By Khalifa Hemed
Published January 28, 2018
Tjawangwa (TJ) Dema of Botwana has won the 2018 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets.
Dema, whose collection titled The Careless Seamstress won her the prize, shall receive a US$1000 cash award and publication through the University of Nebraska Press as part of their African Poetry Book Series. The Careless Seamstress will be released in 2019.
The Sillerman Prize is sponsored by philanthropists Laura and Robert FX Sillerman, whose annual bequest has continued to fund the work of the African Poetry Book Fund in its publishing and promotion of African poetry.
Dema is a poet, arts administrator, and teaching artist based in Botswana. Her work has been widely published in various magazines. Her chapbook, Mandible, was published as part of the chapbook box set Seven New Generation African Poets. She has co-curated an issue of our FUSION series that paired Batswana poets with poets from the Prairie Schooner archives, all writing on the theme of “Womb.”
The judging panel–comprising Chris Abani, Gabeba Baderoon, Bernardine Evaristo, Aracelis Girmay, John Keene, Matthew Shenoda, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers and Kwame Dawes–has also named as finalists the following poets:
- Logan February (Nigeria) for his manuscript, Mannequin in the Nude
- Rasaq Malik Gbolahan (Nigeria) for his manuscript, Do Not Bury Me in this Land
- Thabile (Ashley) Makue (South Africa) for her manuscript, mamaseko
- Nawal Nader-French (Ghana/USA) for her manuscript, A Hemmed Remnant, and
- Romeo Oriogun (Nigeria) for his manuscript, My Body Is No Miracle.