Theresa Lola, a Nigerian poet, has been announced joint winner of the prestigious 2018 Brunel International African Poetry Prize.
Lola struggled in the competition amidst over 1000 other international entrants to be awarded one of the three top prizes of £1000.
The Prize which was launched in 2012 by Brunel University London is funded by the Commonwealth Writers of the Commonwealth Foundation and is open to poets who were born in Africa, who are nationals of an African country, or whose parents are African.
The Prize is usually judged by a panel of writers and academics with the award aiming at providing a platform for Africa’s finest unpublished poets.
The organisers ask that each entrant poet submit a pamphlet of their best 10 pieces of work; this is to encourage only serious entrants.
Lola who shared the joint prize with Momtaza Mehri from Somalia and Hiwot Adilow from Ethiopia, said “Winning the Brunel International African Poetry Prize feels surreal, it is an unwavering highlight,”
“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.”
Lola who is now working on a full collection stated that, “Going through the awkward teenage reclusive phase, I wanted to document everything I was observing and started writing what I now knew as poetry,”
Although now a resident in the United Kingdon, Lola’s first shot at writing poetry began whilst still at school in Nigeria, with the encouragement of a teacher who recognised her love for writing.
“I was inspired by the way poets articulated and condensed heavy stories and knew poetry was the mode of writing I needed,” she added.
Lola 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 which had four Nigerians on it, the 2018 shortlist has two poets from Nigeria – Gbenga Adeoba and Theresa Lola – and more poets from different African countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, Egypt and Zambia.
Romeo Oriogun, a Nigerian poet, was also last year’s winner of the Prize.