Author Hawa Golakai Wins Morland Writing Scholarship

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Hawa Jande Golakai, a speculative fiction author and a professional medical immunologist, is the first and only Liberian to win the Morland scholarship prize since its inception.

Liberian Author Hawa Jande Golakai has emerged as one of the four joint winners of the prestigious Morland Writing Scholarships for her work Spectral.​​

Ms. Golakai, a speculative fiction author and a professional medical immunologist, is the first and only Liberian to win the Morland scholarship prize since its inception in 2013.

Ms. Golakai and her co-winners, Gloria M. Odari, Parselelo Kantai, and Nnamdi Oguike will each receive a grant of €18,000 to allow them to take a year off to finish the Spectral novel.

“Spectral is a terrifying examination of the tensions between freedom and social order. It will have speculative fiction themes: fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical realism. I love mixing science with fantastical and unknown,” Ms. Golakai said about the upcoming book.

The pitch project of Ms. Golakai, one of the 7,000 stories submitted for this year’s Morland Award, is speculative fiction of dazzling fantasy depicting a tightly controlled underwater glass city in a futuristic mecca for black people in West Africa.

“I have been writing since, and it is a highly emotional process. Starting a book makes me edgy, wondering if have done enough plotting, and research. This time I feel electrified and confident – thanks to age and maturity. Writing always comes with surprises, but now I’m better at mastering myself,” she said about her win.

According to information on the Miles Morland Foundation website, the awards are based on submissions which include a book proposal and an excerpt of published writing.

Morland added the scholarship aims to give writers of both fiction and non-fiction the financial freedom to complete an English-language book.

Miles Morland, the brainchild of the awards, describes this year’s winners as a brilliant group of people whose proposed books have challenging themes very much in tune with the current world.

Mr. Morland said: “I’m happy that all four are living in Africa, not the diaspora, and will be writing books about Africa. Every one of the shortlist of twenty was discussed in depth before they made their decision. We are lucky to have three judges who are so closely in touch with African writing.

In remarks also, the awards Chief Judge Muthoni Garland said winners of the 2019 Scholarships impressed them with their ambitious and confident exploration of some key themes troubling and shaping the continent of Africa.

“Varied in approach and style, they include a grand social history, a futuristic epic, an immigrant story, and a nuanced family portrait,” he said. “What they promise in common is persuasive storytelling, coherent world-building and insightful characters,” Garland added.

Golakai’s author career 

Ms. Golakai’s first novel, The Lazarus Effect (Kwela Books), was published in 2016 by Cassava Republic Press in the UK and was shortlisted for the 2011 Sunday Times Fiction Prize and the University of Johannesburg Debut Prize. The novel and was longlisted for the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa. On the strength of the book, in 2012 Zukiswa Wanner in The Guardian rated Golakai as one of the “top five African writers”.

It received the nomination for the prestigious Wole Soyinka African fiction award and South Africa’s Sunday Times prize.

The Lazarus Effect tells the story of Vee Johnson, an investigative journalist working in Cape Town who becomes obsessed with the disappearance of a young woman.

Her search leads her into a world haunted by hallucinations, forcing her to relive the traumas she experienced during the Liberian civil war. In 2014, Golakai became an Africa 39 laureate – one of the top 39 writers under 40 and the only Liberian.

The Lazarus Effect tells the story of Vee Johnson, an investigative journalist working in Cape Town who becomes obsessed with the disappearance of a young woman. Her search leads her into a world haunted by hallucinations, forcing her to relive the traumas she experienced during the Liberian civil war.

In 2014, Golakai became an Africa39 laureate – one of the top 39 writers under age 40 and the only Liberian. Two years later in 2016, she won the Brittle Paper Award for nonfiction for the article “Fugee”—which was about the Ebola epidemic that terrorized Liberia. And in 2018, she was also longlisted for the NOMMO Awards for the story Lee-ah (Sister).

