2018 Judges

Harry Garuba


Harry Garuba, the Nigerian symbolist poet, academic, anthologist, critic and literary scholar, was born in Nigeria. He has a joint appointment in African Studies and the English department at the University of Cape Town. His first volume of poetry, Shadow and Dream and Other Poems, was published by New Horn Press, Ibadan and was runner-up for the First All Africa Christopher Okigbo Prize endowed by Wole Soyinka, after his Nobel. Garuba edited Voices from the Fringe (1988), an anthology of contemporary Nigerian poetry commissioned by the Association of Nigerian Authors. His poetry has appeared in, among others, an anthology The Fate of Vultures: New Poetry of Africa (1989) as well as literary reviews and chapbooks like the ANA Review, Positive Review, Opon Ifa, Idoto, the English Academy Review, the Savannah Review and Wasafiri as well as on electronic literary forums like African Writing Online and Maple Tree Literary Supplement.

Doreen Baingana


Doreen Baingana is a Ugandan writer based in Entebbe. Her collection, Tropical Fish, won the AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) Prize for Short Fiction (US) in 2004, and the Commonwealth Prize for First Book, Africa Region, 2006. She has been nominated twice for the Caine Prize, and has published two children’s books as well as fiction and essays in numerous international journals. Ms. Baingana has a law degree from Makerere University, Kampala, and an MFA from the University of Maryland, where she was later a Writer in Residence. She has taught creative writing in the US and across Africa, was a Managing Editor at Storymoja Africa, a Chairperson of FEMRITE, and has been a judge of various prizes including the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, 2014. She received a Miles Morland Scholarship for African Writers in 2014, and has won a Rockefeller Bellagio Residency Award, 2017. She is the co-founder of the Mawazo Africa Writing Institute, set up to enhance the teaching of creative writing across the continent.

Siphiwo Mahala

South Africa

Siphiwo Mahala is a prominent novelist, playwright and short story writer from South Africa. His books include the novel When a Man Cries, which he translated into his native Xhosa language as Yakhal’ Indoda, and African Delights, a collection of short stories, which is also published in Nigeria by Bookcraft. In January 2016, The Guardian newspaper in the UK listed African Delights as one of the top ten must-read books in the world. His play, The House of Truth, starring one of South Africa’s most revered and internationally acclaimed actors, Sello Maake kaNcube, premiered to rave reviews at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival in June 2016. He was the Head of Books and Publishing in South Africa’s Ministry of Arts and Culture for over ten years. He holds a Master of Arts degree in African Literature from the University of the Witwatersrand and is currently completing his doctoral degree at the University of South Africa (UNISA).


Helon Habila


Helon Habila is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at George Mason University, USA. His novels include, Waiting for an Angel (2002), Measuring Time (2007), and Oil on Water (2010). He is the editor of the Granta Book of African Short Story (2011).Habila’s novels, poems, and short stories have won many honours and awards, including the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Novel (Africa Section), the Caine Prize, and most recently the Windham-Campbell Prize. Habila has been a contributing editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review since 2004, and he is a regular reviewer for the Guardian, UK. Helon Habila lives in Virginia, USA, with his wife and three children.

Edwige-Renée Dro

Cote d'Ivoire

Edwige-Renée Dro is an Ivorian writer who is passionate about bridging the literary gap between the Francophone and the Anglophone regions of Africa. She translates for PEN International as well as Global Voices Online. She worked on the translation of Les Cités Fantastiques (The Fantastic Cities), a coffee-table book featuring poems and paintings by Werewere Liking. Edwige is one of the founding members of Abidjan Lit, a collective of writers and readers whose furious passion is to impose books in Abidjan and in its home. She was one of the 2015 PEN International New Voices award’s judge and was shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2014. She was also one of the featured writers in the Hay Festival’s prestigious initiative Africa39.

Elinor Sisulu

South Africa

Zimbabwean-born South Africa writer and human rights activist Elinor Sisulu combines training in history, English literature, development studies and feminist theory from institutions in Zimbabwe, Senegal and the Netherlands. She is the author of the award-winning children's book The Day Gogo Went to Vote. Her biography on her parents-in-law, Walter and Albertina Sisulu: In Our Lifetime secured her the prestigious 2003 Noma Award for publishing in Africa. Elinor’s involvement in book promotion and literary development efforts for many years has culminated in her work with the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation. She has been a judge for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, the Sanlam Youth Literature Prize and the Penguin Africa Writer’s Competition.


