A Nigerian poet, Theresa Lola, has been named joint winner of the prestigious 2018 Brunel International African Poetry Prize.
Theresa fought off stiff competition from over 1000 other international entrants to be awarded one of the three top prizes of £1000.
Launched in 2012 by Brunel University London and judged by a panel of writers and academics, the award aims at providing a platform for Africa’s finest unpublished poets.
The Prize is open to poets who were born in Africa, who are nationals of an African country, or whose parents are African.
To encourage only serious entrants, organisers ask that poets each submit a pamphlet of their best 10 pieces of work.
“Winning the Brunel International African Poetry Prize feels surreal, it is an unwavering highlight,” said Theresa, who shared the joint prize with Hiwot Adilow from Ethiopia, and Momtaza Mehri from Somalia.
“I started writing after being inspired by Nigerian poets I saw during a school trip to the Lagos Poetry Festival when I was 12 years old, so to win the Brunel International African Poetry Prize feels like I am doing my job and responsibility as a poet and human in putting Africa forward where it rightly belongs.”
Now a resident of the UK, Theresa first started writing whilst still at school in Nigeria, encouraged by a teacher who recognised her love for writing.
“Going through the awkward teenage reclusive phase, I wanted to document everything I was observing and started writing what I now knew as poetry,” said Theresa, who is now working on a full collection.
“I was inspired by the way poets articulated and condensed heavy stories and knew poetry was the mode of writing I needed.”
Theresa hopes that winning the Brunel International African Poetry Prize will open doors that would otherwise be closed, and help her achieve her goal of doing work that benefits the poetry community.
“As a poet it has definitely bolstered my confidence, and of course sheds more light on the possibility of a poetry career,” she said.
Unlike last year’s shortlist that had four Nigerians on it, the 2018 shortlist has more poets from different African countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, Egypt, Zambia and two poets from Nigeria.
The Prize is funded by the Commonwealth Writers of the Commonwealth Foundation.
Last year’s winner was Nigerian poet, Romeo Oriogun.