Miles Morland Foundation awards lucrative writers' scholarships

Miles Morland Foundation awards lucrative writers' scholarships

Four writers hailing from South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and Barbados have won the 2014 Morland Writing Scholarships, each receiving a £18,000 grant to allow them to write a book for a year.

The Miles Morland Foundation awards scholarships every year to African writers selected by a panel of African judges. The writers must submit a book proposal and an excerpt of published writing. Usually, three scholarships are awarded but this year, there was such a high number of submissions that the MMF awarded four Writing Scholarships as well choosing two highly-commended Reserve Scholars, who will receive a grant if any of the four Scholars are unable to complete their year

The winners were: Simone Haysom of South Africa; Ahmed Khalifa from Egypt; Kenyan Ndinda Kioko; and Yewande Omotoso, who hails from Nigeria and Barbados. The two Reserve Scholars are Fiona Andia Kisia of Kenya and Elnathan John from Nigeria.

Haysom has published many short pieces of fiction and journalism but this will be her first book. Set in South Africa, it will be a work of non-fiction examining a possible miscarriage of justice following the death by “necklacing” of a suspected thief. This will be 21-year-old Khalifa’s first novel, following three generations of Egyptians from the 1952 Revolution to the Arab Spring. Kioka is a writer and film-maker whose work has appeared in several literary magazines. Her novel will tell the story of a daughter’s quest to conjure up memories of her dead mother. Omotoso has previously published Bomboy (Modjaji Books). Her next book is a story of loss and a mother’s attempt to come to terms with the death of her daughter.

The Judges were: Zimbabwean editor and publisher Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, who chaired the panel; Somali novelist Nadifa Mohamed; and Olufemi Terry from Sierra Leone, past winner of the Caine Prize. The five Readers, all of whom are involved in African literature, were Elise Dillsworth, Ted Hodgkinson, Zoe King, Camilla Rankin and Vimbai Shire.
Allfrey said: “It was encouraging to see the high standard and range of entries this year. My fellow judges and I considered the potential impact of the proposed books, along with the quality of the pieces of published work. We were looking for writers with original stories to tell and for those with distinct styles and a grasp of the chosen form. All four of the Scholars selected show incredible promise. To my mind, these scholarships offer the gift of time, and it is our fervent hope that the year to come will allow the four writers to complete works that can be brought to a wide readership.”

Miles Morland, who sat in with Michela Wrong, the MMF’s literary director, as an observer at the judging, said: “I was blown away by the quality of this year’s entries. Everyone in Africa seems to have a story to tell. Our four new Scholars are potentially world-class writers.”

He added: “This year’s submissions covered a wide range of topics. If there’s one thing I missed, it’s humour. Africa is a place of laughter and good spirits; I’d like to see more of it in the book proposals. Where is the African P G Wodehouse? Next year, I hope.”

The Morland Writing Scholarships were awarded for the first time last year. The three 2013 winners – Doreen Baingana from Uganda, Tony Mochama from Kenya, and Percy Zvomuya from Zimbabwe – are in the final stages of finishing the books written during the year they have been in receipt of the Scholarships.