Queer women win West African writing contest

The Brittle Paper literary magazine has announced the winners of its writing competition for queer women from West Africa. The winning authors came from Nigeria, Ghana and Benin.

The anthology "Wedged Between Man and God" presents a selection of non-fiction stories from queer West African women.
The anthology “Wedged Between Man and God” presents a selection of non-fiction stories from queer West African women.

Brittle Paper is an online literary magazine for readers of African Literature. The contest was co-sponsored by the Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Empowerment and Equality (WISE Nigeria).

Selected stories from the contest will be published in a collection titled “Wedged Between Man and God,” a creative non-fiction anthology curated by Nigerian author Unoma Azuah.

The judges’ assessment of submitted stories found them to be fiercely competitive, especially the top six ranking entries, so much so that the scores from six judges across West Africa, South Africa and the United States tallied the same total points for each entry. As a result, the judges ended up announcing two joint winners each first, second and third place.

The joint winners will share the prizes of $1,000 for first place, $750 for second place and $500 for third place.

Claire Ba described the winners on behalf of the judges:

1st Place: Joint Winners

“Growing Wings,” by Olaedo Obinze  (Nigeria)

The author creatively compares herself to a young bird to tell her coming out story. The story is profound for its cinematic depiction of the queer condition in a language that appropriates the rhythm and wit of African folkloric heritage.

“Suffocating in the Comfort of the Closet,” by Tanamia Illunga (Côte d’Ivoire)

The author compellingly draws our attention to the irony of passing as straight and yet draws upon queer survival with its fascinating juxtaposition of freedom and captivity.

2nd Place: Joint Winners

“My Daddy’s Daughter,” by Noni Salma (Nigeria)

This story is a moving exploration of the author’s relationship with well-drawn contrasting father figures. The arresting power of the story lies in its symphonic recording of parental abuse and the death of filial piety.

“Shouting Myself Hoarse,” by Delasi Sanenu (Ghana)

This narrative dexterously balances a personal story with a social analysis that explains the nature of surrounding homophobia; it’s a fiercely tender prayer offered, not for the remission of sin, but for the continuum of life.

3rd Place: Joint Winners

“Hope Flies by a Girl like me,” by Enyo Sela    (Ghana)

This is a beautiful reflection of how the writer comes to know herself  through her relationship with water and swimming. It’s innovative in its attempt to deploy the stylistic and linguistic forms of surrealism as a paradigmatic reflection of the uncertainties of the queer condition in West Africa.

“Javalin” by Gsan Rolifane  (Côte d’Ivoire)

This is a painful story that illustrates how betrayals can come from those we love and trust. It is well told and has compelling flow. There are many “downs” but the writer finds her own “ups” in telling the story.

Honorary Mentions

“The End of the Tunnel” by Abalawa Solime (Benin Republic)

This story relays the difficulties attached to navigating homophobia when it comes to family and the interventions from the church. The writer composes beautifully and with ease. The tension is well-resolved at the end and that gives the reader relief.

“I am who I am” by Emmanuella Nduonofit  (Nigeria).

This story dramatizes the public expression of homophobia with a vivid re-telling of an experience of public humiliation; it’s a story of tragedy and elemental invocation of healing.

Judges

Claire Ba   (Senegal)

Akua Bie     (Ghana)

Darlington Chibueze (Nigeria)

Erik Gleibermann (USA)

Leslye Huff      (USA)

Zethu Matebeni     (South Africa).

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor / publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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