The judging panel chaired by Gabeba Baderoon, described the submissions for this year’s contest as impressive, particularly those of the shortlisted poets.
By Helena Olori
The African Poetry Book Fund has announced the winners of the inaugural Evaristo Prize for African Poetry as Gracia “Cianga” Mwamba from Congo, and Feranmi Ariyo from Nigeria, selected from the six shortlisted finalists.
Describing Ariyo’s winning submission, He Reads a Cancer Booklet, the judges said “These poems do not look away from the ‘incarnation of death wait[ing] eagerly’ in the hospital room and therefore, the seeming capriciousness of individual life, unmasking of elemental relationships and uneven forms of knowing revealed by cancer. Yet their intimate view on loss also opens outward into worldedness.”
Mwamba’s poems, titled Congo, seen from the heavens, were praised for the concise yet profound language use. “An arresting economy and density of language, followed by an exhilarating formal range including prose, lyric, and an ear for the multiple directions in which a single word can gyrate. The first lines in Congo, seen from the heavens ask the striking question – does it matter who gazes?” The judges remarked.
Gracia “Cianga” Mwamba, currently based in California, is an artist from Congo whose work is focused on decolonisation and language disruption. Mwamba has received fellowships and residencies from renowned institutions such as UC Berkeley’s Arts & Research Center, Brooklyn Poets, and Atlantic Center for the Arts. She has been published in reputable journals like Foglifter Journal, Rappahannock Review, and EcoTheo Review.
Nigerian-born storyteller, Feranmi Ariyo, boasts accolades such as winning the Punocracy Prize for Satire in 2019 and being selected as a fellow for the Unserious Collective Fellowship in 2022. Ariyo’s works have graced platforms such as African Writer, Kalahari Review, and Rattle’s Poetry Podcast. His upcoming chapbook, titled I Watch You Disappear, is set to feature in the KUMI: New-Generation African Poets Chapbooks Boxset.
Formerly known as the Brunel International Prize for African Poetry, the annual prize, established in 2012 by British Writer, Bernardine Evaristo, awards the sum of $1,500 to ten poems written by an African poet.
The prize was later renamed as the Evaristo Prize for African Poetry, with the African Poetry Book Fund taking over its management in 2022. This year’s edition saw two winners announced. The winners will each receive a prize of $750.
The Evaristo Prize for African Poetry is open for submissions each year from October 1st to November 1st. See details here.