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Okot p’Bitek Prize to reward poets who write in an indigenous African language

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The prize is being run by Writivism

The prize is being run by Writivism

Do you write poems in indigenous African languages? If so, you should consider submitting your works for consideration in the Okot p’Bitek Prize for Poetry in Translation.

It’s a one-off event managed by Writivism, an organization based in Uganda that is focused on promoting African literature, and sets up mentoring opportunities and workshops towards that end.

The Okot p’Bitek Prize seeks to recognize emerging African poets who have poems in an indigenous African language that they have also translated into English, as a nod to the bilingual heritage across Africa, and as a celebration of the feat that is self-translation.

The guidelines issued for the Prize, which comes with a $500 reward and a month long writing residency at a yet-to-be-revealed African university, requires that the emerging artiste submit five poems in English, and their originals (in an indigenous African language); the poems must not have been published prior to submission for consideration.

If shortlisted, these poems may be published in Writivism’s annual anthology.

The Prize is named in honor of one of Uganda’s most renowned poets, Okot p’Bitek, whose breakout piece went through this very route.

The Song of Lawino (1966), an epic narrative poem that bemoans the cultural dissonance of a man who’s quick to dump his African traditions for European ways, is a widely recognized poem that’s been currently translated into more than 30 languages, including other indigenous African languages, such as Uganda’s Luganda.

But Okot p’Bitek’s poem was originally written in his native Acholi, before he decided to translate it himself into English.

The winner (or winners) of the prize will be announced in August, at the 2016 Writivism Festival.