Elnathan John, 4 Other Writers Win 2017 Morland Writing Scholarship

Five Winners have been announced for the 2017 Morland Writing Scholarship with two Nigerian writers making the list. The announcement came after the panel of judges met on Monday, December 4 to decide on four winners but ended up picking five because of the high standard and of proposals submitted, setting a record for the first time when Miles Morland would be awarding scholarship to five entrants since the commencement of the award in 2013.

The winners are Elnathan John and Eloghosa Osunde from Nigeria. Others were Alemseged Tesfai  (Eritrea), Bryony Rheam (Zimbabwe) and Fatima Kola from South Africa.

Organizers said 550 entry submissions were received from nine African countries and from which a short-list of 21 was recently released. However, due to the fierce competition this year which made it  difficult for the judges to arrive at the best four entries, they agreed to award five Scholarships in 2017 as against the normal tradition of four annually.
Elnathan John
The Chair of the panel of Judges, Ellah Wakatama Allfrey remarked that “In this 5 year of the Morland Writing Scholarships, it was hugely gratifying to see such an upswing in the number of submissions. We considered a 21-person shortlist with applicants from nine African countries. We were delighted by the range in choice of subject and approach and deeply impressed by the writing skill and ambition this shortlist represented”.

He added that “we focused on the potential each application promised. Faced with excellence on all fronts, we found ourselves focused on several key questions. Is this a book that will achieve publication and find readers across the continent and beyond? Does the subject matter feel urgent and necessary? Has the author found the best form for the telling of this story? Does the submission show innovation and ambition?”

The four fiction winners each will receive a grant of ₤18,000 to allow them to take a year off to write a book. Alemseged Tesfai of Eritrea won a non-fiction award of £22,500 to be paid over fifteen months to allow him three extra months for research. His winning was exceptional as the oldest of the past and current winners – at 73 years. This did not miss mentioning in Mile Morland remarks who gushed “First I want to congratulate my fellow 73 year-old, Alemseged Tesfai. Septuagenarians rock”.

The awards are based on submissions which include a book proposal and an excerpt of published writing.

Alemseged Tesfai of Eritrea is expected to write a single volume of the history of his country, Eritrea – challenging conventional scholarship on the subject and drawing from rich personal experience while Fatima Kola of South Africa will work on a fantasy novel in which her dual African and Asian cultural inheritance is the inspiration for world-building and the exploration of universal themes of friendship, love and the imperfection of moral choice.

Nigeria’s Elnathan John’s proposed historical novel is set in the Sokoto Caliphate – a challenging story in which the past is used to explore urgent contemporary themes of identity, sexuality, faith and tolerance while another Nigerian, Eloghosa Osunde, will write a novel about two school friends – each harbouring a secret that could destroy their lives – who decide to join forces and create a home together in the face of a hostile society.

The Zimbabwean Bryony Rheam’s proposal is to write an historical crime fiction featuring Ingutsheni, a psychiatric hospital in Bulawayo, in which she explores the treatment of those suffering mental illness and the complex dynamics of power, colonial society and migration.