The award is given annually to an African writer whose works have demonstrated a commitment to democratic ideals, humanistic values and literary excellence in Africa.
“The award elevates her to a new level among world-class writers,” said Jack Bushnell, chair of the English department. “It’s an honor that will put her on the radar screen for groups that make decisions about other prestigious awards, including the Nobel committee. It’s a very big deal.”
A variety of internationally known luminaries are past recipients of the Fonlon-Nichols Award, including Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka of Nigeria.
One of the best known and most prolific women playwrights of African descent, Onwueme has received multiple international awards, including a Ford Foundation research award.
Onwueme, who joined UW-Eau Claire’s faculty in 1994, received the Fonlon-Nichols Award during the ALA conference in April in Vermont.
An international conference focusing on Onwueme’s work will be held in November in Nigeria, Onwueme’s native country. Onwueme decided the conference would be held in Nigeria since so many of her African supporters and colleagues could not attend the ALA conference when she received her Fonlon-Nichols Award.