Two Zim writers bag richest literary awards

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Harare (New Ziana) -Two Zimbabwean writers, Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu and Tsitsi Dangarembga, are among eight recipients of this year’s Windham-Campbell Prizes – the richest international literary awards.

In an announcement last night the organisers of the Prizes said this year’s list showcased eight writers at different stages of their careers – from legends of their craft to new voices – all pushing boundaries with powerful works, exploring the notion of identity, family, nationhood and key cultural touch points that shape how we view the world.

The Windham-Campbell Prizes celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and the eight, described as “extraordinary writers”, will each receive US$165 000.

The prestigious awards celebrate literary achievement, with the prize money meant to support their writing, and allow them to focus on their work, independent of financial concerns.

Mike Kelleher, Director of the Windham-Campbell Prizes, in his remarks said: “Across 10 extraordinary years, the Windham-Campbell Prizes have celebrated exceptional literary achievement and nurtured great talent by giving the precious gifts of time, space and creative freedom.

“We are proud to mark our 10th anniversary with the most exciting list of recipients yet. Led by a trailblazing group of global women’s voices, these writers’ ambitious, skillful, and moving work bridges the distance between the history of nations and a deeply personal sense of self.”

Novelist, playwright and filmmaker, Dangarembga, reacted to the award saying: “I have been waiting for this all my life, not always believing but constantly hoping. This award gives me space to dream…”

Across the more than three decades of her career, Dangarembga has emerged as one of the most significant voices in world Anglophone literature.

She is the author of three award-winning and critically acclaimed works of fiction: This Mournable Body (2018), The Book of Not (2006), and Nervous Conditions (1998).

Dangarembga last year (2021) won the PEN International Award for Freedom of Expression.

For Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu, the stunned response to the Prize was: “You have changed my life! One day, I will have words to speak of this, but for now all I have are thanks.”

Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu is a Zimbabwean filmmaker and scholar, and the author of two critically acclaimed novels: The History of Man (2020) and The Theory of Flight (2018).

The Theory of Flight, which won the 2019 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize, fuses together a range of histories and registers into a distinctive, moving, and provocative whole.

Ndlovu is considered an artist who dares to imagine her own mysterious realms, while never avoiding the devastating realities of the world in which we live.

She holds a PhD in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University, as well as master’s degrees in African Studies and Film from Ohio University.

She has published research on Saartjie Baartman and she wrote, directed, and edited the award-winning short film Graffiti.

She is a recipient of a 2018 Morland Writing Scholarship and of a 2020 Writing Fellowship at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS)

The other recipients this year are:Margo Jefferson, Pulitzer Prize for Criticism winner and former lecturer at Columbia University (United States, non-fiction) Emmanuel Iduma, art critic and writer whose work blends travel memoir, photography and history (Nigeria, non-fiction)Sharon Bridgforth, an institution of American theatre and advocate of jazz improvisation (United States, drama).

Winsome Pinnock, the first Black British female writer to have a play produced by the Royal National Theatre (United Kingdom, drama) Zaffar Kunial, a Faber Young Poet and former Wordsworth Poet in Residence, shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot and Costa Prizes (United Kingdom, poetry), Wong May, enigmatic poet whose distinctive and experimental style has garnered fans across the world (Ireland/Singapore/China, poetry).

Previous African recipients include Namwali Serpell (Fiction, Zambia/United States, 2019), Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Fiction, Uganda/United Kingdom, 2018), Helon Habila (Fiction, Nigeria, 2015), Teju Cole (Fiction, United States/Nigeria, 2015), AminattaForna (Fiction, United States/Sierra Leone, 2014), Zoë Wicomb (Fiction, South Africa, 2013), and Jonny Steinberg (Nonfiction, South Africa, 2012).

The Prizes were the brainchild of life-long partners Donald Windham and Sandy M. Campbell.

The couple were deeply involved in literary circles, collected books avidly, read voraciously as well as penning various works.

For years they had discussed the idea of creating an award to highlight literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns.

When Campbell passed away unexpectedly in 1988, Windham took on the responsibility for making this shared dream a reality.

The first prizes were announced in 2013.

The Prizes are administered by Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, and nominees for the Prizes are considered by judges who remain anonymous before and after the prize announcement.

Recipients write in the English language and may live in any part of the world.
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