By Paidashe Mandivengerei
ZIMBABWEAN poet, Zibusiso Mpofu, has bagged the tenth and last Brunel International African Poetry award, walking away with a prize money worth £3,000 (US$3,670).
The awards, backed by Booker Prize winner and Brunel creative writing Professor Bernadine Evaristo since 2012, will be renamed to the Evaristo African Poetry Prize and funded by The African Poetry Book Fund.
The 30-year-old Bulawayo born artist previously submitted entries twice for the prestigious award with no luck but finally emerged winner this year.
He was selected from a finalist cohort that included South Africa’s Conor Kogil, Somalia’s Asmaa Jama and Edil Hassan, Ethiopia’s Fahad Al-Amoudi, and Nigeria’s Adedayo Agarau and Chisom Okafor.
Judges, Gabeba Baderoon, Tjawangwa Demi and Tsitsi Jaji described Mpofu’s poems as a “balance of realism and nearly mystical understatements”.
Mpofu’s art is a map of all the countries he has lived in from Zimbabwe, India, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and China touching on the themes of racism, migration, and identity.
He explained that his art is inspired by his experiences as a black African in Asia.
“I wrote them as an analysis of some of the things I went through. Some of them deal with racism, which was a very painful part of my experience living and travelling in Asia.
“Also, I realised that the experience as a black African, not immigrating but travelling, is something we often do not talk about. There are many pleasures and lessons, but we are also faced with unique challenges owing to the image the world has of Africa.”
He added: “Writing those poems demanded a lot from me. In other ways, winning feels right.
“The very first thought I had when I heard the news was ‘okay, what shall I do next?’ It’s a high honour to win but it also means that there is more work to do. I have very big dreams for my writing.”
The Brunel International African Poetry Prize sponsored by Brunel University London is aimed at the development, celebration, and promotion of poetry from Africans.