Ugandan novelist Jennifer Makumbi clinches N60m Windham Campbell Prize
Ugandan novelist Jennifer Makumbi has been awarded a $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction. The author of the novel Kintu was announced as one of eight writers who have been awarded the prize this year.
Makumbi, who lives in Manchester, is being honoured with the prize alongside poets Lorna Goodison (Jamaica), Cathy Park Hong (US); dramatists Lucas Hnath (US) and Suzan-Lori Parks (US); nonfiction writers Sarah Bakewell (UK) and Olivia Laing (UK); and fellow fiction writer John Keene (US).
Makumbi joins a growing number of Africans to have received the prize having been succeeded by South Africans Zoe Wicomb, in fiction, and Johnny Steinberg, in nonfiction, in 2013; Sierra Leonean-Scottish Aminatta Forna, in fiction, in 2014; and Nigerians Teju Cole and Helon Habila and South African Ivan Vladislavic, all in fiction, in 2015.
The awards, which go to English-language writers from anywhere in the world, were set up in 2013 by the late Donald Windham, in memory of his partner of 40 years, Sandy M Campbell.
“Six years on, we can now see the impact the prizes have on these writers’ lives, careers and work. The feeling is magical,” said prize director Michael Kelleher.
Writers are nominated confidentially and judged anonymously and the call from the director informing them of the win is often the first they hear of the prize. A number of authors have often dismissed the prize notification as a hoax only to realise it is not.
“The day I make the call to notify award winners is the highlight of the year, as each cycle I hear how much of a difference it will make for them. Six years on, we can now see the impact the prizes have on these writers’ lives, careers, and their work. The feeling is magical,” Kelleher said.
Makumbi, according to the prize administrators was awarded the prize for how her novel Kintu, “opens up a bold and innovatory vista in African letters, encompassing ancient wounds that disquiet the present, and offering the restitution to be found in memory and ritual.”
This is not Makumbi’s first prize as her novel Kintu won the Kwani Manuscript Project in 2013 and a year later won the Commonwealth Writing Prize for her short story, ‘Let’s Tell This Story Properly.’
The 2018 WindhamCampbell Awards will be conferred September 12-14 at an international literary festival at Yale.
Cathy Park Hong John Keene Suzan Lori Park Olivia Laing The 2018 winners of the Windham Campbell Prize Jennifer Makumbi Lorna Goodison Sarah Bakewell Lucas Hnath