Get to know the Shortlisted

Winners will be announced this October 2019.

Poetry Prize Shortlist


Esther Kondo Heller is a Kenyan German poet and writer that was born in Berlin and raised in Mombasa. She is a Barbican Young Poet 2018/2019 alumni and is currently doing an undergraduate diploma of creative writing at the University of Oxford. Her writing is a mosaic of voices that came before her, her childhood in Mombasa and everyday samples of living.
Alycia Pirmohamed is a doctoral candidate at the University of Edinburgh, where she is studying figurative homelands in poetry written by second-generation immigrant writers. Her chapbook Faces that Fled the Wind won the 2018 BOAAT Press Chapbook Prize, and she has a pamphlet forthcoming with ignitionpress. Alycia is the recipient of the 92Y Discovery Poetry Contest, and her writing can be found at She received her M.F.A. from the University of Oregon.
Daad Sharfi is a Sudanese poet and immigrant rights advocate who was raised in Muscat and Chicago. She earned a BA in Ethnicity, Race and Migration and Economics from Yale University in 2017. With the immense love and support of ¡Oyé! Spoken Word, a student-run group, Daad first began exploring poetry while at university.

She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, where she works closely with immigrant communities as an accredited legal representative and writes in community with the Women’s Poetry Workshop. Her work has most recently been featured in 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry and the NYC Poetry Festival.


Ngollo Mlengeya is an administrator and a poet living in Dar es salaam, Tanzania. She is a lady, middle aged and holder of Bachelor Degree in Business Administration from St. Augustine University.

She started writing poetry back in school as a way of expressing herself but it soon grew to be an exploration of human nature, identity and why we do what we do. She has written a number of poems in Swahili and English language.

Ngollo has performed at Lyricist Lounge, The Annoying Artist and is a member of Waka poetry group in Dar es salaam.

Abdallah Ahmad Seif alianza ushairi mwaka 1988. Tungo zake nyingi zimetoka katika vyombo mbalimbali vya habari yakiwemo magazeti na Redio, anahudhuria makongamano mbalimbali ya Kiswahili ndani na nje ya Nchi Kama Kongamano la kimataifa(CHAWAKAMA) August 2012 Ngozi Burindi, August 2013 Chuo kikuu Cha Kigali Rwanda, August 2014 Chuo kikuu cha Laikipia Nyahururu Kenya, na kuwasilisha ushairi katika makongamano hayo.
Yeye pia ni katibu mwenezi wa taasisi ya usanifu wa Kiswahili na Ushairi Tanzania(UKUTA) tawi la Dodoma.
Sabra Ali Amran, amezaliwa Zanzibar. Amesoma katika shule za msingi Mtendeni na Msasani. Shule ya sekondari ya Forodhani zote zilizopo Dar es salam. Anamiliki stashahada ya juu ya uhasibu (Advanced Diploma in Accountancy) aliyoipata Chuo cha cha usimamizi wa fedha (IFM), Dar es salaam.Pia anamiliki C.P.A-I (T) (Certificate Public Accountancy ) ya Bodi ya Taifa ya wakurugenzi na wahasibu (NBBA).

Kipaji chake ni uigizaji wa filamu,utunzi wa hadithi na mashairi. Ameigiza filamu : Kisasi cha Utata, Eda, Ramadhani Kareem, Boxera na Kaundime.Ametunga vitabu vya hadithi: Sikitiko na Tabasamu la Huba.


