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Safia Elhillo. Image from Facebook.

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. Image from OkayAfrica.

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. Image from Sanyu FM.

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. Image from Guardian NG.

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.

Congratulations to Koleka Putuma, Safia Elhillo, Kemiyondo Coutinho, and Sonia Irabor.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, an academic, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review ("Mulumba," 2016), Transition ("A Tenderer Blessing," 2015), and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award for which he was shortlisted ("You Sing of a Longing," 2017). His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. He attended the 2018 Miles Morland Foundation Creative Writing Workshop. He is the curator of the ART NAIJA SERIES, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, ENTER NAIJA: THE BOOK OF PLACES (October, 2016), focuses on cities in Nigeria. The second, WORK NAIJA: THE BOOK OF VOCATIONS (June, 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. He studied History and Literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies and Pop Culture, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He has completed a collection of short stories, YOU SING OF A LONGING, and is working on a novel. He is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. When bored, he just Googles Rihanna.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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