Get to know the Judges
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 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 Stores: 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 and a doctoral student in Entrepreneurship at Hanken School of Economics.
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.