The Zimbabwean poet Zibusiso Mpofu has been announced as the 2022 winner of the Brunel International African Poetry Prize. The judges—chair Gadeba Baderoon, Tjawangwa Dema, and Tsitsi Jaji—praised his “allusive, lyrical poems [which] open a new itinerary in African poetry, drawing in Shona and Mandarin and mapping a journey of the Black body through India, Hong Kong, the Philippines and China.”
Superbly crafted, the poems unfold in unexpected directions, balancing raw realism and nearly mystical understatement. Mpofu’s urgent silences and aching directness are all the more remarkable given the testimonial-like and retrospective nature of his lines.
Touching on migration, the family, identity, art and an odyssey through many Asias, the poems narrate a harrowing, riveting postcolonial passage, and arrive at the ending of a surprising revelation.
The judges described the 2022 finalists as “African voices liberated from prescriptions of form and ideas.” They included the Nigerian poets Adedayo Agarau and Chisom Okafor, Somali’s Asmaa Jama and Edil Hassan, South Africa’s Conot Cogill, and Ethiopia’s Fahad Al-Amoudi.
They gave an honourable mention to Asmaa Jama.
Mpofu was born in Bulawayo, a city in the south of Zimbabwe. He’s a graduate of Film and Television from Zhejiang University of Media in Hangzhou, China. He has been longlisted for the Babishai Niwe Poetry Prize and shortlisted for the Intwasa Short Story Competition. His fiction is forthcoming in A Long House. He describes his writing as “an act of weaving the dark effects of trauma and memory into light and healing.”
Founded by Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, the Brunel Prize has become the definitive poetry prize in the continent, championing some of the most important poets writing today, from Warsan Shire and Safia Elhillo to Gbenga Adesina and Romeo Oriogun, with most going on to publish books with the APBF, a longtime partner of the prize.
2022 is the tenth and final year of the Prize in its current iteration, after Evaristo revealed last year that it will be administered by the African Poetry Book Fund (APBF), led by Kwame Dawes. The APBF has since renamed it the Evaristo African Poetry Prize.
The Evaristo African Poetry Prize will open for submissions in October 2022.
Read Zibusiso Mpofu’s winning poems HERE.