The Guggenheim Foundation has announced the 180 fellows selected for its 2022 class, and it is a win for Ethiopia! The novelists Dinaw Mengestu and Maaza Mengiste, both Ethiopian-Americans, are among ten artists awarded for Fiction. They will receive up to $43,000.

Also awarded, in the category of African Studies, is the Nigerian academic Olufemi O. Vaughan. Previous Guggenheim fellows of African descent include Laila Lalami and Nkeiru Okoye.

The Guggenheim Fellowship is named in honor of John Simon Guggenheim, the son of the American Senator Simon and his wife Olga Guggenheim. The fellowships are open to “advanced professionals in mid-career” and awarded to those “who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.” Only US citizens and permanent resident of the United States and Canada are eligible.

Regarded as one of Ethiopia’s most important literary figures, Mengestu is an award-winning novelist. His novels include The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007) which won Guardian Best First Book Award, How To Read the Air (2010), which won the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, and All Our Names (2014. He has been awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Grant awardee and many other honors.

Maaza Mengiste is the author of two acclaimed novels Beneath the Lion’s Gaze (2010) and The Shadow King (2019), which was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. She has received fellowships from the Fulbright Scholar Program, the National Endowment for the Arts, Creative Capital, and the Cullman Centre. We recently shared news of her forthcoming third novel, A Brief Portrait of Small Deaths. 

The 2022 fellowship received up to 2,500 applications. The selected fellows are spread across 51 scholarly disciplines and artistic fields, 81 academic institutions and range from 33 to 75 in age. Their work explore timely issues such as climate change, pandemics, Russia, feminism, identity, and racism.

Congratulations to Mengestu and Mengiste!