Last Saturday in the middle of the craziness of the BDP Southern primaries and the announcement of Zeus’ Channel O award (Congrats!), a small group of writers and literature lovers convened at the National Museum’s Little Theatre to witness the awarding of prizes to this year’s Bessie Head Literature Awards winners.
The MC for the event was the always hilarious and occasionally poetic Goodwill Goodie Tlokwe who kept the gathering in stiches throughout.
The programme started with words from the chairperson of the Bessie Head Heritage Trust (BHHT), the group that runs the Awards each year, Professor Peter Mwikisa.
Mwikisa said that the Awards are run each year to honour the legacy of Bessie Head.
He said not only was Bessie Head a pioneer in writing fiction in the country, she was a thinking person.
Her stories helped Batswana to think critically about their society.
He suggested that most winners of the Bessie Head Literature Awards have had Bessie Head as their inspiration.
If they have not, he suggested they read her work as it is a good place to learn how to write well.
Sales and Marketing Manager for Pentagon Publishers, Thulaganyo Jankey, spoke about why his company had been sponsoring the awards since their inception.
Besides trying to help writers, the sponsorship has helped Pentagon to identify talented writers in the country. “It is a symbiotic relationship,” he said.
Pentagon has published the work of past winners in an attempt to help writers reach their readers in our harsh publishing environment. The books are on sale from Pentagon.
The guest speaker for the event was past winner and emerging author, Cheryl Ntumy.
Ntumy explained though she’d always wanted to write, life’s circumstances discouraged that. People advised her to be more practical so that’s what she did.
She studied and got a “practical job”. She’d nearly given up her dream of writing when she saw the advert for the Bessie Head Awards.
She’d been working on her novel The Crossing, and decided she would give it a shot and sent it off for the Awards and she won.
That win did two things: it taught her that there were people who were interested in her writing and it gave her confidence to keep writing.
Since then she has gone on to have novels published in South Africa and overseas.
She advised writers to keep writing. Don’t worry about how good it is. Don’t worry if you’ll find a publisher.
Just keep writing and you’ll be surprised where you end up.
The 2013 winners received their certificates and cheques. The winners were:
In the novel category:
Winner: Veronica Jane McLean for The Hot Chain
1st Runner Up: Jack Wachira Mithamo for Prosperity Diamonds
2nd Runner Up: One Pamela Pusumane for The Girl on the Other Side of the Mirror
In the short story category:
Winner: Moreetsi Pius Gabang for “Lesilo mo Maun”
1st Runner Up: Wada Goitsemang for “Uncle B”
2nd Runner Up: Tumisang Baatshwana for “Melodi”
In the children’s story category:
Winner: Margaret Baffour-Awuah for “Two Frogs Go A’ Wandering”
The winners who were in attendance read excerpts of their work.
Some spoke a bit about their experiences in writing and what the Award meant to them.
BHHT member, Mary Lederer, gave the closing remarks for the event thanking Pentagon Publishers for the sponsoring of the awards as well as Printing and Publishing for donating the certificates for the winners.
She thanked all of the people who entered the competition saying that it takes real courage to submit your work to a competition and the Trust appreciated that.
She also told the group that next year there would be no Bessie Head Literature Awards. The Trust would take a year off to assess the Awards and to re-design them.
She advised people to keep an eye on the media for more details.