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Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is the latest recipient of the $165,000 Windham Campbell Prize / CREATIVE TOURIST

Ugandan writer wins $165,000 international literary prize

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is the latest recipient of the US$165,000 Windham Campbell Prize.

The Prize is awarded every year to eight artists.

Makumbi – who’s from Uganda and moved to the UK 17 years ago – is the author of Kintu, a novel based on Buganda oral history and myth.

The African writer also won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2014 for Africa and for the globe. In 2015 she was shortlisted for the Miles Morland Scholarship.

Probably the leading Ugandan writer of her time, Makumbi (51) did her Masters and PhD in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and is based in Manchester in the United Kingdom.

Windham Campbell Prizes from Yale University in the US, whose prize money is the richest award dedicated to literature after the Nobel Prize, are awarded every year to eight writers in poetry, fiction, nonfiction and drama.

The prize was first awarded in 2013 to “provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns”

Makumbi’s debut novel Kintu was first published in Kenya four years ago after British publishers rejected it for being “too African”. It was finally released in the UK this January

 

African recipients of the prize include Aminatta Forna, Ivan Vladislavic, Teju Cole and Helon Habila.

The artists usually receive a phone call telling them they have won the prize.

According to the press release, “The director of the Windham-Campbell Prizes recently made the call of a lifetime to eight entirely surprised writers, informing them that they will each be recognized with a $165,000 USD / £118,775 GBP prize to support their writing. Awards will be conferred September 12-14 at an international literary festival at Yale, where the Prizes are based.”

Makumbi said for her, “This prize for me is like having been working without pay for a long time and then someone comes a long and says, ‘Will a salary for the past ten years do?’ Then you’re left speechless.”

Makumbi’s debut novel Kintu was first published in Kenya four years ago after British publishers rejected it for being “too African”. It was finally released in the UK this January.

Makumbi’s collection of short stories, Love Made in Manchester, is forthcoming from Transit Books in January 2019.

Vivian Asamoah

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