لا أكتب لیقال كاتب ولا لیقال شاعر، ولكن هناك التي من اضطرتني لذلك، وأنا شاكر لها. لیس لمجرد
سطري كلمات سأدعى شاعر لأني لست بذلك المستوى، وإنما متعلم في زمن بهت فیه هذا الفن وأتمنى أن
أكون جزء ِمن َمن ساهم في نهضته مجددا، اللغة لیست بفترة وستنسى لتمحوها اللهجات، والشعر لیس بعادة
قدیمة لا تلائم الحاضر، وأنا أحبه.
Fatima Abdelhakam, 23 years old Sudanese workaholic.Graduated 2018 from University of
Khartoum, Faculty of Medicine. Master student of molecular medicine. Founder of ( Campus
Talks), which is a dedicative Initiative on the grounds of UofK that has given a place for different
rich talents to unravel and glow. Writing is like giving birth to life, it’s the most exhausting
reliefing freeing empowering blessing. My pieces are my children, so I always have been
overprotective, they are very raw, and very mine, so I share only to my close ones. But reciting
is my skydiving, there I never miss an opportunity to voice out my mental, and swim in the air.
The plan is to write for my life, and to live to write.
( أنا بشیر أبوسن،
25 عاماً، من موالید وسط السودان، و أقیم في الخرطوم. درس ُت الهندسة الكهربائیة في كلیة الهندسة ، جامعة السودان للعلوم و التكنولوجیا، و
تخرجت فیها عام 2017.
أنتمي لهذا الجیل من أبناء و بنات السودان، الذي عانى تعلیما سیئا و بیئة مستبدة و في الأخیر استطاع أن یحقق الحریة كاملةً ضد نظام الحكم
العسكري الآیدیلوجي.
حاول ُت الدفاع دائما في شعري عن القضایا الإنسانیة الكبرى و عن أحلامنا في بلد حرة و متقدمة. و مغرم أنا و معت ٌّز بالتراث السوداني و الإفریقي
و الفنون
و أشارك الإنسانیة جمیعها في طموحاتها العظیمة في أن یمتلئ الكون بالسلام و تتعطل آلة الحرب للأبد. و مؤمن جدا بدور الشعر خاصةً
عموماً، بدورها الرائد في دعم التعایش السلمي بین الشعوب و في تطویر مقدرات الإنسان من أجل حیاة سعیدة.)

Get to know the Judges

Safia Elhillo

Safia Elhillo is the author of The January Children (University of Nebraska Press, 2017), which received the the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and a 2018 Arab American Book Award. She holds an MFA from The New School, a Cave Canem Fellowship, and a 2018 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. In addition to appearing widely in journals and anthologies, her work has been translated into several languages and commissioned by Under Armour and the Bavarian State Ballet. With Fatimah Asghar, she is co-editor of the anthology Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket Books, 2019). Elhillo was listed in Forbes Africa’s 2018 “30 Under 30” and is an incoming 2019-2021 Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.

Neema Komba

Neema Komba is a poet and writer from Tanzania. She is the 2014 winner of the Etisalat Prize for Literature in the Flash Fiction category. She is the author of Mektildis Kapinga: a silent hero, and See Through the Complicated, a poetry collection. Her work entitled “The Search for Magical Mbuji” appeared in the creative non-fiction anthology Safe House: Explorations in Creative Nonfiction.  Her short stories have been featured in Payback and Other Stories: An anthology for African and African Diaspora Short Stories, Adda Stories and Index on censorship. Her other works have also appeared in This is Africa and Vijana FM.

She co-founded La Poetista, a platform for poets and other performing artists to showcase their art and create a positive impact in the community through the arts. Through La Poetista, she coordinated the Woman Scream International Poetry and Arts Festival in Tanzania from 2013 to 2015, a movement to fight violence against women. She is also a steering committee member for the Ebrahim Hussein Poetry Prize. Currently, she is a doctoral student in Entrepreneurship at Hanken School of Economics.

Marwa Babiker

Marwa Babiker is a Sudanese doctor, neuroscientist, and poet who was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She obtained her medical degree in 2012 in Sudan; and her Master’s degree in Neuroscience from the University of Hartford, USA in 2015. She is currently working toward her PhD degree in Neuroscience at the University of Connecticut. Her poetry journey began 13 years ago when she wrote her first poem by the title of “a Woman of Stone”. She continued to write poems and participate in many events both inside and outside Sudan. She created her Facebook poetry page “Baqaya Qaseeda” (which translates to “Remains of a poem”) in mid-2018. When Sudan revolution started later that year, she used her poetry as a tool to spread positive messages and support the country’s demands for freedom, peace, and justice. She was named “a modern griot” by the Vogue magazine in one of two interviews that highlighted her role as a poet and a social media influencer.  Marwa now has over 135,000 followers on social media, and her poems were featured in multiple news channels such as BBC Arabic and Aljazeera.