‘A Quiet Revolution’ – Winners of the 6th Brunel International African Poetry Prize announced
And this year, there are three! Hiwot Adilow (Ethiopia), Theresa Lola (Nigeria), and Momtaza Mehri (Somalia) were selected out of over 1000 entries, and awarded the prestigious prize of £3000 aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poetry from Africa.
The judges said:
“This is an incredibly exciting time in the development of African poetry. We expect that many of the poets engaged in our impactful poetry initiatives will become the leading African poets of the future. Many of them are still very young, in their twenties, and we expect great things from them, but also those from poets who are older but still relatively new to publishing poetry. African poetry is now staking its claim on the global literary landscape. We are witnessing a quiet revolution.”
Meet the winning poets
Hiwot Adilow is an Ethiopian-American poet and singer from Philadelphia. She is a member of the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Learning Community at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in Nepantla, Winter Tangerine, Vinyl Poetry and Prose, and elsewhere and has been anthologized in The BreakBeats Poets Vol 2.0: Black Girl Magic (Haymarket Books, 2018). Hiwot is author of the chapbook In The House of My Father (Two Sylvias Press, 2018). You can read her submission here. The Prize’s judges said:
“Hiwot Adilow’s transgressive poems return to the body as a site for meaning, memory, and reckoning. She has discovered that poetry’s contract with the senses makes it the most suitable vehicle for poems that will speak of the ways in which a woman’s body has to be written with care, boldness and discipline. These are poems of skill, vulnerability and daring, and which show, ultimately, a delight in language.”
Momtaza Mehri is a poet and essayist. Her work has been featured in DAZED, Buzzfeed, Vogue, BBC Radio 4, Poetry Society of America, Mask Magazine and Poetry Review. She is a Complete Works Fellow, winner of the 2017 Outspoken Page Poetry Prize, and she took third prize in the National Poetry Competition 2018. Her chapbook sugah lump prayer was published by Akashic books/ African Poetry Book Fund in 2017. She also edits Diaspora Drama, a digital platform showcasing international immigrant art. She became the Young People’s Laureate of London in 2018. You can read her submission here. The Prize’s judges said:
“Momtaza Mehri draws on her Muslim and Somali background to write poetry of great topicality and urgency. Her poems are also quietly powerful bullets of searing intelligence and compassion. There are many unforgettable images and imaginative uses of language, and an audaciousness and versatility with form that marks her out as a voice with a bright future ahead of her.”
Theresa Lola is a Nigerian British poet. She was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize 2017, the London Magazine Poetry Prize 2016, and she won the Hammer and Tongue National Poetry Slam in 2017. Theresa is an alumna of the Barbican Young Poets programme. She was awarded an Arts Council/British Council International Development Grant to run poetry workshops at the Lagos International Poetry Festival in Nigeria in 2017. Theresa is part of SXWKS creative collective and Octavia Women of Colour collective which is resident at the Southbank Centre in London. She is currently working on her debut full length poetry collection. You can read her submission here. The Prize’s judges said:
“Theresa Lola seeks to articulate the frailties, complications and brutalities inflicted by the body through microscopic imagery that is grotesque and distorted yet surprisingly tender. Hers is a poetic where peeling is the recurring motif – we witness peeling of black skins and peeling of tongues. The poetry is also unflinchingly composed, whether she is portraying a daughter cutting her father’s spine or the ravages of a father’s illness where cancer has kissed death unto his kidneys.”
You can see Theresa Lola and Momtaza Mehri at Africa Writes this year, where they will be performing their poetry as part of Octavia Poetry Collective, at the official festival party, 30 June at Rich Mix.
We’re also excited that another previous winner of the prize will be gracing the Africa Writes stage as the headline speaker – Warsan Shire. Get your ticket for this event, which closes the festival on Sunday 1 July at the British Library.
The prize is sponsored by Brunel University London and the African Poetry Book Fund, who also publish the beatiful New Generation African Poets series of box sets. The full shortlist was Gbenga Adeoba (Nigeria); Hiwot Adilow (Ethiopia); Michelle Angwenyi (Kenya); Dalia Elhassan (Sudan); Nour Kamel (Egypt); Theresa Lola (Nigeria); Momtaza Mehri (Sudan); Cheswayo Mphanza (Zambia). Our congratulations to all of those shortlisted, and to the winners! You can read more about the prize here.