Yale Announces Winners of This Year’s Windham-Campbell Prize

Yale is preparing for the return of the in-person festival to honor the Windham-Campbell honorees.

Ruth Lee

10:50 p.m., April 06, 2022

Staff reporter

Yale News

Eight writers received the Windham-Campbell Awards on the tenth anniversary of the award’s inception. The cohort will head to campus next fall for the award’s first in-person festival since the pandemic began.

The Windham-Campbell Prizes are awarded annually to eight writers in recognition of outstanding literary talent. The first prizes were awarded in 2013. They rewarded recipients with a citation, a physical prize, and a cash prize of $165,000. Winners are confidentially nominated and selected in four categories: non-fiction, poetry, drama and fiction.

This year’s winners were Tsitsi Dangarembga, Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu, Margo Jefferson, Emmanuel Iduma, Winsome Pinnock, Sharon Bridgforth, Wong May and Zaffar Kunial. The winners included a geographically diverse list of authors – Dangarembga and Ndlovu are from Zimbabwe, Iduma is from Nigeria, Bridgforth and Jefferson are from the US, Kunial and Pinnock from the UK and May spends most of her time in Ireland and in Asia.

“Led by a pioneering group of global women’s voices, the ambitious, skilful and moving work of these writers bridges the gap between the history of nations and a deeply personal sense of self. This is one of the most exciting lists to date,” Michael Kelleher, director of the Windham-Campbell Foundation, wrote in an email to The News.

Traditionally, winners receive their awards in person at Yale during a three-day literary festival that involves both students and community members. Students participate in festival planning and the festival itself as ambassadors for the event and guides for guest artists, according to Kelleher.

The last in-person festival was in 2019 and took place in spaces at the University and in New Haven. Yale Law School professor Tracey Meares and writers Rebecaa Solnit, David Chariandy and Raghu Karnad spoke at the festival about the role writers play in addressing police violence.

This year’s festival will be the first in-person celebration since the pandemic began. Held between September 19 and 22, the festival will feature keynote speaker Natasha Trethewey, who served two terms as the United States Poet Laureate.

Pinnock, author of the play “Rocket and Blue Lights”, won an award in the drama category of the award. “The global reach of the award is staggering,” said Pinnock representative Hannah McMillan. “Many awards have a relatively local focus, so this award is unique in that regard.”

Bridgforth, another winner in the drama category, said she hopes this award inspires the Yale community and other writers.

“I hope that the depth of love and generosity from which this award has been crafted, and the visionary manner in which it is administered, ignite a desire to connect with humanity that activates conscientiously international studies curious and rigorously expansive about forms, aesthetics and stories,” Bridgforth mentioned.

Bridgforth infuses traditional and new forms of black avant-garde into his work, implementing different themes such as Yoruba theologies and jazz improvisation. In her most recent play, “dat Black Mermaid Man Lady”, Bridgforth invites her audience to become characters themselves and grapple with the same circumstances as the creatures in the play: a world that extends beyond of what we imagine as reality.

The award is named after Donald Windham and Sandy Campbell.


Ruth Lee covers film and literature for the Arts Desk, writes for the weekend, and records for the Podcasts Desk. Originally from New York, Ruth is a freshman at Timothy Dwight University, majoring in history and English.