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South Sudanese poet Marial Awendit has won the 2018 Babishai-Niwe Poetry Award, for his poem “38 photographs of depression.” His work, chosen from more than 1,000 submissions, was named winner in a 5 August ceremony at Starlight Hotel, Mbale, Uganda. Awendit, whose poem, “Gaze,” appeared on Brittle Paper in 2016, will now receive $700 and a publication offer for his poetry chapbook.

Founded in 2009 by Uganda’s Beverly Nambozo Nsengiyunva, director of Babishai-Niwe Poetry Foundation, the BN Poetry Award was originally aimed at highlighting poetry by Ugandan women. The first winners were Lilian Akampurira Aujo in 2009, Sophie Brenda Alal in 2010, Sanyu Kisaka in 2011, and Susan Piwang in 2012. After the prize was expanded to consider all African poets, the winners were Tom Jalio in 2014, Adeeko Ibukun in 2015, and Sanya Noel and Moyosore Orimoloye in 2016.

The 2018 judging panel—comprising Malawi’s Alfred Msadala, Uganda’s Rehema Nanfuka, and chaired by Nigeria’s Remi Raj—described Awendit’s work as “potent, highly imaginative and brimming with originality.” Malawi’s Grace Sharra and Uganda’s George Gumikiriza came in second and third places, respectively. Unable to attend, Sharra gave her acceptance speech on video.

“Marial made the trek here from his home in South Sudan,” Emory University professor of English Nathan Suhr-Sytsma, author of Poetry, Print, and the Making of Postcolonial Literature, told us via email. “It was very moving to see him receive the prize.”

The 2018 Babishai Poetry Festival took place from 3-6 August in Kapchorwa, Sipi Falls, and Mbale, all in Uganda—with guests from Botswana, Nigeria, the U.S., Rwanda and Uganda. In 2019, Babishai-Niwe Poetry Foundation will celebrate its tenth anniversary.

Congratulations to Marial Awendit, and to Grace Sharra and George Gumikiriza.

The shortlisted poems can be read HERE.

READ: Sudanese Fiction: 5 Books Recommended by Leila Aboulela

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OTOSIRIEZE is a writer, literary journalist, former academic, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. A judge for the 2019 Gerald Kraak Award, he is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective which has published two volumes: WE ARE FLOWERS and THE INWARD GAZE. He is the curator of ART NAIJA SERIES, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness: ENTER NAIJA: THE BOOK OF PLACES (October, 2016) focuses on cities in Nigeria; WORK NAIJA: THE BOOK OF VOCATIONS (June, 2017) focuses on professions in Nigeria. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition, and has been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship and the Gerald Kraak Award, both in 2016, and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. He attended the 2018 Miles Morland Foundation Creative Writing Workshop. 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. He combined history and literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. When bored, the boy just Googles Rihanna. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts editing and writing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze.

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