Ingrid Jonker Prize 2020 goes to a poignant collection of poems distinguished by a
The winner of the Ingrid Jonker Prize for a debut volume of poetry in English published in
2018 and 2019 has been announced. The winner is Saaleha Idrees Bamjee for her
‘Bamjee writes poignantly of longing and loss. She figures the female body—her own and
that of others–and explores the difficulties of being Muslim while also celebrating her
reverence for her religion and the Arabic language.’ (2020 Ingrid Jonker Prize judge)
“I’m very proud of Saaleha. Her collection came to me during uHlanga’s open submissions
period in 2017, and I was immediately impressed by the texture of her poems, her
photographer’s instinct for image, and her composure in writing about heart-wrenching
experiences. Zikr is a testament to poetic restraint, steady hands, and gentle eyes – three
rare and powerful things in these times.” (Nick Mulgrew, founder of uHlanga Press and
publisher of Zikr)
Eleven entries were received by the committee for this year’s award, and the competition
was stiff. Zikr made it to the shortlist along with All the Places by Musawenkosi Khanyile,
Everything is a Deathly Flower by Maneo Mohale, and Skeptical Erections by Mxolisi Dolla
Bamjee will receive a prize of R10 000, donated by the Pirogue Collective.
According to the rules of the prize the judges have to be published poets, since it is a prize
from poets to poets. This year the judges were Vonani Bila, Wendy Woodward and Sindiswa
Ronel de Goede convenes the Ingrid Jonker Committee. Finuala Dowling is the convenor of
the English prize. The other committee members are Vincent Oliphant, Kobus Moolman and
Marius Crous. A former chairperson Danie Marais acts as advisor to the committee.
The prize is alternately awarded on an annual basis to a first volume of poetry in Afrikaans
or English – the two languages in which Ingrid Jonker herself wrote.