Bento Baloi and Belmiro Mouzinho win Mia Couto Literary Prize

Bento Baloi and Belmiro Mouzinho win Mia Couto Literary Prize
Bento Baloi and Belmiro Mouzinho win Mia Couto Literary Prize

By José dos Remádios

Africa-Press – Mozambique. No Verso da Cicatriz’, by Bento Baloi, and ‘Pétalas Negras ou a Sombra do Inanimado’, by Belmiro Mouzinho, are the books awarded, the first in the romance genre and the second in the poetry genre. The announcement was made this Thursday evening, in the city of Beira.

The ceremony to announce the winners was scheduled for 5:00 p.m. this Thursday at the Casa do Artista in the city of Beira, but for professional reasons, Bento Baloi was unable to travel from Tete, where he lives and works, to Beira, where the award ceremony took place, in an initiative organised by Kulemaba Association and Cornelder de Moçambique to stimulate literary production in the country.

So, to not think about the awarding, shortlisted author Bento Baloi on Thursday went to play volleyball with friends at the Tete Secondary School. After a few hours of sports, Baloi got home, picked up his cell phone and noticed that he had lots of missed calls. and also a lot of unread messages. He opened the first one to find out that he was the winner of the romance genre, in the first edition of the Mia Couto Literary Prize.

Between the moment he read the message and the expectation of what would follow, Bento Baloi thought of all those who, with editing, conversations, advice and ideas, contributed to the making of ‘No Verso da Cicatriz’. “To everyone who contributed to making the book possible, I thank you with great appreciation.”

Baloi confessed – from Tete – that he feels very satisfied for having won a prestigious award. “This is my third book and, for the first time, I have won a literary award. We, as authors, never think about awards, but clearly this recognition gives us strength to continue working harder,” he said.

He hopes that, with the distinction, his third book (second novel) will attract the interest of more readers.

“No Verso da Cicatriz’ challenges not only the reader’s beliefs and horizon of expectations, but their sensitivity and emotional stability. The cathartic effect of the narration imposes itself in an inescapable way, summoning pain, suffering, human drama, disillusionment and the degeneration of social values,” a press release from the Mia Couto Literary Prize comments.

Unlike Bento Baloi, Belmiro Mouzinho managed to travel to Beira from Nacala, where he lives. He arrived on Thursday morning and participated in the ceremony announcing the winners of the prize.

‘Pétalas Negras ou a Sombra do Inanimado’ is Mouzinho’s first book. He wrote it in 2021, in less than 12 months. He feels privileged to win a prize with his first book. “Of course this brings great motivation, as I started writing a long time ago. I feel fortunate to have been blessed with this opportunity,” he said

With the award, “Expectations are high and I feel like I have to work a lot harder. But today I received some wise advice about working without rushing. I have a lot of work, but I’m not going to publish it any time soon. I will improve so that they are even better than the one that was awarded.”

“Mouzinho’s book of poetry reflects the charm that the art of verse exerts on the poet’s life, because, for him, everything that people see and touch has poetry. In his book debut, Mouzinho takes on the mantle of a rebellious and non-conformist poet. In part, this corresponds to his way of seeing things around him”, states a press release about the award.

Bento Baloi and Belmiro Mouzinho each receive 400,000 meticais in cash prizes.

The jury’s decision

The Mia Couto Literary Prize jury had as members Francisco Noa (President), Fátima Mendonça, Teresa Manjate, Tânia Macedo and Daniel da Costa. The jury evaluated the competing works on the criteria of creativity, technical mastery, linguistic correction and density.

According to the jury, ‘No Verso da Cicatriz’, stands out for being a courageous and well-written book, presenting the structure of the plot, well-defined premises, conflicts defined in such a way that the history and the stories intertwine perfectly. It is worth highlighting the fact that this courageous narrative is inspired by dark events that occurred in Mozambique shortly after Independence (the incarceration of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Operation Production and the 16 Years’ War), some of which were consigned to oblivion or erased. In this book, adds the jury, the author, through successful narrative procedures, transforms this empirical reality into a dense and dramatic odyssey, with a powerful cathartic effect.

‘Pétalas Negras ou a Sombra do Inanimado’ according to the jury, stands out for its creative singularity, heir to literary modernity, with long verses depicting an often disenchanted world, where the fulfilment of desire is not always synonymous with meetings. This is a poetry with a marked thematic depth as well as in terms of poetic construction, in which careful writing and interpolative density is recognized, given the existential questions combined with a very subtle but corrosive socio-political and customs critique, maturity in articulation between word and thought and a notable aesthetic investment translated into images of beautiful effect.

About the authors

Bento Baloi was born in 1968 in Vieira, Maxaquene neighbourhood, city of Maputo. He began his literary career by writing short stories and poems published in specialty pages of Mozambican magazines and newspapers. He dedicated a significant part of his career to theatre, writing, directing and acting in plays both on stage and for radio. He wrote the plays ‘Lágrimas’, ‘Grito Humano’, ‘Adão e Eva, Ámen’, ‘Alarme’, ‘Katina P, o Flagelo’, and wrote the ballets ‘O Filho do Povo’ and ‘Raízes e Percursos’, directed by Pérola Jaime. ‘Recados da Alma’ is his debut novel and was published in 2016. In 2021, he published with Índico Editores the book of chronicles ‘Arca de Não É’, with accounts of the drama experienced in the city of Beira during Cyclone Idai.

Belmiro Mouzinho was born on May 7, 1994, in the city of Quelimane, Province of Zambézia. He is one of the founding members of the Círculo Académico de Letras e Arte de Moçambique. He is a student of Electrical Engineering at the Instituto Superior Politécnico e Universitário de Nacala. He has participated in several international anthologies published in Brazil. He is inspired by the poetry of Florbela Espanca.

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