Zibusiso Mpofu

The Brunel International African Poetry Prize is a major prize aimed at the development, celebration and promotion of poetry from Africa. The 3K Prize is open to African poets worldwide who have not yet published a full poetry collection.

We are pleased to announce that the unanimous winner of  the 2022 Prize is Zibusiso Mpofu (Zimbabwe). The judges – Gabeba Baderoon (Chair), Tjawangwa Demi and Tsitsi Jaji – also decided on an Honourable Mention for Asmaa Jama (Somalia).

The judges describe Mpofu’s poetry thus: ‘His allusive, lyrical poems open a new itinerary in African poetry, drawing in Shona and Mandarin and mapping a journey of the Black body through India, Hong Kong, the Philippines and China. Superbly crafted, the poems unfold in unexpected directions, balancing raw realism and nearly mystical understatement. Mpofu’s urgent silences and aching directness are all the more remarkable given the testimonial-like and retrospective nature of his lines. Touching on migration, the familyidentityart and an odyssey through many Asias, the poems narrate a harrowing, riveting postcolonial passage, and arrive at ending of surprising revelation. Mpofu is a worthy recipient of the tenth Brunel International African Poetry Prize.’

The shortlisted poets were: L to R: Conor Cogill (South Africa), Asmaa Jama (Somalia), Edil Hassan (Somalia), Zibusiso Mpofu (Zimbabwe), Fahad Al-Amoudi (Ethiopia), Adedayo Agarau (Nigeria), Chisom Okofor (Nigeria).

The judges general comments on the shortlist: ‘It is fitting that after a decade of the Brunel International African Poetry Prize, we find here African voices liberated from prescriptions of form and ideas. Engaging an expansive range of themes, from familial intimacy to the body to history’s lingering arc, this was a richly varied selection marked by confident experimentation with formal strategies – from disciplined patterns to playful uses of spacing, typography, punctuation and more. In the poems, we are ferried from a near empty stadium where Marvin Gaye sings to the moon and a cleaning crew to ‘bilaal [who] was the only black man allah loved’ to a party in northwest China to rooms ‘peopled by cardiac monitors and /bespectacled cardiologists’. Many strike a deeply melancholic note, and even a sense of mourning. But they are alive to the currents of history and the way poetry’s memorial practices animate the raw intimacy between the seen and unseen. The poems offered rich grounds from which to form our shortlist.’

The Brunel prize was founded by Bernardine Evaristo in 2012 and is sponsored by Brunel University London and part-funded by Evaristo. It also received financial support for many years from Commonwealth Writers of the Commonwealth Foundation. This is the tenth and final year of the Prize in its current iteration, which will now become part of the African Poetry Book Fund’s roster of prizes and activities. They have renamed it the Evaristo African Poetry Prize and it will open for submissions in October 2022. The African Poetry Book Fund was founded by Kwame Dawes in 2012 at the University of Nebraska, USA, where it is based.

Zibusiso Mpofu can be contacted via Bernardine.Evaristo@brunel.ac.uk