Thursday 18 June 2015

Financial Times / Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Award, 2015

The longlist has just been announced for the inaugural Financial Times / Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Award, which aims to recognise extraordinary artistic talent in three categories – fiction, film-making, and art across more than 100 emerging market nations.

The Emerging Voices Award is open to passport holders of emerging nations in three categories:
1. Africa and the Middle East: works of fiction published in English.
2. Asia-Pacific: films in any language with English subtitles.
3. Latin America and the Caribbean: including, but not limited to, paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations, photographs, prints and mixed media.

The aim is to reward those working in each of the eligible art forms whose work shows outstanding talent and in some way furthers understanding of their region.

The list of eligible emerging-market countries was defined by the World Bank Atlas Method - i.e. those with a GNI per capita of less than USD12,746. GNI per capita is gross national income divided by mid-year population. Passport holders from the following Asia-Pacific countries were eligible to enter the film award: American Samoa, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Kiribati, Korea DPR, Laos, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

The longlisted films are:
Endless Nameless by Mont Tesprateep, Thailand
Exclaim by Jian Mei, China
Kush by Shubhashish Bhutiani, India
Scent of the Morning Sun by Harin Paesongthai & Monkum Khukhuntin, Thailand
Selfie Girls by Huỳnh Nguyeễn Đăng Khoa, Vietnam
The Concrete by Wei Liu, China
The Last Mango before the Monsoon by Payal Kapadia, India
The Sea by Han Ting, China
Trespassed by Yuhang Ho, Malaysia
Under the Sun by Qiu Yang, China

The longlisted books - all from Africa or the Middle East / Near West - are:
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett, Chatto & Windus, Nigeria
Broken Mirrors: Sinalcol by Elias Khoury, Maclehose Press, Lebanon
Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Granta Books, Kenya
It Might Get Loud by Ingrid Winterbach, Human & Rousseau, South Africa
Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga, Archipelago Books, Rwanda
The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah, Faber & Faber, Zimbabwe
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma, Pushkin Press, Nigeria
The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud, Oneworld Publications, Algeria
The Texture of Shadows by Mandla Langa, Picador Africa, South Africa
Women of Karantina by Nael Eltoukhy, The American University in Cairo Press, Egypt

Finalists for each category will be announced on 7 August and winners will be announced at a gala awards ceremony in New York on 5 October.

It strikes me as deeply odd that the Award should link artistic activity to geography. Why is recognition for fiction linked to Africa and the Middle East / the Near West?  Why is recognition for film linked to the Asia-Pacific region? Why is recognition for the visual arts linked to Latin America and the Caribbean? 

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find anybody to answer these questions – my best bet was to approach one of the fiction judges, but he was unable to help and I couldn’t track down a likely contact through the Oppenheimer website. If anyone can offer enlightenment, please leave a comment.