When it comes to emerging markets, OppenheimerFunds does more than just invest in extraordinary companies. The firm also wants to bring the works of artists in these countries to a wider audience.

This is what led the firm’s Multi-Cultural Network―in connection with the Emerging Voices Awards Program and the Developing Markets team―to invite Nigerian Author Chigozie Obioma in for a discussion of his critically-acclaimed debut novel, “The Fishermen,” on May 5.

“The Fishermen” tells the story of four brothers who defy their father’s warnings and fish in a once-sacred but now dangerous and polluted river. This act leads to an encounter with a madman who issues a grave prophecy about the death of the eldest brother.

“Of all the human emotions, I think fear is the strongest,” Obioma said. “Fear is a shadow that looms over your mind. This novel is an exploration of that concept.”

The book, which Obioma says is 85% fiction and 15% based on real life, has received a wave of attention, with the author having done more than 100 interviews with news media in 23 countries. Last year, he captured the inaugural FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Award for fiction, which includes a $40,000 prize along with enhanced global recognition of his work.

A Life-Changing Experience

During the discussion, Obioma said the attention his book is getting has been “life-changing” and he noted that inspiration for the work came from a fateful decision to leave his native Nigeria to study abroad in Cyprus during his college years.

“I’ve come to believe I wouldn’t have written the novel if I didn’t leave Nigeria,” said Obioma, whose parents made it clear that he had to remain on the Mediterranean island until graduation. “Being away gave me the time to reflect.”

Obioma added that being exposed to other cultures and viewpoints helped open his mind to new possibilities and opportunities, and he believes everyone could benefit from such an experience. “The Fishermen,” in his view, serves as a metaphor for the current state of Nigeria, whose economy is in the midst of a severe downturn amid plummeting global oil prices.

Celebrating the Works of Emerging Market Artists

In addition to celebrating the works of fiction writers like Obioma, the FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Awards honors filmmakers and visual artists from more than 100 emerging market nations. The second annual FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Awards will be held in New York on Sept. 26.

“Like most artists, we want a better world,” said Justin Leverenz, Director of Emerging Market Equities at OppenheimerFunds. “We wanted to create a platform to support artists in developing markets. It’s a way to change the world.”

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