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More on Lebo Mashile’s NOMA Ceremony in Botswana

Lebo Mashile and Prof Bojosi OtlhogileOur intrepid, impromptu literary correspondent in Gaborone, Monkagedi Gaotlhobogwe, has filed this photo with the Oshun blog, of Lebo Mashile receiving the 2006 NOMA Award from University of Botswana Vice Chancellor Prof. Bojosio Tlhogile.

Monkagedi has also written up the event for us – see his words, below!


28 year old South African actress, television personality and performing poet Lebo Mashile was on Thursday last week crowned the winner of the 2006 Pan African book prize, the NOMA Award, at a glittering ceremony held in Gaborone. She walked away with a cash prize of US$10 000. Mashile’s collection of poems, In a Ribbon of Rhythm, published in 2005 earned her the glory. The NOMA Awards, now in their 26th year are sponsored by Japanese book-publishing company Kodansha Publishers.

The award is meant for African writers publishing in the continent and the ceremony is held in a different country each year.

Mashile – popular for her role in the movie Hotel Rwanda, and SABC television series, L’Attitude – was accompanied by her mother, Prudence Mateme at the event, hosted by the University of Botswana this year.

Mashile becomes the 9th woman to win the award. The honour is given for academic works, children’s books, and creative writing of any kind – but Mashile becomes the first poet to clinch it.

Dressed in red, and spotting huge natural Afro hairstyle, the poet gave a moving speech, and at some point was overcome by emotions and shed tears of joy on stage.

In a separate interview, she said, “I am negotiating my status as a celebrity. Many people have told me how much they appreciate my performances, poems and the things I stand for… Women who look like me tell me they are proud of me because they would never have believed that a person like me [that is, comfortable in her skin, not obsessed with weight, etc.] could have a celebrity status.”

Her Afro hairdo attracted attention in a city where ladies prefer funky contemporary hairstyles offered by the hair salons. “Natural hair is the in thing in South Africa right now, this is real hair no fake”, the NOMA winner said, during an interview frequently interrupted by newly-found fans who approached for autographs.

Mashile spent the following day at the University of Botswana performing alongside two of the country’s finest women poets, T.J Dema and Boipelo Seleke, as the University celebrated the awarding of the rights to host the NOMA Awards records archive.

The jury described Mashile as a “powerful voice, which has great beauty, delight and meaning. The poet weaves her feelings, experiences and expectations around the story of her life, which merges with the story of the struggle for freedom among South Africans. In masterly and sonorous style, the poetry has a distinct oral flavour, developing oral poetry ad performance beyond the boundaries of the poetry of the era of resistance. From the personal to the wider world, this is fresh philosophical writing, movingly declaiming the pride of heritage.”

It continued, of her work, “These poems are the spoken word in all its beauty, power and elegance.” The South African poet also founded the Feela Sistah Spoken Word Collective along with Napo Masheane in 2004.

2005, the year in which Mashile wrote her award-winning poems, was a busy and fruitful for the poet, as she also went on to release a debut album, Lebo Mashile Live! on her own independent record label, Mashile Productions. She also sponsored and presented the second season of the original television series, L’attitude, which concluded early this year.

She has performed in Germany and the United Kingdom (UK), and has on many occasions been hired to facilitate workshops.