Page last updated at 18:13 GMT, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Zimbabwe writer Mhlanga honoured

Cont Mhlanga
Cont Mhlanga has written several plays and books

Zimbabwean playwright Cont Mhlanga, an outspoken opponent of Robert Mugabe's regime, has been honoured with an international award.

Mhlanga has won the inaugural $50,000 (33,000) Artventure Freedom to Create Prize for his politically-charged satirical play The Good President.

The prize was created to honour artists who defend their freedom of expression at great personal sacrifice.

Mhlanga was one of several people and groups honoured at the London ceremony.

He was described by the philanthropic organisation as a "fierce opponent" of the Mugabe regime.

Mhlanga said he wished the world would stop talking to Robert Mugabe. He wants the world to listen to the voices of the people, the people whose lives he writes about.
Razia Iqbal, BBC Arts correspondent

The Good President depicts an African dictator who has ruled Zimbabwe for 27 years since the country gained independence in 1980.

The play is presented as a fictional account, but closely mirrors recent and current events in Zimbabwe.

Speaking from Zimbabwe, Mhlanga said: "I am extremely humbled by the recognition of my work. This award is not just for me, it is for those artists who are victimised for working with me, and it is an award for theatre in this country.

"Theatre is the only tool that amplifies the people's voice in Zimbabwe."

Wider audience

A statement from Artventure said Mhlanga had been "challenging and questioning state ideologies, policies, corruption, nepotism and leadership" for more than 25 years.

Mhlanga will dedicate 16,000 of his prize towards making his work available to a wider audience and to the southern Africa region.

Second place went to the Belarus Free Theatre, an underground project founded in 2005 as an artistic means of resisting censorship.

Pakistani-Norwegian singer and human rights activist Deeyah, nicknamed "The Muslim Madonna", was third.

Burmese satirist Zarganar, who was recently imprisoned for 45 years, was awarded the Imprisoned Artist Prize.

The 16,000 Youth Prize went to City of Rhyme, a 14-strong hip-hop group from northern Brazil, whose lyrics condemn violence.

Print Sponsor


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific