Mary Watson Wins Philida Literary Award

It goes to “an oeuvre of literary excellence” in South Africa.
Mary Watson. From

Mary Watson. From

Mary Watson Wins Philida Literary Award

The South African writer Mary Watson has been announced as winner of the 2022 Philida Literary Award, which “recognizes a writer with a consistent record of publishing works of excellence and aims to encourage them further in their pursuit of a literary career.”

The prize was established in 2020 by Karina M Szczurek in memory of the author Andre Brink, her late husband. It is named, though, after Philida van de Caab, a woman who once laid an official complaint against her masters, Francois and Cornelius Brink, both distant relatives of Andre Brink’s. She was the inspiration for the protagonist of Philida, Brink’s last published novel, from 2012.

Watson, who was born in Cape Town and currently resides in Ireland, was the 2006 winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing. Her debut book Moss was a collection of short stories and was published in 2004, followed by 2013’s The Cutting Room, and then The Wren Hunt and The Wickerlight, published in 2018 and 2019, respectively. She’s worked in several capacities within the arts, from being a museum guide to a library assistant and even acting in children’s musicals.

Brink, who supervised Watson’s master’s degree in creative writing at the University of Cape Town, had described Moss as a book of “persuasive power and exquisite beauty.”

“I was thinking of Andre a little while earlier,” said Watson upon accepting the award. “How I never dreamed how incredibly supportive he’d be when I summoned up the nerve to pop those pages [of Moss] in his pigeon hole. So thank you so very much. I am truly, truly honoured.”

Each winner receives an award certificate designed by Debbie Minne, and its prize money is determined by royalties gotten from the sales of a book, You Make Me Possible: The Love Letters of Karina M. Szczurek and Andre Brink. The inaugural winner in 2020 was Mohale Mashigo. Last year’s winner was Qarnita Loxton.

Watson’s YA novel Blood to Poison, “a furious and mesmerizing story about discovering magic, historical rage and love in all its guises,” is forthcoming this April.


Paula Willie-Okafor, Staff Writer at Open Country Mag

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The Nigerian poet and editor of Agbowo’s “searing” The Years of Blood has “vivid, unsettling imagery drawing on Yoruba cosmology and folklore.” It is forthcoming in Fall 2025.
Having traversed regions, her poetry, including the Forward Prize-winning Bad Diaspora Poems, interrogates a race- and class-conscious world — and her place in it as a Muslim Somali woman.
Booker Prize winner Ben Okri, author of The Famished Road, and Ghanaian rapper Delasi, with the EP The Audacity of Free Thought, in a deep, rare reflection on storytelling, art forms, and their quests for origins.

“An ambitious new magazine that is committed to African literature"

- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Get the essential stories in African literature + Nigerian film and TV: in-depth, thought-provoking Profiles, features, reviews, and conversations, as well as news on events and opportunities.

We respect your privacy and will never send you Spam or sell your email.