Four up and coming writers, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Nneoma Ike-Njoku, Ayesha Haruna Attah, and Abdul Adan have recently joined the ranks by beating over 500 others to win one of the most recently coveted African writing prizes: The Miles Morland Writing Scholarship.
This year’s winners are not new to literary recognition: Lidudumalingani Mqombothi received the 2016 Caine Prize for writing. Abdul Adan is one of the founding members of the Jalada collective and was shortlisted for 2016’s Caine Prize. Ayesha Attah has published two acclaimed novels, Harmattan Rain and Saturday’s Shadows, and was shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and the 2015 Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship. Nneoma Ike-Njoku won the 2015 Awele Creative Trust Award, the 2016 Winter Tangerine Prose Award and got a place on the 2016 Farafina Writing Workshop.
However, what makes this perhaps one of the the most enviable literary prize on the African continent. It comes from the Miles Morland Foundation which is dedicated to supporting entities in Africa which allow Africans to get their voices better heard especially in literature. The three fiction winners, Mqombothi, Ike-Njoku and Adan will each receive a grant of £18,000 to allow them to take a year off to write a book while the non-fiction winner, Attah will receive a grant of £25,000 to cover extra research costs. Competition this year came from a record 500 submissions, compared to 345 from last year, from over thirty countries and Miles Morland enthused that the chosen scholars made proposals with “the potential to command global attention.”
The chair of the judges’ panel Ellah Wakamata Allfrey (former deputy editor of Granta magazine and current Deputy Chair of the Council of the Caine Prize) had this to say about the winners’ proposals:
“Abdul Adan’s surreal, dark humour will take us to Elwak, on Kenya’s Somali border as his enigmatic protagonist infiltrates a group of Islamic extremists.
“In Ayesha Harruna Attah’s proposal, Kola! From Caravans to Coca Cola we were immediately engaged by her confident prose and outline for a history of the prized kola nut from its West African origins, weaving together primary sources and travel.
“Nneoma Ike-Njoku delighted us with her highly original and boldly ambitious proposal for Drift a novel about a fictional Afro-Psych Rock band formed by college students in 1970s post-Civil War Lagos.
“With studied assurance and a beguiling poetic restraint, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi’s Let Your Children Name Themselves will tell the intergenerational story of a family living in rural South Africa, with a focus on Babini – a gay adolescent struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and his place within his community.”
The only condition imposed on the winners is that they must write over the course of the 12 months the grants are paid. This means that if you, like us, have loved Ike-Njoku’s The Burial , Mqombothi’s Memories We Lost, Adan’s The Lifebloom Gift, or Attah’s The Intruder, then you are in for a treat.
“It’s not an easy thing to make a living as a writer, or to maintain equilibrium between a 9 to 5 job and writing,” as one of the 2014 scholars Ndida Kioko remarked, but for winners of the competition like her, “This scholarship means that I can now finally pull down the shutters and concentrate on my writing for a sustained period of time without previous distractions and limitations.” We can only wish the winners all the best from the coming year!