The 2018 Brunel International African Poetry Prize has been awarded to Somalia’s Momtaza Mehri, Nigeria’s Theresa Lola, and Ethiopia’s Hiwot Adilow. It is the first time that the Prize would be jointly won by three poets, and the first time that co-winners would be of the same stated gender.
Founded by Bernardine Evaristo in 2013, the £3,000 prize—co-sponsored by Brunel University, London; the African Poetry Book Fund; and Commonwealth Writers—is in its sixth year and is “aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poetry from Africa.” It is open to African poets worldwide who have not yet published a full poetry collection. Each poet has to submit 10 poems in order to be eligible.
The 2018 Prize shortlist had eight names:
- Gbenga Adeoba (Nigeria)
- Hiwot Adilow (Ethiopia)
- Michelle Angwenyi (Kenya)
- Dalia Elhassan (Sudan)
- Nour Kamel (Egypt)
- Theresa Lola (Nigeria)
- Momtaza Mehri (Somalia)
- Cheswayo Mphanza (Zambia)
Among the eight, Hiwot Adilow, Michelle Angwenyi, Dalia Elhassan, Noir Kamel, Theresa Lola, and Momtaza Mehri are all women. In its six years, with this announcement, the Brunel Prize has anointed ten winners and co-winners, with seven of them being women.
The 2018 judges are: Kwame Dawes; Diana Evans; Malika Booker; Mahtem Shiferraw; and Chair and founder, Bernardine Evaristo.
Here is the announcement.
This year the judges decided to award the prize to the three poets they considered the most outstanding. This is in keeping with the Prize’s project of supporting multiple voices from the African continent. Out of over 1000 entries, the winners are Hiwot Adilow (Ethiopia), Theresa Lola (Nigeria), and Momtaza Mehri (Somalia).
The Prize works closely with Kwame Dawes and the African Poetry Book Fund (APBF) at the University of Nebraska. All the winners and most of the shortlisted poets of the past five years have had poetry pamphlets published with APBF in their stunning New Generation African Poets series of box sets with Slappering Hol Press and Akashic Books (USA). Some of these poets are also publishing, or about to publish, their first full collections. 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.
Brittle Paper is overwhelmed by the naming of Momtaza Mehri and Lola Theresa among the winners. Both poets have been published by us: We published Momtaza Mehri’s “New World Hymn” in 2016 and Theresa Lola’s “Portrait of Us as Snow White” in 2017. But here is the source of our extended excitement: this is the third straight year that the Brunel Prize has been awarded to poets published by Brittle Paper: Gbenga Adesina, the 2016 Prize winner, and Romeo Oriogun, the 2017 Prize winner, were also published by Brittle Paper before their ascent. Lola Theresa and Momtaza Mehri were the only poets published by us on the eight-name shortlist. On the 2016 shortlist, Saddiq Dzukogi and Kechi Nomu, both Nigerians, were the other names, aside Romeo Oriogun, published by Brittle Paper.
THE THREE WINNERS
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). Here is what the judges had to say about her work:
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.
Read her work HERE.
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. Here is what the judges had to say about her work:
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.
Read her work HERE.
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. Here is what the judges had to say about her work:
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.
Read her work HERE.
The Brunel International African Poetry Prize was won by Somalia’s Warsan Shire in 2013; Ethiopia’s Liyou Libsekal in 2014; Sudan’s Safia Elhillo and Uganda’s Nick Makoha in 2015; Nigeria’s Gbenga Adesina and Chekwube O. Danladi in 2016; and Nigeria’s Romeo Oriogun in 2017. The 2018 Prize makes Theresa Lola the fourth Nigerian to win; Momtaza Mehri the second Somali to win; and Hiwot Adilow the second Ethiopian to win.
Special congratulations to Momtaza Mehri, Theresa Lola, and Hiwot Adilow.
We are fiercely proud of them!