LAGOS- Headlines portray the Sahara as a barren desert that claims the lives of many African migrants but Nigerian poet Tade Ipadeola had a different story to tell — and it was worth $100,000.
Ipadeola’s “The Sahara Testaments” won the most lucrative writing award in Africa, the Nigeria Prize for Literature, for his account of the history and culture of the world’s largest desert.
He said the Sahara’s true richness has been distorted by horrific tragedies involving migrants who have been found dead in north Africa after a failed attempt to start a new life in Europe.
In October, the bodies of 87 people, most of them children and some eaten by jackals, were found in Niger after dying of thirst in scorching temperatures while traveling north towards Algeria.
That tragedy came just weeks after a shipwreck disaster off the Italian island of Lampedusa, which saw 366 Africans perish when their boat caught fire and capsized.
Before boarding the boat, many of the migrants had to cross parts of the Sahara, which measures some 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) east to west and 800 to 1,200 miles north to south.
But Ipadeola told AFP: “I wanted to show that it is not just a barren wasteland.
“The Sahara was the prime location for some of the greatest literature in the world,” said the 43-year-old poet, referencing several writers from the region, including St Augustine, the 4th century philosopher born in modern-day Algeria.