Athol Williams Wins the 2016 Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award

10 Oct 2016
Athol Williams Wins the 2016 Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award

Congratulations to PEN SA member Athol Williams who has been named the winner of the 2016 Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award for his poem, “Visit at Tea Time”. This is the second year in a row that Williams has won this award, last year it was for his poem “Streetclass Diseases”.

Williams was named the winner at an event held on Sunday during the Mail & Guardian LitFest. This year the prize includes a three-week residency at the NIROX Foundation in the Cradle of Humankind, as well as a cash prize.

Read Williams’ winning poem here as well as the other shortlisted poems, “MamBhele’s Harvest” by Siphokazi Jonas (second place) and “Cape Town” by Charles Marriott (third place).

Press release from Jacana Media:


Athol Williams has won the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award this year, for the second time, for his poem ‘Visit at Tea Time’.

Williams is a poet and social philosopher from Cape Town. He is the chairman of Read to Rise, a youth literacy NGO that he co-founded after many years as a business strategy advisor. His poems have been published in anthologies and literary journals in the UK, USA and South Africa and he has published three poetry collections. He is also the author of the Oaky series of inspirational children’s books, and Pushing Boulders, his memoir, was published this month. Athol grew up in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town and has been educated at Oxford, Harvard, MIT, LSE, London Business School and Wits University.

As the winner he receives a cash prize and, for the first time this year, a three-week residency at the NIROX Foundation in the Cradle of Humankind, which includes fully serviced accommodation in a beautiful studio, free full board, and a serene environment in which Athol can focus solely on his craft. We are delighted to be able to add this rare privilege to the award.

“The NIROX Foundation was established to foster the arts in their widest sense. Poetry was from inception within our diverse focus, but it is a quiet craft that can often be overshadowed by its popular siblings – the visual and musical arts, for which NIROX is best known. And so it is a great pleasure for the Foundation to make a residency available to the winner of this year’s Sol Plaatje Award. We hope that this is the start of a long association. Athol Williams is a worthy winner. We look forward to the opportunity of working with him amongst our other artists in residence in the coming year.”
The NIROX Foundation

The runners-up, who also received cash prizes, are:
Siphokazi Jonas, in second place for her poem ‘MamBhele’s Harvest’
Charles Marriott, in third place for his poem ‘Cape Town’

The award ceremony took place on Sunday, 9 October, at the Mail&Guardian LitFest in Newtown. Senior judge and chairperson of the Jacana Literary Foundation (which administers the competition and publishes the related anthology in partnership with Jacana Media), Prof. Mongane Wally Serote, as well as the European Union Ambassador Designate, His Excellency Marcus Cornaro, presented the prizes to the winners during the event. A wonderful poetry performance by longlisted poets Zewande Bhengu, Siphokazi Jonas, B-Lyrical, Thabiso Mohare, Pieter Odendaal and Kori Strange, as part of the 6th Word N Sound International Youth Poetry Festival, kicked off the proceedings.

To listen to the shortlisted poems, click here.

The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award aims to reveal the political and social attitudes of our time. The annual Award, supported by the European Union, is now in its sixth year. Named after Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje (1876–1932), it recognises the life and vision of this highly respected political and social activist. As in previous years, Volume 6 of the series anthologises the three winning poems (selected by the iconic poet Serote) along with some 90 other longlisted poems in Afrikaans, English, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, isiXhosa and isiZulu and accompanied by English translations where relevant (selected by a jury of three notable South African poets: Goodenough Mashego, Thabiso ‘Afurakan’ Mohare and Pieter Odendaal). The submissions are judged blind. The anthology was launched at the same event.

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(Image courtesy of Athol Williams)