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Mongane Wally Serote calls on government to pay closer attention to our poets, at the fourth Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award




The Jacana Literary Foundation is pleased to announce Thabo Jijana as the winner of the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award 2014. He accepted the honour for his poem ‘Children Watching Old People’ at a prize-giving ceremony at the Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg, on Tuesday night. Second place went to Rochelle Jacobs for her poem ‘Something Other’. Jim Pascual Agustin’s poem ‘Illegal, Undocumented’ was given third place by the distinguished jury of three and head judge Dr Mongane Wally Serote.





On Tuesday night an enthusiastic crowd was addressed by Ambassador Roeland van de Geer, the Head of the European Union Delegation to South Africa, and Dr Serote. Ambassador van de Geer noted the similarities between democratic South Africa and the European Union, and outlined the EU Delegation’s support for cultural initiatives in South Africa over the past 20 years. Dr Serote’s address, speaking to the three finalist poems as well as the pantheon of other voices in the four Sol Plaatje EU Poetry anthologies published since 2011, was a sobering call for South Africans, particularly our politicians, to pay attention to our poets. He stressed how all art – and poetry in particular – evokes an ethical response in us which must be heeded.  



This year’s anthology, collating the best of the poems entered into this year’s competition, was also launched on Tuesday night. The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IV honours the spirit of the legendary intellectual giant, Sol Plaatje, the activist, linguist, translator, novelist, journalist and leader. This year’s jury for the Award was comprised of three celebrated South African poets: Ingrid de Kok, Johann De Lange and Goodenough Mashego. The jury deliberated on the entries – 303 in all, submitted in five of South Africa’s eleven official languages – and sent a shortlist to Dr Serote, who chose the winner.


About the finalist poets

First place: Thabo Jijana’s work is informed by his rural upbringing in rural Eastern Cape. His poetry has appeared in publications including New Contrast, the Kalahari ReviewPoetry Potion, and most recently the 2013 and the 2014 Sol Plaatje European Union Award anthologies. His first book, Nobody’s Business, an attempt to understand his father’s life and death and the world of taxi violence, has just been published by Jacana Media. A journalist by trade, Thabo lives in Port Elizabeth. 

Second place: Rochelle Jacobs is a 24-year-old student in her final year at Stellenbosch University studying a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Rochelle’s passions boil down to three things: helping the world, getting the adrenaline flowing and literature. Rochelle and a group of friends have recently begun a rape awareness campaign on Stellenbosch campus called 'Unashamed' which is aimed at removing the guilt which permeates the discourse surrounding rape in South Africa, and her prize-winning poem ‘Something Other’ was written in this context.

Third place: Jim Pascual Agustin writes and translates Filipino and English poetry. He grew up in the Philippines and now lives in Cape Town with his wife and their twin daughters. His fifth and sixth poetry books, Kalmot ng Pusa sa Tagiliran (poems in Filipino) and Sound Before Water, were simultaneously published in 2013 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House in Manila. These books will be followed, in 2015, by a new collection called A Thousand Eyes.