July 25, 2024

Nwamaka Okoye Literature Prize: Cultivating Sensitivity to Life’s Values through Creative Writing

3 min read
Cross section of winners of Nwamaka Okoye Literature Prize competition held in Lagos recently

Nwamaka Okoye’s passion for writing and her commitment to giving back to the community have led her to establish the Nwamaka Okoye Literature Prize, a competition that recognizes and rewards talented writers across Africa. But beyond the recognition and rewards, the competition aims to cultivate sensitivity to life’s values through creative writing.

Through the competition, Okoye seeks to inspire writers to explore themes that promote values such as empathy, compassion, and self-awareness. The inaugural edition’s theme, “Coming of Age,” encouraged writers to reflect on the challenges and triumphs of growing up, and the shortlisted entries showcased a depth of understanding and sensitivity to the human experience.

L-R: Mrs. Ifeanyi Omeife (3rd place short-story winner); Mrs. Nkoyo Rapu, founder and Executive Director, Bethesda Child Support Agency; Mrs. Nwamaka Okoye, founder, GearShift Africa & initiator of the competition and Mrs. Chiamaka Obinna-Chukwu (2nd place short-story winner) at Nwamaka Okoye Literature prize presentation ceremony and launch of coffee table book titled: Coming of Age held in Lagos recently.

The competition’s impact extends beyond the literary community, providing a platform for new and unpublished voices to be heard. By promoting creative writing and celebrating emerging writers, Okoye hopes to inspire a new generation of writers who will use their words to make a positive impact on society.

She spoke on the inspiration behind her instituting the literature prize stating that it was a gentle nudge from her teacher back in the days. “My writing journey actually began with encouragement from my secondary school teacher, Mrs. Oligbo who was at that time the vice principal at the Federal Government College, Onitsha, Anambra State. She saw my potential and encouraged me to enter writing competitions, which I eventually won both at regional, national, and international levels.”

After pursuing a career in interior design and architecture, Mrs. Okoye has returned to her “first love” – writing. Inspired by her teacher’s encouragement, she is giving back to the society through the Nwamaka Okoye Literature Prize competition in poetry and short stories.
The prize presentation event a collaboration with Alliance Française and supported by Wilsons Juice, Route2Market, Lagos Talks, BO Events, Decagon, Kontessa and other sponsors featured performances by the Elevate Poetry Group and poetry renditions by notable guests, including Ms. Uzoma Ezeoke, Executive Director of Emzor Pharmaceuticals, Ms. Ifeoluwa Fashola, CEO Kedari Capital, and Mrs. Nwamaka Okoye herself. A 132 page coffee table book, “Coming of Age,” was launched, featuring all shortlisted entries. Proceeds from the book will support the 2025 edition of the competition.

Those shortlisted and their works include Anuoluwa Soneye, Here, Silence is God’s Commandment, Michael Imossan, My forgiveness is a blooming lily, Chinecherem Enujioke, Possession Does Not Happen By Chance, Onyedikachi Johnson, Budding, Oluwapelumi Adesiyan, For Mama’s Boys, Osieka Alao, Ocean Viking, Moses Ezeh, Song for the Coming Age, Ifeanyi Omife, The Martyrdom of Self, Chiamaka Obinna-Chukwu, The Price of Wings, Wasilah Oyekan, When She Comes of Age.

Dignitaries that graced the high octane event included Mr. Chris Ubosi, CEO Megalectrics, Mrs. Nkoyo Rapu, founder and Executive Director, Bethesda Child Support Agency, Mr. Funsho Doherty former, ADC gubernatorial candidate for Lagos State in the 2023 elections, Mr. Valentine Ozigbo, Mrs. Audrey Joe-Ezigbo, Mr.Tunde Oduwole, Mrs. Jumoke Oduwole, Mr. John Obaro among many others.

As the competition continues to grow, it is clear that Okoye’s vision for using literature to develop sensitivity to life’s values will have a lasting impact on the literary landscape and beyond.

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