The Bank Windhoek Doek Literary Awards—first announced in April, 2021—recognise Namibian writers, poets, and visual artists who produce resonant works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and visual art. Published in Doek! Literary Magazine, these literary artists add their unique voices to the country’s emerging literary community. The Awards, sponsored by Bank Windhoek, seek to recognise their literary talent and amplify their works to new audiences at home and abroad.
After an awards season that produced an eagerly anticipated longlist which showcased the diversity of storytelling in Namibia, and a competitive shortlist which curated some of the most widely read pieces of literature in Doek!, the 2021 judges selected the four inaugural winners of the Bank Windhoek Doek Literary Awards.
“Silhouette” by Ndawedwa Denga Hanghuwo (Issue 5: March, 2021)
This year’s shortlist bristled with stories with Namibian flavours, writing which cleverly incorporated the country’s indigenous languages, its landscapes, and its familiar social settings. One short story explored sibling closeness in the face of secret loss, another traced parental absence through the eyes of a child who writes letters to a mother who never responds, and the last one takes place in a setting that is quite familiar to Namibians, Africans, and readers around the world—the global pandemic and its devastating eﬀects.
With shifting perspectives “Silhouette” showcases Ndawedwa Denga Hanghuwo’s confidence and compelling voice; the twist in this wonderful short story is a bonus that exhibits his writing acumen and willingness to push beyond the boundaries of the ordinary, and it is our selection for 2021.
Ndawedwa Denga Hanghuwo is a student at the Namibia University of Science and Technology, pursuing a degree in English Literature.
“Ouma Sofie’s Gold” by Natasha Uys (Issue 6: July, 2021)
An auralgraph curating the sounds and memories of Windhoek city life, a narration of heritage and departure involving a postdoctoral degree, and a memoir of secret family histories, motherhood, and mental health and illness—the nonfiction shortlisted presented us with writing dealing with complex themes of identity and memory. Our discussions were fierce and our deliberations were long.
Natasha Uys’s “Ouma Sophie’s Gold,” a poignant and exemplary piece of nonfiction writing, was our selection. Uys’s writing was so heartbreaking we wished the painful truths shared in her work was fictitious—but they are not, they are painfully real and dare us not to look away. Thanks to Uys’s considerable skill at writing, we could not.
Natasha Uys is a journalist and editor from Windhoek, Namibia. She is currently studying Media Management at the Sol Plaatje Institute at Rhodes University.
“Green And Greening” by Pauline Buhle Ndhlovu (Issue 4: November, 2020)
The poetry section was diﬃcult to judge because individual interpretations of the shortlisted works led each judge to separate conclusions about potential winners.
However, we decided that the pandemic—its disruptive eﬀects on all our lives—found resonant poetic articulation in Pauline Buhle Ndhlovu’s “Green And Greening.” She made us relive the confinement and desperation of that first lockdown in Namibia—a period which did not seem to have an end. Now, with the country and the world opening up and trying to find a new sense of movement and freedom, her words remind us that we, too, are living things.
Pauline Buhle Ndhlovu is a Zimbabwean-born Namibian curator and writer whose work explores the themes of land, memory, healing, time, and senescence. She is drawn to visual anthropology as a form of memory-making. She has a degree in anthropology and works in the culture and development sector.
“Chrysalis” by Namafu Amutse (Issue 4: November, 2020)
Doek! Literary Magazine has had a splendid track record of publishing transportive visual arts in the field of illustration and photography. The shortlisted visual artists presented us with visions of homecoming and finding one’s feet, reaching for the short and long space between, and fragments of change and becoming. Each entry showed a high level of skill and we look forward to the future works these talented artistic visionaries will produce.
Namafu Amutse’s “Chrysalis” was a captivating exploration of emergence. Hinting at the possibilities change presents, her work was both sweeping and metamorphic—a creative vision of things, people, time, places, and worlds beyond this one.
Namafu Amutse is filmmaker, photographer, art director, and writer from Swakopmund, Namibia. She is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Education Honours degree in English and German at the University of Namibia (UNAM). Her work is fuelled by Southern African tradition, feminism, and Afrofuturism. She also wrote and directed her short film Mukumo which premiered in July, 2020, at the National Theatre of Namibia.
The fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and visual arts winners are awarded NAD5000 each from Bank Windhoek, the oﬃcial sponsor of the Doek Literary Awards. They also receive a unique trophy designed by Attila Giersch, an award-winning Namibian jeweller. In addition to this, they each receive a custom-made leather book jacket from Leon Engelbrecht Design. The fiction and nonfiction winners also receive NAD2500 vouchers from Gondwana and Namibia Wildlife Resorts, respectively.
Each shortlisted writer receives an NAD1000 book voucher from the Book Den, generously sponsored by AdForce, a bottle of Guardian Peak wine provided by Namibia Wine Merchants, a bottle Desolate Gin from Copper & Coal Distillery, a Slowtown coﬀee hamper, and a hamper from Namibia Dairies.
The next edition of the Doek Literary Awards will take place in 2023.