In a particularly challenging year thus far, the power of the written word has not gone unrecognised. What is even more heart-warming are the winners and shortlistees of multiple literature prizes for 2020, as these are female writers that hail from the African continent. Their experiences and mastery of storytelling have earned them these prestigious honours and the respect of their readers, globally.
Earlier this month, the shortlist for the Booker Prize was released. Amongst these authors was renowned Zimbabwean author, Tsitsi Dangarembga. The third installment in her Nervous Conditions trilogy, This Mournable Body, has resulted in her achieving this shortlisting among 162 submissions. Dangarembga is no stranger to receiving accolades for her talent as a writer, as she has also won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for her revered work, Nervous Conditions.
“What is even more heart-warming are the winners and shortlistees of multiple literature prizes for 2020, as these are female writers that hail from the African continent.“
Irenosen Okojie, a Nigerian-born writer, was awarded the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing 2020 for her short story entitled Grace Jones. Similar to Dangarembga, Okojie is also a decorated writer. She has been shortlisted and has won many literature prizes preceding her latest win this year . She has won a Betty Trask award and was shortlisted for an Edinburgh International First Book Award, the Edgehill Short Story Prize, and the Jhalak Prize amongst others. Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp, the Chair of the AKO Caine Prize judging panel, reviewed Grace Jones as being “world-class fiction from an African writer”.
The Ingrid Jonker Prize is one of South Africa’s most prestigious prizes for local literature in the English or Afrikaans language. 11 works were shortlisted in the bid to win the 2020 prize. This year’s winner for English poetry is Johannesburg native, Saaleha Idrees Bamjee. Her debut poetry collection Zikr has been praised for celebrating her heritage, the Arabic language, and encapsulating her experience as a Muslim woman.
These three women are a few that epitomise sharing a unique experience with an audience in a set number of pages. The African experience is multifaceted and diverse, and the works of authors like Dangarembga, Okojie, and Bamjee enrich the literature community with engaging narratives from the perspectives only Africa-born writers can create. The female African experience, however, can be the voice that garners all to listen, which these three women have accomplished successfully. It just goes to show that when pen comes to paper to voice an experience that only you have, there are endless possibilities that can lead to success.
Image: Giovanna Janos