Queer books: Nigerian Roy Udeh-Ubaka wins Gerald Kraak Prize


Activist Phumi Mtetwa, prize winner Roy Udeh-Ubaka, and keynote speaker Lebo Mashile

Nigerian writer Roy Udeh-Ubaka was awarded the coveted 2022 Gerald Kraak Prize for queer writing and photography at a glittering event in Cape Town.

The Jacana Literary Foundation and The Other Foundation announced Udeh-Ubaka as the winner on Wednesday last week at the Colourlab rooftop venue as part of the Kopano LGBTIQ+ gathering.

He was praised for his winning essay, Until It Doesn’t, which was described as “brave fiction that tweaks the possibilities of the short story form, both in its use of voice and the way it compresses time, to illuminate the truth of so many queer people: the need to marry and make families…”

Runner-up Ukamaka Olisakwe, also from Nigeria, was honoured for her poem Slut and her short story The Grasscutter’s Curse.

Roy is the fourth recipient of the Gerald Kraak Prize and will take home US$2,000, with Olisakwe receiving US$500. The remaining finalists received US$200 each.

South African actress, writer and performance poet Lebo Mashile said in a passionate keynote speech that art is a means through which we can see another world that is possible.

“Music, dance, poetry and fiction exist in the expressions of love and sexuality in the body. This is what makes art and artists dangerous. This is why the world looked to the creative industries for sustenance when the world went into lockdown, while in the same breath we wondered how we would survive,” asserted Mashile.

“The business of being a visionary is radical work; the sexy truth-telling that will create a map for the new world. It’s alive in this room, in your activism, and in the minds of the writers who we honour here tonight,” she said.

The Gerald Kraak Prize was launched in 2016 in honour of anti-apartheid activist and social justice champion Gerald Kraak (1956–2014). Over 200 entries were received from 20 African countries, showcasing the most provocative works of fiction, poetry, journalism, photography and academic writing on the African continent.

For the first time, the finalists worked with mentors and outstanding authors in their own right; Shaun de Waal, Makhosazana Xaba, and Sandile Ngidi.

Finally, a judging panel comprised of Ellah Pedzisai Wakatama (Kenya), Mark Gevisser (South Africa) and Otosirieze Obi-Young (Nigeria) had the difficult task of selecting the winner and runner-up.

Delegates from the Kopano conference were in attendance at the ceremony

Held every two years, the week-long Kopano conference was hosted in Cape Town this past week. It was a platform for LGBTIQ+ activists from 13 southern African countries to come together to share their experiences, challenges and successes in the wake of the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.

Submissions for the Gerald Kraak Prize are open year-round. Click here for guidelines and the entry form.

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