Nthikeng Mohlele and Mohale Mashigo

Nthikeng Mohlele and Mohale Mashigo are the University of Johannesburg Prize 2016 winners.

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”.

This year the shortlist announced in June included a variety of some of the most well-known names in the South African literary scene from the fiction to the nonfiction. The only thing about the shortlists is that there didn’t seem to be any method to the selection madness. They weren’t categorised in ways that the literary industry is used to like fiction, nonfiction, poetry or the like. They were lumped into two main categories; the main prize worth R75 000 and the debut prize worth R35 000. The main prize had Nthikeng Mohlele, Yewande Omotoso, and Bongani Madondo in the running. For the debut prize, Sylvia Vollenhoven, Jolyn Philips, Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese, and Mohale Mashigo were hoping to get the judges nod.

Talking of judging, 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.  This year, the University of Johannesburg representatives on the panel were Sikumbuzo Mngadi, Ronit Frenkel, Danyela Demir, and Nyasha Mboti. Michael Titlestad was the judge representing the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) while University of Pretoria was represented by Rebecca Fasselt.

This team announced the winners of the prizes on Friday and they are Nthikeng Mohlele and Mohale Mashigo. Nthikeng Mohlele won for his fourth book Pleasure drawn against the canvas of wartime Europe and modern-day Cape Town, South Africa. His four previous books were The Scent of Bliss (Kwela Books, 2008), Small Things (University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Press, 2013), and Rusty Bell (University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Press, 2014).

Mohale Mashigo’s stunning debut The Yearning continues its march on the award charts that started with its longlisting on the longlisting for the Etisalat Prize for African Writing 2016 and the Sunday Times Fiction Prize 2017 longlist. The Yearning is the story of a young woman who has an enviable life in Cape Town, working at a wine farm and spending idyllic days with her friends … until her past starts spilling into her present.

The two writers will be given their award at a formal ceremony later in the year.

Congratulations Mohale and Nthikeng.