Ojo Taiye and Ope Adedeji have emerged among the winners of the 2019 Brittle Paper Awards, which aim to recognize the finest, original pieces of writing by Africans published online—writing that has prompted, enhanced, or defined conversations.
The $1,100 prize money is split across five categories: The Brittle Paper Award for Fiction ($200), The Brittle Paper Award for Poetry ($200), The Brittle Paper Award for Creative Nonfiction ($200), The Brittle Paper Award for Essays & Think Pieces ($200), and The Brittle Paper Anniversary Award ($300), for writing published on the Brittle Paper website.
The Brittle Paper Award for Poetry ($200): Ojo Taiye
“From a pool of poems in which bodies are brought into light, we chose “Surveillance Camera,” by Ojo Taiye (Nigeria), a poem which, with language beautiful, calm, and poignant, looks at a mother’s retrograde amnesia, prompting a pondering of what respite her child could bring her and a probing for meaning and the nature of memory.”
The Brittle Paper Award for Fiction ($200): Ope Adedeji
“From a set of short stories in which we run into fate again and again, invited as we are to contemplate the possibilities of destiny, we chose “After the Birds,” by Ope Adedeji (Nigeria), a thrilling weave of speculation and horror in which everything—from tree leaves to memories to skin to sex to flowers to the titular birds—portends doom, leading up to a haunting ending.”
The Brittle Paper Award for Essays & Think Pieces ($200): Namwali Serpell (Zambia)
“From a class of essays & think pieces in which a legacy is solidified, scathing criticisms made, and history re-moulded, we chose “On Black Difficulty: Toni Morrison and the Thrill of Imperiousness,” by Namwali Serpell (Zambia), a solid case for the hard-won privilege of Toni Morrison—the greatest living writer until her passing, “our only truly canonical black, female writer”—to revel in personal freedom and freeing literariness, a privilege earned despite the historical and continuous denigration of black womanhood. It was published five months before Morrison’s passing.”
The Brittle Paper Anniversary Award ($300): Cheswayo Mphanza (Zambia) and Nkateko Masinga (South Africa)
“From a collection of works in which beautiful storytelling meets the excavation of ideas meets criticism, we chose “Language, Trauma, & Identity Politics in Contemporary African Poetry,” by Cheswayo Mphanza (Zambia) and Nkateko Masinga (South Africa), a stimulating conversation on how the poems in 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Vol. I—each poem taken and dissected—explore identity politics, affective fallacy, trauma, and language.”
The Brittle Paper Award for Creative Nonfiction ($200): Simone Haysom
“From an assembly of writing telling stories of places and spaces and time and motherhood, we chose “Excellent Baddie Territory,” by Simone Haysom, an ecosystemic tale of Johannesburg: its myth, its habits, fires, prayers, its forests, its animals, insects, birds, its industries, mining, music.”
The Awards extend Brittle Paper‘s overall mission to archive the wealth of African literary production from getting lost in the chaos of social media and the Internet so that readers, publishers, writers, and scholars can stay informed about global trends in the African literary scene, and to ensure that the significance of these works transcends the initial moment of their publication.