By Iminza Keboge
Published January 7, 2017
Rethabile Masilo of Lesotho has won the 2016 Glenna Luschei Prize for African poetry.
Waslap, a book that documents Masilo’s journey from Lesotho in southern Africa into exile in France in western Europe, earned him the Glenna Luschei Prize that recognises “a significant book by an African poet” every year.
The only prize of its kind in the world, the Glenna Luschei Prize that is based at the University of Nebraska in the United States of America comes with a US$5000 cash award.
“This is a book of people; about people; a book that does not hedge; that never sacrifices the flesh of ordinary humanity for the grand gestures of heroes,” says this year’s judge, Matthew Shenoda. “Waslap is a necessary book in this moment, and in every moment, where we ought to be reminded of the human inflections that make up the stories of our times.”
Born in 1961, 19-year-old Rethabile Masilo, his parents, and his siblings are reported to have been forced into exile, moving through South Africa, Kenya, and the United States of America, before eventually settling in France. Waslap, his second book that has earned him the 2016 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry, speak of this journey.
The Glenna Luschei Prize is a pan-African Poetry prize whose aim is to “promote African poetry written in English or in translation and to recognize a significant book published each year by an African poet.”
Defining an ‘African writer’ as “someone who was born in Africa, who is a national or resident of an African country, or whose parents are Africans”, African Poetry Book Fund (APBF), the organisers of the Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry, say the literary prize “is open to any book of original poetry . . . written by an African.”
The prize is open to any book of original poetry published in English during the previous calendar year in a standard edition of a full-length collection of poetry written by any African writer.
The Glenna Luschei Prize is “Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence.”