Botswana’s Tjawangwa “TJ” Dema named winner of 2018 Sillerman first book prize for African poets


Photo courtesy of Stuart James Arnold (Kalahari Stuart)

Botswana’s Tjawangwa “TJ” Dema has won the 2018 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets for her collection, The Careless Seamstress. Dema will receive a $1, 000 cash award and the publication of her manuscript through the University of Nebraska Press as part of their African Poetry Book Series. Dema’s work is to be released in the spring of 2019.

The Sillerman Prize is sponsored by philanthropists Laura and Robert FX Sillerman, whose annual bequest has continued to fund the work of the African Poetry Book Fund in its publishing and promotion of African poetry.

Dema is a poet, arts administrator, and teaching artist based in Botswana. Her work has been widely published in various magazines. Her chapbook, Mandible, was published as part of the chapbook box set Seven New Generation African Poets. She has co-curated an issue of the Art Matters FUSION series that paired Batswana poets with poets from the Prairie Schooner archives, all writing on the theme of “Womb.” She earned an MA in creative writing from Lancaster University.

The judging panel for the Sillerman Prize is made up of the African Poetry Book Fund’s Editorial Board, including Chris Abani, Gabeba Baderoon, Bernardine Evaristo, Aracelis Girmay, John Keene, Matthew Shenoda, and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, with Kwame Dawes, who also serves as Director of the African Poetry Book Fund and Prairie Schooner Editor-in-Chief.

Dema’s work has appeared in the Cordite Poetry Review, Elsewhere Lit, the New Orleans Review, and Read Women, an anthology. She has received fellowships from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Danish Arts Council/Foundation, and she was a 2016 Artist-in-Residence in the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities at Northwestern University.

Congratulations, TJ!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.