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Tjawangwa Dema / TJ Dema is a poet, arts administrator, teaching artist, and an Honorary Senior Research Associate in the Department of English at the University of Bristol.
Her chapbook Mandible (Slapering Hol Press, 2014) was selected for publication by The African Poetry Book Fund as part of its inaugural New-Generation African Poets Box Set. Her latest book The Careless Seamstress (University of Nebraska Press, 2019) won the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. A chapbook with an accompanying digital archive, an/other pastoral, is forthcoming from No Bindings in Spring, 2022. Translated collections are forthcoming in German (Parasitenpresse) and Portuguese (Fósforo Editora).
Formerly chairperson of the Writers’ Association of Botswana, Dema is an Honorary Fellow of The University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. In 2015 she partnered with the African Poetry Book Fund and the Gaborone Public Library to set up a poetry reading room in Botswana. In 2019 she gave the Ohio University African Studies Spring Lecture and in 2020 the University of Southampton’s F T Prince Memorial Lecture. She has given readings in over twenty countries in places including Rio, New York, Lagos, Berlin, Delhi, Paris, Tallinn, Harare, Medellin, Lisbon, London, Singapore and Johannesburg. She has facilitated workshops in numerous countries and in particular her eco-poetry writing and/or workshops have been featured in the University of Southern California’s Vision & Voices programme, a two-day series for Penn State University, a masterclass for the University of The Witwatersrand and a climate reset provocation for the University of Oxford Systems Week.
Tjawangwa is an alumna of the HarperCollins Author Academy in Writing for Children. In 2020, her audioplay ‘Food of the Gods’ was staged as part of Popelei’s award winning digital season and her monologue was joint winner of the Women-in-Lockdown Seed Commission. Her poems have been re-worked by bands into lyrics, used for theatre and dance collaborations, recorded as videos, dropped as postcards from a helicopter over London and translated into languages including Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Croatian and Swedish. Her poem ‘Lethe’ was selected as the 2020 Zebra Poetry Film Festival ‘Festival Poem’ around which filmmakers were invited to create short filmic responses. One of these poetry videos went on to win a ZPFF award as well as a Northwest Artist Award at the Cadence Video Poetry Festival.
Tjawangwa’s work has been supported by Arts Council England, the Danish Arts Council, the Vermont Studio Centre and Northwestern University’s Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities among others. She has been long-listed for the Women Poets’ Prize and shortlisted for the position of Bristol City Poet. Her honours include a Botswana Top 40 under 40 Catalyst award as well as a Mail and Guardian Editor’s Choice award. She holds an MA in Creative Writing and facilitates writing and performance workshops around the globe.
Tjawangwa co-produces the Africa Writes – Bristol festival. She serves on the Lyra: Bristol Poetry Festival steering committee as well as the Bristol Poetry Institute Partnerships Board.