Bongani Madondo, Yewande Omotoso, and Nthikeng Mohlele

Bongani Madondo, Yewande Omotoso, and Nthikeng Mohlele

The University of Johannesburg Prize for South African Writing in English has announced their shortlist for the year. The list includes names like Bongani Madondo, Yewande Omotoso, and Nthikeng Mohlele.

The University of Johannesburg Prize for South African Writing in English, also known as the UJ Prize, was instituted in 2006. It comprises two prizes, a main prize and a debut prize, given annually for “the best original creative work in English published in the previous calendar year”. The prizes are judged by a panel comprising four members of the Department of English at the University of Johannesburg, two academics from other universities and one member of the media or publishing industry. The prizes are not linked to a specific genre. The main prize winner this year goes for R75 000 while the debut prize winner goes home with R35 000.

Previous winners of the prize are in 2015 Rachel’s Blue” by Zakes Mda for the Main prize and The Story of Anna P, As Told By Herself by Penny Busetto for the debut prize. In 2014 the main prize went to The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes while the debut prize went to False River by Dominique Botha. In 2013 te main prize went to Life Underwater by Ken Barris while the debut prize went to Entanglement by Steven Boykey Sidley. The 2012 main prize went to The Landscape Painter by Craig Higginson while the debut prize was collected for The Sea of Wise Insects by Terry Westby-Nunn. In 2011, the main prize went to Double Negative by Ivan Vladislavic while the debut prize went to Not a Fairy Tale by Shaida Ali. The 201 Main prize went to High-low In-between by Imraan Coovadia while the debut prize went to Native Nostalgia by Jacob Dlamini.

With the university having signed Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka as one of its professors, the prize takes new significance. The team running the award announced the shortlist of its annual literary award from the approximately 60 works submitted. The shortlist includes:

Main Prize

  • Pleasure by Nthikeng Mohlele
  • The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
  • Sigh, the Beloved Country by Bongani Madondo

The first two are fiction titles with Omotoso feted for her sophomore offering with shortlists like the Bailey’s Prize and the Sunday Times Literary Prize. Madondo has been faithfully chronicling the urban landscape of South Africa for the last quarter century.

Debut Prize:

  • The Yearning by Mohale Mashigo
  • Loud and Yellow Laughter by Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese
  • Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and Other Stories by Jolyn Philips
  • The Keeper of the Kumm by Sylvia Vollenhoven

The Yearning made a splash with a longlist mention at the Etisalat Prize for Literature 2016 while Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese launched her poetry collection in the last year to very good reviews.

A formal prize-giving ceremony will be held at a function later in the year.