Shortlist 2021

We are pleased to announce the shortlist for the 3k Brunel International African Poetry Prize 2021, a major prize aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poetry from Africa. The Prize is sponsored by Brunel University London and is open to African poets worldwide who have not yet published a full poetry collection. Each poet has to submit 10 poems to be eligible.

Out of over one thousand entries, the eight shortlisted poets are Kweku Abimbola (Gambia), Arao Ameny (Uganda), Isabelle Baafi (South Africa), Asmaa Jama (Somalia), Tumello Motabola (Lesotho), Oluwadare Popoola (Nigeria), Yomi Sode (Nigeria), Othuke Umukoro (Nigeria)

The judges this year were poets: Karen McCarthy Woolf (Chair), Rustum Kozain (South Africa) and Makhosazana Xaba (South Africa).

From the Chair, Karen McCarthy Woolf: ‘This year’s shortlist includes an exciting array of new and emerging voices from across the continent and diaspora, from South Africa and Lesotho, to Nigeria, Gambia, Somalia and Uganda. Thematically, the poems have shared and diverse concerns, from Yomi Sodé’s memorial to Damilola Taylor to Nathan Kweku John’s meditation on Ashanti naming traditions that also commemorates victims of police brutality.

Running throughout these portfolios, there was a sense of urgency and a spirit of witness leavened by a capacity to address complex scenarios amongst the political wreckage that has characterised this specific moment in the early 21st century.

Many of these poets are young, in their 20s, and their voices are fresh, articulate, compelling –– they speak to us, in lucid and evocative terms of tangible lived experience, whether they are writing of relationships with parents, lovers, society or friends. Demonstrating a capacity for experimentation, formal dexterity and a willingness to take a risk, these shortlisted poets write in a range of styles from narrative to lyric.

We find them now, on the brink of what promises to be notable and enduring literary careers.  

The winner is announced on May 11th.

Bernardine Evaristo founded the Prize in 2012 at a time when African poetry was almost invisible on the international literary landscape. Today, there are legions of African poets successfully building careers and being heard. This quiet revolution demonstrates the power of initiatives such as the Brunel prize and the African Poetry Book Fund to revolutionise the literature of an entire continent. The future looks very bright and African poetry is staking its claim as a major force in world literature.

Now in it’s eighth year of submissions, this is the largest cash prize for African poetry in the world. It is is aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poetry from Africa. The Prize is sponsored by Brunel University London and is open to African poets worldwide who have not yet published a full poetry collection. Each poet has to submit 10 poems in order to be eligible.

Past winners: Warsan Shire (2013); Liyou Libsekal (2014); Safia Elhillo & Nick Makoha (2015); Gbenga Adesina & Chekwube O. Danladi (2016); Romeo Oriogun (2017); Hiwot Adilow, Theresa Lola & Momtaza Mehri (2018); Nadra Mabrouk & Jamila Osman (2019); Rabha Ashry (2020).

The shortlisted poets are available for interview and can be contacted via Bernardine.Evaristo@brunel.ac.uk.