredible, or even Hancock) may zoom in and grab me just before I hit the ground. Or better still, some super-hot heroine. But they don’t exist. Maybe I would land on a pile of mattresses being carried by a trailer.

I see a girl looking out of the window as I drop past.The look on her face, when she sees me, is priceless!I resist the temptation to wave at her. I am falling to my death, and it somehow seems like bad etiquette to cheerfully wave at people in such situations. Maybe I should have done it while looking very grave.

I am too detached. I should be crying or peeing on myself. Or even screaming. I shouldn’t be thinking and observing. I try to “swim” to adjust my position, when my hand hits the chair I was sitting on a few moments ago. I chuckle as it occurs to me that I would not have to pay for the damage the chair is going to suffer once it hits the ground.

I think about the fact that I have not achieved most of my goals in life. As if it would make any difference now. All the knowledge I gained is useless now, as is all I failed to learn. I watch a particularly nasty looking shard as it follows me closely, but then decide it is not going to quarter me or something, so I ignore it.

I have gotten out of the building’s shadow, and the sun is burning into my eyes. I shut them, and make swimming motions again, so that I now face the ground. Everything is growing bigger pretty quickly. Are they increasing in size at the same rate with which I am falling? They have to be.

People are beginning to notice me, and a lot of them have stopped to gawk and point at me. I wish I was wearing wings like the ones children wear when they are acting as angels in school plays. It would look like an angel fell from heaven. Odd thing, the fact that the bible never mentions angels having wings. Or maybe it does. The cherubim (seraphim?) in Isaiah’s psychedlic vision. Maybe that was Jeremiah.

It is nearly time. The ground is coming up pretty fast. People have made a wide circle around the spot I am most likely going to crash on. It is a good thing that I would disintegrate on impact. It means my bladder and bowels would not be emptied into my pants, as they say happen when people die. Their contents would be splattered all over the place. I wonder which would be more dignifying. But what difference would it make?

I see some people running towards my impact point with a very very big mattress. They may get there on time. But why do they bother? It’s not like I am weeping with regret.

And very soon, i would get to know if there is an afterlife. That is assuming the guys with the mattress don’t get here first.

New Word by Cuba Ukoh

by Cuba Ukoh (@Cuba_Ukoh)

Udi was at first thrilled to learn a new word, divorce. The next day at school he explained to his best friend Ginica that it simply meant one thing; he would soon have in addition to his Parents, a new Daddy and Mummy. Therefore it would be four times the attention, toys and the pocket money to buy more sweets, even for Ginica. And she concurred telling him he was a lucky boy.

After Udi’s Parents argued countless times in court, the arrangement was settled. Udi would spend weekdays with his Mother but from Friday’s to Sunday’s he belonged with his Father who now lived in another house. Udi hadn’t realized this sort of arrangement could come along with divorce but he consoled himself. After all didn’t it mean he would now have two homes?

Udi hated his new Daddy from the first day they met. The man had a stiff square pout to match his annoying voice. He changed the TV channels sporadically and never gave him money for sweets.

Once when Udi whistled at night his new Daddy struck his head with his knuckles and told him he was stupid if he didn’t know that whistling at night was the language of hooligans besides the fact that it attracted evil spirits.
But Udi always used to whistle that way with his Mother yet rather than revolt she nagged, “Udi will you keep shut!”
The next day by his school gate, Udi’s Mother bought him his favorite biscuits then hugged him tight against her heart. Cupping his face in her palms she coaxed softly, “Nwam, don’t you want your new Daddy to marry me, don’t you want me to marry again before your Father, eh, if you love me don’t whistle again at night.”

Udi didn’t like how this divorce thing was unfolding. It was starting to look like he wouldn’t be sharing four parents, like he was supposed to pick who to love. He agreed not to whistle again because he loved to make his Mother happy. He would only whistle on weekends now.

It was a Friday, but Udi stood perplexed by the school gate for almost an hour. His Mother’s stall was just a street behind and his Father’s house was walking distance too, but he wondered who to show his test result to first, who would be more lenient. He had never done so poorly. Finally, he heeded with the law of divorce.

Standing by his Father’s front door Udi began to shiver. His class teacher, Aunty Caro, had already arrived to tell his Father the bad news. So this was what happened when you failed a test!
“Oh! It’s Friday,’ his Father squinted on seeing Udi.
“Udi?” the startled teacher said.
“Daddy I’m sorry I failed the test!” Udi blurted in tears
Aunty Caro hurried and snatched the paper, “Oh, I must have given you Ummi’s script.” She said stuffing it into her purse, “So this is your boy, he’s so bright!”
“I didn’t know you taught his class?” Said Udi’s Father
“I was transferred last month.” She smiled stroking Udi’s head, the same head she’d given a fierce knock earlier when he’d failed his mathematics class work yet again.
“I made a beautiful lunch Udi.” Her shaky lips managed to smile.
The very next day Aunty Caro gave Udi a new test script in which he scored an impressive eight out of ten. He smiled at his new Mummy.

New Word by Cuba Ukoh was selected as the first runner up in the Ugreen Foundation’s flash fiction competition. Read other stories from the competition here.