Werewere Liking’s Acceptance Speech (1993)

It is true the Fonlon-Nichols Prize is the third award that I have won in less than two years after the Arletty and the Praille Foundation prizes. It is nevertheless the one which surprises me the most since it comes to me from the Anglophone University of Alberta where I could not possibly imagine that anyone would care to know about what an African woman like myself writes in French, especially when one is aware of the divisions (dichotomies) that are created by the problem of linguistic multiplicity, notably in Africa where we write in foreign languages.

In the final analysis, this prize carries more significance for me than more prestigious awards. It is less gratifying to be decked with laurels and all that goes with that than to learn to acknowledge all human beings’ freedom and right to judge us favourably or not; to recognize themselves in us or not; to adopt as their own the ideas and opinions articulated in our writings by enriching them with their individual sensitivities. This is part of the fundamental rights of Man.

It is, therefore, important to learn as human beings to share in spite of our differences, and above all, to learn what prizes in general tend to destroy in us: modesty and humility.

Besides, to win a prize that carries the name of a person whom one admires, reveres more than one would an idol, whom one admires as a personal model and a master is much like receiving a sign from a guardian angel or from a deity, it is a real blessing.

Blessed is he who, like myself, has the masters as gracious ancestors and guardian angels.

Thank you for protecting me, for inspiring me, for guiding me. Arletty and Bernard Fonlon, thank you!

Thank you as well, Mr. Nichols, whom I am just getting to know, but who is busy clearing the paths, the paths of the future, humanity’s collective future.

[Translated from French by Ahmed Sheikh Bangura, University of Alberta]