Three judges met yesterday to decide on the four new Morland Writing Scholars for 2017. We had a record entry of 550 submissions and a short-list of 21. The standard was so high and the competition so fierce that the judges couldn’t decide on the best four so we agreed to award five Scholarships this year.
The 2017 Morland Writing Scholars are: Alemseged Tesfai (Eritrea), Bryony Rheam (Zimbabwe), Elnathan John (Nigeria), Eloghosa Osunde (Nigeria), and Fatima Kola (South Africa).
The four fiction winners each receive a grant of ₤18,000 to allow them to take a year off to write a book.
Alemseged Tesfai won a non-fiction award of £22,500 to be paid over fifteen months to allow him three extra months for research. The awards are based on submissions which include a book proposal and an excerpt of published writing.
Miles Morland commented, “First, I want to congratulate my fellow 73 year-old, Alemseged Tesfai. Septuagenarians rock. What a talented short-list we had this year. Any one of the 21 people on it is capable of writing a terrific book and many of them will. Meanwhile, the five books our new Scholars will write are wonderfully diverse. I personally am awed and humbled by the quality of the people the Scholarship is now attracting.”
The Judges for this year were Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, the Chair, accompanied by Olufemi Terry and Muthoni Garland. Below are Ellah’s comments on the new Scholars:
“In this 5th year of the Morland Writing Scholarships it was hugely gratifying to see such an upswing in the number of submissions. We considered a 21 person shortlist with applicants from nine African countries. We were delighted by the range in choice of subject and approach and deeply impressed by the writing skill and ambition this shortlist represented.
We focused on the potential each application promised. Faced with excellence on all fronts, we found ourselves focused on several key questions. Is this a book that will achieve publication and find readers across the continent and beyond? Does the subject matter feel urgent and necessary? Has the author found the best form for the telling of this story? Does the submission show innovation and ambition?
Our five scholars fit all of these criteria. Alemseged Tesfai of Eritrea will write a single volume of the history of Eritrea – challenging conventional scholarship on the subject and drawing from rich personal experience.
Fatima Kola of South Africa will work on a fantasy novel in which her dual African and Asian cultural inheritance is the inspiration for world-building and the exploration of universal themes of friendship, love and the imperfection of moral choice.
Nigerian Elnathan John’s proposed historical novel is set in the Sokoto Caliphate – a challenging story in which the past is used to explore urgent contemporary themes of identity, sexuality, faith and tolerance.
Eloghosa Osunde, also of Nigeria, will write a novel about two school friends – each harbouring a secret that could destroy their lives – who decide to join forces and create a home together in the face of a hostile society.
Zimbabwean Bryony Rheam promises an historical crime fiction featuring Ingutsheni, a psychiatric hospital in Bulawayo, in which she explores the treatment of those suffering mental illness and the complex dynamics of power, colonial society and migration.
This is an exhilarating list that bears witness to a wide range of thematic concerns and one that illustrates the ambition and promise of several generations of writers. We wish the scholars a busy and productive year.”