“My career has been colourful and blessed. I’ve been writing since age 8 or 9 – I love my calling. I’m also a medical immunologist by profession; I’ve seen some crazy stuff as a scientist which gives me plenty of inspiration! I encourage young Liberians to experiment with writing as a form of self-expression. It truly feeds your soul and creativity,” she added.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Congratulations Ms. Golakai. I pray that God Almighty will give you the strength to write many books mainly in the Liberian context. We really need writers to make Liberia develop the culture of reading.

    Thank God it was not Cummings giving you the award but Morland lest some prophets of doom and gloom would begin to scream everywhere saying we are running campaign or buy conscience whereas they found it “scurrilous” to have come and serve the nation they so love.

  2. Madam Golakai, My hat off to you, my affrican queen. I hope you to follow in your, and others, footsteps and I know that with folks like you as my inspiration, I will prevail

    Again, a big contrats, my queen,

  3. Our prophetic message for the Traditionalist Campaign Workers: Eleven (11) more years in the Liberian wilderness!

    The Traditionalist Campaign Workers do not show their true God-given colors, therefore they earn various labels. For some reasons, they love labels. We’ve identified them previously as Traditionalist Campaign Workers. That’s what they are in reality. However, in so short a time, they’ve earned another label…. Illiberal Dreamers. They’re people who do not believe in the concept of change. The truth of the matter is that if we as a people want to improve the quality of lives for our people, we ought to change from the groove we find ourselves in. It’s an absolute must for us. Sadly, that is not too easy to pass on to the ANC illiberal dreamers! We continue to recommend decaffeinated coffee for their troubled nerves. If decaffeinated coffee is not doing its job, maybe a cold bottle of wine will cool them off.

    How can anyone believe the Dreamers when they say that their Redeemer, is the quintessential of the presidential candidates when there’s no one to compare him with? In order to get to best, there must be a comparison, probably good, better, best! Maybe, “this guy is the best. Or maybe, she’s better than him. Or maybe, she’s a good candidate. If we had a good primary system, we would get to the best candidate through the process of elimination, county by county.

    Now, we’ve seen their Redeemer before in the well of a heated presidential campaign. The message of his failed to spark! The creation of 100,000 jobs was one of those jungle messages. No wonder why no one took their Redeemer seriously. The gentleman is not politically seasoned. His diehard supporters tell us that he is a philanthropist. Well, guess what? He became a philanthropist after he ran for the Presidency. He is handing out checks because he’s buying votes. Let’s describe the gentleman this way: In the business world, he seems to have his act together.

    A Populist Message:
    There is a guy who recently became a Liberian senator. His name is A. Dillon. Dillon ran a good senate campaign. Dillon’s message was without doubt a Populist Message. Dillon told the Montserrado county voters that he would demand a salary cut because it was the right thing to do. I was in Monrovia this year when Dillon became an elected senator. Now, I must confess that I am not a Dillon acolyte, but I cannot hide behind the truth. I am not sure whether Dillon and Cummings are political bedfellows. However, if Dillon decides to run for the presidency, his Populist Message will be received more by the Liberian electorate than that of other guy. You know who I am talking about!

    • Wow! They have finally let the cat out of the bag, “The Liberian Wilderness”. To all internauts, dictionary.com defines the word “wilderness” as follows:
      A wild and uncultivated region, as of forest or desert, uninhabited or inhabited only by wild animals; a tract of wasteland.

