The retired Mozambican author Paulina Chiziane has won the 2021 Camões Award, the most important Lusophone literary honour. The 66-year-old was selected, unanimously by the jury, for the “vast production and critical reception, as well as the academic and institutional recognition, of her work.” She is the first Black African woman to win the prize.
Born in 1955 in Manjacaze, Mozambique, Chiziane’s debut Balada de Amor ao Vento (1990) made her the first woman to publish a novel in Mozambique. Her writing has been described as political and feminist. It focuses on challenges women face in Mozambique, as regards cultural practices, polygamy, colonialism, and racism. In 2016, she announced her retirement, having written 11 novels and numerous short stories.
The Camões Prize, worth €100,000, was created in 1988 by Portugal and Brazil with the aim of “strengthening cultural ties between the various Portuguese-speaking countries and enriching the literary and cultural heritage of the Portuguese language.” The jury includes experts from both countries, as well as from other Portuguese-speaking countries. Chiziane, the jury said, “dedicates in her books to the problems of Mozambican and African women.”
Chiziane, who regards herself as a “storyteller” rather than a “novelist,” becomes the third Mozambican author to win the prize. Other Mozambican authors are José Craveirinha (1991) and Mia Couto (2013).
“Everything that I tried to write, in the different books, is part of our collective memory,” she told Africanews. “I never spoke, in the books, in my personal voice. Even in the books where I write in the first person I am bringing the collective voice. So it’s a whole people who are graced by this great prize.”
In 2014, Paulina Chiziane—alongside fellow Mozambican writer Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa—was awarded the degree of Grand Officer of the Order Infante D. Henrique by the Portuguese State.