Sudanese author Reem Gafar wins 2023 Island Prize

Ben Ebuka July 21, 2023
Sudanese author, Reem Gaafar, has won the 2023 Island Prize for the manuscript of her debut novel 'A Mouth Full of Salt.' Photo credit:

Sudanese author, Reem Gaafar, has won the 2023 Island Prize for the manuscript of her debut novel ‘A Mouth Full of Salt.’

Set in a small village in northern Sudan during the late 1970s, ‘A Mouth Full of Salt’ portrays the travail of three women trapped in a social system steeped in a very well-defined gender and racial hierarchy; but battling disruption by changing times.

The book sheds light on the long-standing gender and racial hierarchies within the village. Feeling uncomfortable by the encroaching modernity, the indigenous people stubbornly cling to their societal norms and blame an outsider for the mysterious events occurring in the community.

Aside from Reem Gafar, the Island Prize recognized two outstanding runners-up: Andile Mashandu Cele from South Africa and Jesudubami Jemima Aganaba from Nigeria.

Mashandu Cele’s ‘Braids and Migraines‘ sheds light on the injustices and struggles facing young black individuals in post-apartheid South Africa, including the harsh realities of the country’s educational system.

‘Bobo Hamham,’ written by Jesudubami Jemima Aganaba, is about three children from different backgrounds experiencing domestic violence, poverty, religious fanaticism, and the psychological impact of indoctrination.

Founded by South African author, Karen Jennings, the Island Prize is a literary award curated with the primary aim of helping African writers break into the UK publishing scene. This prize is open to unpublished debut novelists from all African countries or the diaspora.

All short-listed works are reviewed by publishers and agents in the UK, the US, and South Africa. The winner receives a cash award of £500, while the runners-up receive £300 and £200 respectively.

In a press statement, judges Karen Jennings, Rachel Edwards, and Hamza Koudri, said, “A Mouth Full of Salt is stylistically simple, insightful, and elegant; sharing truths like all best fiction, it is compelling, has a profound sense of place, and shows brilliance in the ways the destinies weave together.”

Reem Gaafar is an author, writer, researcher, and public health physician. Her other literary works, including short stories, are in many publications, such as RELATIONS: An Anthology of Voices from Africa and the Diaspora (HarperVia); I Know Two Sudans: An Anthology of Creative Writing from Sudan and South Sudan (Gipping Press Ltd); and Agile Government: Emerging Perspectives in Pubilc Management (World Scientific Publishing).

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: July 21, 2023


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