      The anti-progressists and prophets of doom and gloom have long yearned to see Liberia dwell in perpetual desolation, untold suffering and incomprehensive hardships. They continually daydream to see Liberia remain a farm where they come to reap the fruit of the labor of others and as tourists. They crave to uphold an inept administration for 12 unbroken years to curb the little development processes initiated that may revolt the Liberian people into another dire crisis.
      No, it will never happen! Liberians have started looking out to compare themselves with neighboring countries in terms of development.
      No, wake up from your slumber! Liberians have begun saying “it isn’t business as usual”. They wish to happily travel the length and breadth of the country on paved roads.
      No, stop daydreaming! Liberians have started expressing their disillusionment in the current government because they wish to have pipe-borne water supply and basic healthcare facilities in every hamlet, village, town and city of Liberia.
      No, stop selling your “snake oil” and wolfish pronouncements! Liberians had been and would once again love to see their children compete intellectually with other youth in the subregion and the world at large through an innovative and modern educational system to transform our agriculture into large-scale agribusiness, begin adding values to some of our world-class mineral reserves through manufacturing and eventually develop cutting-edge technological services in every sector of our economy.

      In the history of the great nation on planet earth today, the USA, a handful of patriots from 13 colonies decided to put an end to the British colonial rule. Not only did they put their lives and properties on the line but also those of their loved ones.
      Like those patriots, some Liberians have endeavored to changing the status quo in Liberia. The crusade started in 2005 when Weah was earmarked to lead the peaceful and inoffensive troop in every hamlet, village, town and city of Liberia. To our greatest surprise, he failed us because he wanted to become president. Ever since, we have been looking out for a person who could make the sacrifice. Cummings showed up very late. We did not really know him. We had to conduct in-depth research into his past and present life. By the time we were certain of our findings, the campaign for the 2017 elections was almost at the end. But we now have his back. Make no mistake, we are going to see him through, and we are convinced he can start a good job.

      To you our detractors, we really want to know who you are and where you stand. You speak of Liberia being a wilderness and yet stand with mediocrity while snubbing excellence. Can’t you see that the analogy in your trend of thought is weak?

      We (Cummings and apologists) are cold-headed and very easy-going people. We neither drink alcohol nor smoke any kind of cigarette.
      You need to propose the decaffeinated coffee and the cold bottle of wine to your rebel generals et al to calm down their nerves to allow peace to prevail in our fragile society. Enough is enough!
      We (Cummings and apologists) are cold-headed and very easy-going people. We excel better in a peaceful and intellectually competitive environment. We will love to be vetted in every county and at the national level through primary elections. Such system does not exist in Liberia right now. We hope to instate a bi-partisan system where candidates will be vetted to choose the best ideas. But please, tell your president to partake in future presidential debates because the Liberian people need to know what he promises and how he can get things done, not the trial-and-error situation we find ourselves engulfed in for the next 6 years.

      When I was in high school, my principal, an old Irishman (may his soul rest in peace) usually told me, “Peter, if you don’t have anything good to say about someone, say nothing about that person to harm him”.
      I do not really know Senator Dillion. I cannot judge him. Personally, I think his remarks of lawmakers’ emoluments being slashed is somehow politico-politics or out of naivete. Presidents like lawmakers must be free from fear and wants from the day they take the oath of office until their death. If he knew that, I don’t think he would advocate reduction in emoluments.
      Look, we have rebegun nation building. Some lawmakers are not qualified to enter the house. We will cope with them until the system is completely overhauled.
      We need lawyers, technocrats, philosophers and think-tank groups in the houses to rethink and remodel a sustainable development plan for Liberia.
      We will get there, but gradually. We (Cummings and apologists) hope to provide decent jobs to divert people’s minds from Politics. We can get the job done. Vote Cummings and apologists in 2023 without fear and reservation.

      Our Standard Bearer, Alexander B. Cummings, is not a quintessential. No “apologists” has ever made such declaration. Present your candidate or tell your outgoing president to partake in an intellectual debate, this is common place in every civilized and modern democracy. He should rather stop selling “snake oil”.

      You sometimes label us unrealistically. We have always been consistent in our guiding principle. We do not flirt.
      We have had lots of messages of encouragements for our engagement and interactions with you. Do not present an artificial poll. Oh! I forgot you belong to the mainstream media. Ask Hilary Clinton of the heartbreaks it brings about.

  4. Congratulation Ms. Golakai. Excellence is what Liberia needs.

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