By the time this interview series begins, it will be my third month interning at Africa In Dialogue. Conducting the ten interviews for this project initially felt like jumping into the deep end of a pool before learning how to swim, but all of the poets shortlisted for the 2019 Brunel International African Poetry Prize have offered me life-lines in many ways through this journey; through their poems, their generous answers to my questions and the discussions we have had outside of the virtual “interview room.”
I am honoured and grateful that I got a chance to read their work and interrogate with them various ideas about home, the African diaspora, identity, health, love, loss, memory, and more. Each year since the prize was first announced in 2012, I have studied the selected poems and waited excitedly for the chapbook series featuring the work of all the writers on the shortlist. This year is no different, except that I now have a front-row seat to the magic unfolding.
Some of the poets I interviewed for this series have been on the shortlist of the prize before but have pointed out that it is a different experience each time, so I share in their renewed excitement. I share also in the joy of those who are on the list for the first time. I have held space with each poet, have broken virtual bread with them all and now we move on to the next phase of the journey: awaiting the announcement of the winner/s. All the best to Afua Ansong, Inua Ellams, Sherry Shenoda, Selina Nwulu, Mary-Alice Daniel, Jamila Osman, K. Eltinaé, Emmanuel Oppong-Yeboah, Nadra Mabrouk and Omotara James. You are all amazing and I wish you light for the journey ahead.
My deepest gratitude goes to Bernadine Evaristo, Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London and Vice Chair of the Royal Society of Literature and founder of the Brunel International African Poetry Prize, for putting me in touch with the ten poets in early April. I would also like to thank Gaamangwe Joy Mogami, my mentor and the founder of Africa In Dialogue, for the many opportunities she has afforded me through this internship, most notably this interview series. I hope everyone reading these interviews will see the care and effort that went into this project.
Interviews with the shortlisted poets will be published daily from May 19 until May 28. Enjoy!
Until next time,
Nkateko Masinga was born in Pretoria, South Africa. She is a writer, performance poet, publisher, TEDx Speaker, 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow, World Economic Forum Global Shaper and 2019 Ebedi Writers Fellow. Her written work has appeared in Brittle Paper, Kalahari Review, U.S journal Illuminations, UK pamphlet press Pyramid Editions, the University of Edinburgh’s Dangerous Women Project, and elsewhere. She is the founder and managing director of NSUKU Publishing Consultancy. Her work has received support from Pro Helvetia Johannesburg and the Swiss Arts Council. She is currently a Contributing Interviewer for Poetry under Africa In Dialogue’s Internship Program.