Writer and singer Desta Haile wins the Afritondo Prize 2021

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Goldsmiths, University of London MA Black British Literature graduate Desta Haile has been awarded the £1,000 Afritondo Prize for her short story ‘Ethio-Cubano’.

Desta Haile by Amaal Said

Desta Haile is a multi-award winning British-Eritrean singer, writer, and educator who has worked as a backing vocalist for artists including Joe Bataan, Baloji and Zap Mama, as well as representing Eritrea in Universal Music's Earth Orchestra project.

Afritondo (a media publishing platform aiming to help tell the stories of Africans and black minority populations across the globe) described Desta’s winning short story, 'Ethio-Cubano' as “a dreamlike patchwork of memories, experiences, and historical instances where Ethiopian and Cuban cultures collide.”

Speaking about the story, her interest in history, and how different cultures connect, Desta said: “The theme was identity, and for years I'd been fascinated by, and curious about, this community of Ethio-Cubans. The story touches on music, dance and Afro-Cuban spirituality. Most of it is real, some imagined or different events superimposed.” 

In 2017, Desta completed her MA in Black British Literature at Goldsmiths. The experience, she explains, helped her to develop as a writer through exposure to narratives that she hadn’t heard before: 

“Being introduced to so many amazing essays and books by Dr Deidre Osborne and Professor Emeritus Joan Anim-Addo [and] meeting people who shared my interest in black British writing, stories from the UK, Africa and the Caribbean, was great and really inspiring.” 

The announcement of the Afritondo Prize was made on Friday 26 March 26 2021 by judges and authors Kiprop Kimutai and Edwige Renée Dro in an online event.

Other shortlisted writers for the 2021 prize were:

  • Joshua Chizoma (‘Collector of Memories’, Nigeria)
  • Remy Ngamije (‘The Prayer, The Hope and The Anthem [or, The Fall So Far]’, Namibia)
  • Faraaz Mahomed (‘Gracious’, South Africa)
  • Justin Clement (‘Human Cities’, Nigeria)

‘Ethio-Cubano’ will be published in summer 2021 as part of an anthology featuring all the longlisted stories.  

Find out more about the Department of English and Creative Writing at Goldsmiths and the MA Black British Literature