Hiwot Adilow, Theresa Lola and Momtaza Mehri named 2018 African Poetry Prize winners

The Brunel Inter­na­tion­al African Poet­ry Prize has been joint­ly award­ed to three poets for the first time.

Hiwot Adilow (pic­tured right), There­sa Lola (mid­dle) and Mom­taza Mehri have been named the win­ners, out of more than a thou­sand entrants.

Now in its sixth year, the prize offers £3,000 aimed at the devel­op­ment, cel­e­bra­tion and pro­mo­tion of poet­ry from Africa.

The judges decid­ed to award the prize to the three poets they deemed the most out­stand­ing, stay­ing with the prize’s pur­pose of sup­port­ing mul­ti­ple voic­es from the African continent.

Hiwot Adilow

“Win­ning the Brunel Inter­na­tion­al African Poet­ry Prize has been very affirm­ing,” Adilow told Fringe Fre­quen­cy.

“It comes at a time where I’m think­ing a lot about what’s next for my life. I grew up being told to pur­sue my art on the side and while the real­i­ties of sur­viv­ing through cap­i­tal­ism make this a some­what rea­son­able request, being award­ed this prize, being rec­og­nized in oth­er spaces for my writ­ing, has high­light­ed for me how nec­es­sary it is to craft a life where my cre­ative work is cen­tral. No mat­ter what is in the way, I must main­tain, as much as pos­si­ble, a rela­tion­ship to my art that encour­ages growth and exploration.”

Aid­low, an Ethiopi­an-Amer­i­can poet and singer, cur­rent­ly based in Madi­son, Wis­con­sin, will release a chap­book, titled In the House of My Father via Two Sylvias Press.

Com­ment­ing on her work, the judges said: “Hiwot Adilow’s trans­gres­sive poems return to the body as a site for mean­ing, mem­o­ry, and reck­on­ing. She has dis­cov­ered that poetry’s con­tract with the sens­es makes it the most suit­able vehi­cle for poems that will speak of the ways in which a woman’s body has to be writ­ten with care, bold­ness and discipline.”

Theresa Lola

Born in Niger­ian, and cur­rent­ly based in Lon­don, poet There­sa Lola is work­ing on her first poet­ry col­lec­tion. An alum­na of the Bar­bi­can Young Poets pro­gramme, she has been short­list­ed for poet­ry awards, won the Ham­mer and Tongue Nation­al Poet­ry Slam in 2017, and appeared on var­i­ous BBC Radio programmes.

Com­ment­ing on her work, the judges said: “There­sa Lola seeks to artic­u­late the frail­ties, com­pli­ca­tions and bru­tal­i­ties inflict­ed by the body through micro­scop­ic imagery that is grotesque and dis­tort­ed yet sur­pris­ing­ly ten­der… The poet­ry is also unflinch­ing­ly com­posed, whether she is por­tray­ing a daugh­ter cut­ting her father’s spine or the rav­ages of a father’s ill­ness where can­cer has kissed death unto his kid­neys.”

Momtaza Mehri

Soma­lian poet and essay­ist Mom­taza Mehri has been fea­tured in pub­li­ca­tions, such as Dazed, Vogue and Poet­ry Review. She was win­ner of the 2017 Out­spo­ken Page Poet­ry Prize and she took third prize in the Nation­al Poet­ry Com­pe­ti­tion 2018. She was named Young People’s Lau­re­ate of Lon­don in 2018.

Com­ment­ing on her work, the judges said: “Mom­taza Mehri draws on her Mus­lim and Soma­li back­ground to write poet­ry of great top­i­cal­i­ty and urgency. Her poems are also qui­et­ly pow­er­ful bul­lets of sear­ing intel­li­gence and com­pas­sion. There are many unfor­get­table images and imag­i­na­tive uses of lan­guage, and an auda­cious­ness and ver­sa­til­i­ty with form that marks her out as a voice with a bright future ahead of her.”

This year’s judges for the prize includ­ed the writ­ers and aca­d­e­mics Mali­ka Book­er, Kwame Dawes, Diana Evans, Mahtem Shi­fer­raw, and chair and founder, Bernar­dine Evaristo.

Image: cour­tesy of Brunel Inter­na­tion­al African Poet­ry Prize