Professor Ato Quayson


Ato Quayson is a Ghanaian academic and literary critic, who is University Professor, Professor of English and inaugural Director of the Centre for Diaspora Studies at the University of Toronto. His writings on African literature, postcolonial studies, disability studies, urban studies and in literary theory have been widely published. He is a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (2006) and the Royal Society of Canada (2013). He is founding editor of the Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, and is on the editorial boards of Research in African Literatures, the University of Toronto Quarterly, and New Literary History. He was Chief Examiner in English of the International Baccalaureate (2005-2007) and has been a member of the Diaspora and Migrations Project Committee of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) of the UK, and the European Research Council award grants panel on culture and cultural production.

Molara Wood


Molara Wood is a journalist, critic and a former art columnist for The Guardian (Lagos). Her work has been published in journals and anthologies including Farafina, BBC Africa Beyond, Chimurenga and African Literature Today. She won the inaugural John La Rose Memorial Short Story Competition and received an award from the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association. Formerly Arts and Culture Editor of NEXT Newspaper, she lives in Abuja.

Zukiswa Wanner

South Africa

Zukiswa Wanner is a South African journalist and novelist. Her debut novel, The Madams, was shortlisted for the K. Sello Duiker Award in 2007. Her novel, Men of the South, was shortlisted for the 2011 Commonwealth Writers' Prize. In April 2014 Wanner was named on the Hay Festival's Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define trends in African literature. She also won the K Sello Duiker Prize for her most recent novel London Cape Town Joburg.


Sarah Ladipo Manyika


Sarah Manyika was born and raised in Nigeria. She has also lived in Kenya, France, and England. Her father is Nigerian and her mother is British. Sarah inherited her maiden name (Ladipo) from her father who was born in Ibadan (South-West Nigeria) in the late 1930s. Her father met and married her mother in the UK in the late 1960s. Sarah spent much of her childhood in Lagos and the city of Jos in Plateau State. As a young teenager, she lived for two years in Nairobi, Kenya, before her family moved to the UK.

Tsitsi Dangarembga


Tsitsi Dangarembga was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), in 1959 but spent part of her childhood in England. She began her education there, but concluded her A-levels at Hartzell High school, a missionary school in the Rhodesian town of Umtali (now Mutare). She later studied medicine at Cambridge University but returned home soon after Zimbabwe was internationally recognised in 1980. In 1985, Dangarembga published a short story in Sweden called "The Letter". In 1987, she published the play She Does Not Weep in Harare. At the age of 25, she had her first taste of success with her novel Nervous Conditions, which won the African section of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 1989 and is considered one of the twelve best African novels ever written.


Jamal Mahjoub


Jamal Mahjoub is writer of British and Sudanese parents. He writes in English and has published seven novels under his own name. In 2012, Mahjoub began writing a series of crime fiction novels under the pseudonym Parker Bila. Mahjoub’s work has been broadly acclaimed and translated. In 1993, The Cartographer’s Angel won a one-off short story prize organised by The Guardian newspaper in conjunction with the publisher Heinemann Books. In the 2000s his work received much attention in Europe. In 2001 in Italy he was a finalist for the La cultura del mare prize started by Alberto Moravia. In 2004 in France The Carrier (French:Le Télescope de Rachid) won the Prix de L’Astrolabe, an award given annually at the Etonnants Voyageurs festival in St Malo. In 2005, "The Obituary Tango" was shortlisted for the Caine Prize. In 2006 a short story, "Carrer Princessa", won the NH Hotels Mario Vargas Llosa prize for short stories



Pumla Gqola

Pumla Gqola is an associate professor of literary, media and gender studies at the School of Literature and Language Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She is the author of What is Slavery to Me? Postcolonial/Slave memory in Post-apartheid South Africa (published by Wits Press in 2010), A Renegade Called Simphiwe (published by MFBooks Joburg in 2013) and editor of Regarding Winnie: Feminism, race and nation in global representations of Winnie Madikizela Mandela (forthcoming with Cassava Republic Press). She has written non-fiction and opinion pieces for Pambazuka, Mail & Guardian, The Weekender and City Press as well as the British publications BBC Focus on Africa, SABLE and Drum (UK) and short stories in literary journals and books published in South Africa, the USA and the UK.

Billy Kahora

Billy Kahora is the managing editor of the literary journal Kwani. He completed an M.Sc in Creative Writing with a distinction as a Chevening Scholar at the University of Edinburgh in 2007 and was in 2012 announced as one of the shortlisted writers for the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing. Before this, he studied and worked in South Africa for eight years and worked as an Editorial Assistant for AllAfrica.com in Washington D.C. He was also a Regional Judge for the 2009 Commonwealths Prize.

Sarah Manyika

Sarah Manyika is a lecturer at the San Francisco State University. She has a repertoire of published essays, academic papers, book reviews and short stories. An alumnus of the University of Birmingham and Bordeaux, she completed her doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley. Her first novel Independence was published by Legend Press as well as Cassava Republic Press in Africa and featured for Black History Month by the UK’s largest book store chain.