Uganda’s Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi has won the Kwani? Manuscript Project, a new literary prize for unpublished fiction by African writers, for her novel The Kintu Saga. 2nd place has been awarded to Liberia’s Saah Millimono for One Day I Will Write About This War and 3rd place to Kenya’s Timothy Kiprop Kimutai for The Water Spirits.
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is an Associate Lecturer at Lancaster University where she completed a PhD in Creative Writing. She was born in Uganda and moved to the UK in 2001 to study for an MA. She lives in Manchester with her husband Damian and son, Jordan. Her work has been published by African Writing Online and Commonword. She also runs the African reading group, ARG!, in Manchester which focuses on obscure African writers.
Jennifer said, “It is hard for me to express my joy because sometimes language can be limited – even for a writer. When you have been writing as obsessively and for as long as I have, winning a competition like this one is like stepping out in the sun after a protracted period in the dark.”
Chair of Judges, Jamal Mahjoub said, “All three titles chosen by the judges display an urge to engage with the complexities of modern day Africa. They tackle issues such as civil war, the struggle against poverty, and the continent’s historical heritage, among other themes. As a manuscript award this prize naturally seeks to focus less on finding a perfect finished product than work which shows literary promise as well as a breadth and depth of vision. The winner and two runners up all reflect these values.”
The Kintu Saga is an ambitious attempt to bring the history of Uganda into the present lives of the novel’s protagonists. Through successive generations, the author sketches out the continued relevance of the past in the present.
At dawn, on Monday the 5th of January 2004 in Uganda, the curse of Kintu strikes. Kamu Kintu is brutally murdered by a mob in Bwaise. Three months later, ten men involved in his murder are found dead, their bodies strewn along Bwaise’s main street. The story then travels back to 1750, to the beginning of the curse in the old kingdom of Buganda. The Kintu Saga follows the misfortunes of the Kintu clan over 250 years, blending Ganda oral tradition, forms of myth, folktale and history with biblical elements. The novel explores ideas of transgression, curse and perpetuity, looking back at the history of Buganda Kingdom and tracing birth of modern Uganda.
The Kwani? Manuscript Project was launched in April 2012 and called for the submission of unpublished novel manuscripts from African writers across the continent and in the diaspora.