Nigerian wordsmith, Theresa Lola, has been named joint winner of the prestigious 2018 Brunel International African Poetry Prize.
Theresa fought off stiff competition from over 1000 other international entrants to be awarded one of the three top prizes of £1000.
Launched in 2012 by Brunel University London and judged by a panel of writers and academics, the International African Poetry Prize aims to provide a platform for Africa’s finest unpublished poets.
To encourage only serious entrants, organisers ask that poets each submit a pamphlet of their best 10 pieces of work.
“Winning the Brunel International African Poetry Prize feels surreal, it is an unwavering highlight,” said Theresa, who shared the plaudits with Hiwot Adilow from Ethiopia, and Momtaza Mehri from Somalia.
“I started writing after being inspired by Nigerian poets I saw during a school trip to the Lagos Poetry Festival when I was 12 years old, so to win the Brunel International African Poetry Prize feels like I am doing my job and responsibility as a poet and human in putting Africa forward where it rightly belongs.”
Now a resident of the UK, Theresa first started writing whilst still at school in Nigeria, encouraged by a teacher who recognised her love of writing.
“Going through the awkward teenage reclusive phase I wanted to document everything I was observing and started writing what I now knew as poetry,” said Theresa, who’s now working on a full collection.
“I was inspired by the way poets articulated and condensed heavy stories and knew poetry was the mode of writing I needed.”
Theresa now hopes that winning the Brunel International African Poetry Prize will open doors that would otherwise be closed, and help her achieve her goal of doing work that benefits the whole poetry community.
“As a poet it has definitely bolstered my confidence, and of course sheds more light on the possibility of a poetry career,” she
Theresa Lola – Portrait of My Father as A Dead Man
While painting a portrait of my father as a dead man, I am also cooking dinner.
I gorge out my father’s eyes and blend them with the red peppercorn seeds to heighten the sting of the soup’s spice.
Call me a cowardice, he is asleep, tired from work, even made time to ask how my day.
I cut my father’s spine like it is the water leaf I am chopping to make eforiro soup.
In his portrait I paint his bones as a white caterpillar, the kind that never grows into a butterfly.
You think killing a man is enough to give you peace, but his body will collapse onto a seesaw that springs up all the buried trauma from the past.
To complete my meal, I peel off his black skin and blend it until it looks like Amala.
I try to continue the painting of my father as a dead man, but truth is I want to feel his approval, to hear him clap at the brilliance of my talent.
My father’s health has been failing anyway, a cyst in his kidney, a nose operation, a dim eyesight.
My father’s eyesight is so poor he bumps into my ghosts and calls them obstructing decorations.
Before I began this painting, my father said art will not pay me as much as becoming a chartered accountant, but the world loves commodifying pain, this portrait of my father as a dead man should make me rich. (End)