In 2009, I wrote about the sad state of South African Literary Awards online. While sites such as bookslive.co.za do great work keeping on top of things, the bodies administering the awards did not and, at the time, many did not even have up-to-date, or in some cases any, pages listing their award’s winners.
Jumping ahead six years, surely things are rosier? Even if it’s just a Facebook page, surely not even the most digital-phobic or badly-administered award would have failed to recognise the importance of having some sort of web presence?
In short, no, and in some cases it’s even worse.
I’ve been helping to keep the South_African_literary_awards section on Wikipedia more or less updated with recent winners since then, but every now and again I dive into looking up some of the missing historical winners, and am still amazed at how poor the record-keeping is.
As an example, let’s take the English Academy, which administers a number of awards. In 2009, they had a page listing award winners (albeit only until 2007). In 2014 I noticed that this page had disappeared (breaking the Wikipedia citations), and wrote to them asking them to restore the link, or let me know the new location. They responded a few week’s later by saying that they were updating the list and hoped to put it on the website soon. As of today I’m still waiting, but they have achieved something special by making their new awards page one of the more unreadable out there. One (very) long page begins with a call for submissions for the 2015 Olive Schreiner Prize, continues with a blow-by-blow account of the 2015 award ceremony, including a list of who was thanked in the speeches, and of the wine and good food enjoyed at the ceremony. Next up is a description of the 2014 Gold Medal award winner, including his full acceptance speech. After much scrolling, next up is a press release on the 2014 Percy Fitzpatrick award, followed by a horribly formatted table of winners of various awards from 2012-2013, where the nominators names are more prominently displayed than the winners. Next up is a slightly-better formated table of the 2011-2012 winners. And so it continues, acceptance speech, citation, acceptance speech…
By the end of the page my mouse wheel is crying for mercy, but there’s no list of winners. If I’ve been playing very careful attention, I may have been able to decipher some of the recent winners, but nothing resembling a comprehensive list.
What about the award described as the most prestigious in Afrikaans literature, the Hertzog Prize, administered by the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns? The page used as a citation on Wikipedia again disappeared, but at least they replaced it with a new page, even if they didn’t bother to redirect the old link. “New” is perhaps overstating it, as the list of winners stops at 2013, so while perhaps the 2014 winners of the most prestigious award in Afrikaans literature may be mentioned somewhere on their site, it’s nowhere to be found on the awards page.
The litany of woe continues from award to award. What about the Media24 Books Literary Awards? Surely Media24, the dominant online media empire in South Africa can get it together and have a comprehensive list?
Sadly it appears not, and unlike most of the other awards, which at least give it a brave try, Media24 don’t seem to even have any sort of awards page.
While there’s always Wikipedia (and the section needs some love, so feel free to help out), it’s sad that so few of the local literary awards respect their own awards enough to bother recording them somewhere accessible.
I know, say, the Alba Bouwer prize is not the Nobel Prize for Literature, but some of us are still interested!
* South African Literary Awards and the internet
Picture from Wikimedia Commons.