Four writers have been named in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for 2018: Sudanese poet Safia Elhillo and South African performance poet Koleka Putuma—both of whom were shortlisted for the 2017 Brittle Paper Award for Poetry—Ugandan playwright-actress Kemiyondo Coutinho, and Nigerian writer-filmmaker Sonia Irabor. They are included alongside such entertainers as South African rapper Cassper Nyovest, South African singer Shekhinah, Nigerian musicians Yemi Alade, Davido and WizKid, and Nigerian rapper and actor Falz.
Here are Forbes’ comments on the four writers.
Safia Elhillo, 27, Sudan: Author, Poet
Elhillo is the author of The January Children, a collection of poems.
“The January Children are the generation born in Sudan under British occupation, where children were assigned birth years by height, all given the birth date January 1,” she writes in her dedication.
In addition, Elhillo received a special mention for the 2016 Pushcart Prize, and is recipient of the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize, and the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Conversation, and Crescendo Literary and The Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Incubator.
Her work has been translated into Arabic, Japanese, Estonian, Portuguese, and Greek, and has been commissioned by Under Armour and the Bavarian State Ballet.
Koleka Putuma, 25, South Africa: Poet, Author
Putuma grabbed the world’s attention with her poem Water, a thought-provoking piece of writing and challenging performance on issues of race and religion. She’s a poet, director, playwright and author.
Her bestselling book, Collective Amnesia, is powerful, intersectional text that tackles race, sexuality, class, politics, and poetry. Author Lawrence Schimel described it as the most exciting book he read last year. Collective Amnesia has been prescribed at tertiary level and made part of the curriculum.
Her poems demand justice, insist on visibility and offer healing. Her plays include UHM and Mbuzeni, Ekhaya andScoop, the latter are theater productions for young audiences under the age of seven. Her work has traveled around the world, with her poetry winning prizes such as the 2014 National Poetry Slam Championship and the 2016 PEN South Africa Student Writing Prize.
Kemiyondo Coutinho, 28, Uganda: Playwright, Actress, Filmmaker, Entrepreneur
Coutinho is a woman of many talents.
“As an African woman, the narratives I was fed all upheld a stereotypical, singular story or view of what it means to be both African and a woman,” she says.
It inspired her first piece of work at age 17.
“My first piece of writing at the age of 17, took those ideas apart and dismantled them giving voice to the women whose concerns were not being heard. Since then, I have written more plays, more films and started a performance platform all with the aim of deconstructing the societal structures put in place to silence my narrative,” she says.
One of her works was writing, directing and acting in a short film that deals with Ugandans’ attitude towards women wearing mini-skirts. She is also the founder of Kemistry Klass, an arts organization aimed at using arts to create change. Here, she teaches, acts, directs, writes and produces projects that all aim at vocalising silenced voices.
Just recently, she was selected as one of the recipients of Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud Filmmaking fellowship for her script on immigration in America. As a result through Hart’s Network, LOL Network, her film GREEN will be produced and available on his app.
She has held roles in music video production, filmmaking, event production and event curation.
Sonia Irabor, 28, Nigeria: Writer, Filmmaker, Actress
After spending time as a writer and PR guru, Sonia Irabor enrolled at the prestigious Drama Studio London where she trained for two years. Since then, she has appeared in a number of classical plays such as her critically-acclaimed work as Helen of Troy in Trojan Women, and the Tanya Ronder play, Table, where she played three characters in the two-hour production.
She is also a screen and stage writer most recently known for her work as a co-writer on the hit Red TV series, Inspector K, now in its second season. She is currently working on her debut feature film under her newly-founded production company, Sonic Boom Media.