Brunel Int African Poetry Prize within reach


As local poet is shortlisted from 1 000 entries



MASERU – A Mosotho poet, Tumello Motabola, has made the cut and is among the eight shortlisted entries for the Eighth Brunel International African Poetry Prize – from over 1 000 entries from across the globe.

The Brunel International African Poetry Prize 2021 is 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. The Brunel International African Poetry Prize works in partnership with the African Poetry Book Fund, run by Kwame Dawes at the University of Nebraska.

Entries were open from November 2 to December 2, 2020, and original work was accepted. The shortlist was announced last month and the winner will be announced in May 11.

Motabola was born in 1999, and is studying Actuarial Sciences at Stellenbosch University in the Republic of South Africa.

He is the younger of two siblings, a brother and a sister, and his parents are both teachers. He was shortlisted for the eighth Jalaada Africa body’s volume and some of his work has appeared on the South African online journal Poetry Potion. His writing style, heavily influenced by Clifton Gachagua’s2013 Madman at Kilifi, Mongane Wally Serote and Czeslaw Milosz draws on memory and history of the southern Africa.

His three poems that were selected to put him on the shortlist are ‘Ka Lepoqong’ (A market place in Maseru), ‘Memory’ and ‘The name ‘Mathakane’.

From the Chair, Karen McCarthy Woolf, following the announcement of the shortlist said: “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 commemorate 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.

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.

Now in its eighth year of submissions, this is the largest cash prize for African poetry in the world. It 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.

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).

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).




Money changes hands here but the palms maintained the labor
keeping the lineament the same as the lines
once meant to hold in the grasp, forever unchanging.
The sun condenses in silly patterns to a glare of stale polythene sheets that smell like cheap imported shoes, urine and forgotten last winter orange shavings coiled somewhere in the dust. Men hurling boots at the sleeping pavement pass by uninvited motorcades
peeling those infected oranges with only the tips of their tongues.
I am distracted by old Cadac stoves pushed into the damp shadows of the cardboard stalls, stowed away, maybe even forgotten.
Will they be used again? Why are they not thrown away?
Under a red Vodacom canopy flaring at center a woman riddles her feet to a tangram, under a matching Coca-Cola canteen.
The smell of camphor indented in her neckline like alloys under her cheek
dipped in a shy calamine for the burning sun above.
The black umbrae in her eye could be used as a new sundial
for a new miniature town if only her face would change to the sun.
When city drivers ask me where to go,
I swallow my tongue and say: Ka Lepoqong.


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