Tjawangwa Dema is the winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets 2018 is for her collection, The Careless Seamstress. Dema will receive a $1000 cash award and publication of her manuscript as part of the African Poetry Book Series by the University of Nebraska Press, to be released in the spring of 2019.
The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poetry is awarded annually to an African poet who has not yet published a collection of poetry. The winner receives USD $1000 and book publication through the University of Nebraska Press and Amalion Press in Senegal. Previous winners of the award have included Clifton Gachagua’s Madman at Kilifi (2014), Ladan Osman’s The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony (2015), Mahtem Shiferraw’s Fuchsia (2016), Safia Elhillo’s The January Children (2017), and Bernard Matambo’s Stray (forthcoming, 2018).
The judging panel for the Sillerman Prize is made up of the African Poetry Book Fund’s Editorial Board, including Chris Abani, Gabeba Baderoon, Bernardine Evaristo, Aracelis Girmay, John Keene, Matthew Shenoda, and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, with Kwame Dawes, who also serves as Director of the African Poetry Book Fund and Prairie Schooner Editor-in-Chief.
Tjawangwa Dema is a poet, arts administrator, and teaching artist. She earned an MA in creative writing from Lancaster University. Her chapbook, Mandible, was published as part of Seven New Generation African Poets (Slapering Hol Press, 2014).
Her work has appeared in the Cordite Poetry Review, Elsewhere Lit, the New Orleans Review, and Read Women, an anthology. She has received fellowships from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Danish Arts Council/Foundation, and she was a 2016 Artist-in-Residence in the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities at Northwestern University.
Tjawangwa Dema beat the others who were shortlisted for the prize;
- Nawal Nader-French (Ghana/US) for her manuscript A Hemmed Remnant
- Logan February (Nigeria) for his manuscript Mannequin in the Nude
- Thabile (Ashley) Makue (South Africa) for her manuscript ‘mamaseko
- Rasaq Malik Gbolahan (Nigeria) for his manuscript Do Not Bury Me in this Land
- Romeo Oriogun (Nigeria) for his manuscript “My Body Is No Miracle.