Harriett Anena has become the first Ugandan to win the 2018 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature.
She was announced the winner alongside Nigerian Prof. Tanure Ojaide at an event held in Lagos, Nigeria on December 9.
Anena was selected for her 2015 collection of poems, A Nation In Labour. She expressed her happiness over her win on her Twitter account.
Super happy to be the joint winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa, 2018, for my book A Nation in Labour. pic.twitter.com/I5uVZtgjpf
— Harriet Anena (@ahpetite) December 9, 2018
Anena wrote her first poem at 13 which won her a bursary to high school. Her works have also been published by Prairie Schooner, Lawino Magazine, African Writers Trust, African Sun Press, Babishai Niwe Foundation, The Real G Inc, among others. She has also written a series of short stories that have been published in the Caine Prize anthology 2013, Sooo Many Stories, Bookslive and Writivism.
Prof. Ojaide was selected for his collection Song of Myself: Quartet, which has been described as a collection “deeply rooted in indigenous African poetic tradition.”
“First of all, I have to explain that the idea of Songs of Myself is based on the oral tradition in which the singer or minstrel sings about himself or criticises himself before criticising the rest of the society. And that’s what I set out to do here. So, really, that sometimes we tend to put all the blames in our lives on our leaders, but we ourselves are also responsible. So, I created a persona, which is marginally myself, not fully myself. But myself is like everybody and then I went to criticise the society and the humanity,” Ojaide, who received the Nigerian National Order of Merit award (NNOM) for Humanities in 2017,” said.
Ojaide adds the award to a collection that includes, the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for the Africa Region (1987), the BBC Arts and Africa Poetry Award (1988), the All-Africa Okigbo Prize for Poetry (1988 and 1997), the Association of Nigerian Authors’ Poetry Prize (1988, 1994 and 2004) and the Fonlon-Nichols Award (2016).
The Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature is awarded every two years to the best book written by an African. This year’s edition of the prize was for poetry and there were 110 submissions from 11 countries on the continent, including Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, and Rwanda.
Winners walked away with a cash prize of US$10,000 each.
The two join other past winners such as Sefi Atta, Nnedi Okorafor, Kopano Matlwa, Wale Okediran, Sifiso Mzobe and Akin Bello.