Harriet Anena

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Harriet Anena
Portrait of Harriet Anena.jpg
BornHarriet Anena
Gulu District, Uganda
OccupationPoet, journalist
Alma materMakerere University
(Bachelor of Arts in mass communication)
(Master of Arts in human rights)
GenrePoetry, fiction
Notable worksA Nation In Labour (2015)
Notable awards2018 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa

Harriet Anena is a Ugandan author,[1] poet,[2] and journalist.[3] She is the author of a collection of poems, A Nation In Labour, published in 2015.[4] Anena worked with the Daily Monitor newspaper as a reporter, sub-editor, and deputy chief sub-editor from 2009 to September 2014. Her journalistic articles have been published in the Daily Monitor,[5][6] New Vision, and The Observer. She has also taught specialised writing at the Islamic University in Uganda.

Early life and education[edit]

Anena was born to Acholi parents and raised in the Gulu District of Uganda.[7] She attended Gulu Public Primary School, Sacred Heart Secondary School, and Gulu Central High School. She graduated with a Bachelor of Mass Communication degree from Makerere University in 2010 and completed a Master of Arts degree in human rights from the same institution in 2015.[8]


Anena wrote her first poem, "The plight of the Acholi child", in 2003. It won a writing competition organised by the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative and helped secure her a bursary for A-Level education.[8] She attended the 2013 Caine Prize workshop held in Uganda,[9][10] and her story "Watchdog Games" was published in the anthology A Memory This Size and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing 2013.[11] In 2013, she was shortlisted for the "Ghana Poetry prize" for her poem "We arise".[12]

A Nation In Labour, published in 2015, is her debut book,[13] a "socially conscious" collection of poems, about which she has said: "I explore my experiences as a child who lived through the LRA insurgency in northern Uganda and the post-war period. Today, I still keenly watch how people are piecing back the torn pieces of their lives; but also the post-war challenge."[14] The reviewer for New Vision wrote: "Anena and her buffet of poetry will keep you hooked."[15] As described by Tomiwa Ilori, "A Nation in Labour is a four-part treatise that uses elevated language to tell of horror. Anena’s collection of poetry warns society about its warped value system through a disciplined use of satiric responses that resonate. Each part of the treatise soaks our dessicated humanity in fluid cadences."[16] The Ugandan Observer's review said: "Anena craftily uses simple language, but with diction that leaves the reader challenged to take action to better the situation."[17] In November 2018, A Nation In Labour was shortlisted for the biennial Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa, alongside collections by Tanure Ojaide and Servio Gbadamosi.[18][19][20][21] On 9 December 2018, at an award ceremony held in Lagos, Anena and Ojaide were announced as joint winners, chosen by judges Toyin Falola, Olu Obafemi and Margaret Busby, the presentation being made by Professor Wole Soyinka.[22][23][24]

Anena's short story "Dancing with Ma" was longlisted for the 2018 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.[25][26]


In December 2018, Harriet Anena was named as joint winner of the 2018 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa for her book A Nation in Labour, published in 2015.[27][28] She jointly won the prize with Professor Tanure Ojaide. Ms Anena received her award at a ceremony in Lagos, Nigera, attended by Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in literature, after whom the prize is named. The Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature is a "pan-African writing prize awarded biennially to the best literary work produced by an African".[29]

Published works[edit]

Poetry collections[edit]

  • A Nation In Labour. Kampala, Uganda: Millennium Press Limited. 2015.
  • Set Me On Fire[30]

Selected poems[edit]

Selected short stories[edit]

Selected articles[edit]


  1. ^ "Harriet Anena". acholitimes.com. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  2. ^ James Murua (25 February 2015). "Ugandan poet Harriet Anena showcases in Kampala". jamesmurua.com. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  3. ^ Harriet Anena (13 October 2013). "Mr President, how much do you know about conflict resolution?". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  4. ^ Richard Oduor; Grace Kenganzi; David Kangye (March 2015). "Book Review: A Nation In Labour - Three voices, one book". somanystories.ug. Retrieved 17 March 2015.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  5. ^ Harriet Anena (27 November 2012). "If Uganda 'divorced' colonialism, why are we on our knees over aid cuts?". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  6. ^ Harriet Anena (27 January 2012). "Govt must live up to its mandate and tackle the nodding disease". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  7. ^ "'For Me, Life Is Political.' An Interview With Harriet Anena". Short Story Day Africa. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  8. ^ a b Joseph Ssemutooke (7 February 2015). "The making of a budding poet". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  9. ^ Lizzy Attree (11 February 2014). "Creative minds assemble by Lake Victoria: reflections on the 2013 Caine Prize workshop". Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  10. ^ Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (12 May 2013). "Ten Days at the Caine Prize Writing Workshop". Moonchild's Temple. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  11. ^ Dennis D. Muhumuza (27 April 2013). "Caine prize anthology launched". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  12. ^ "Shortlist for Ghana Poetry Prize 2013 Released". poetryfoundationghana.org. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  13. ^ Oduor Jagero (15 March 2015). "A Nation In Labour". The Magunga. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  14. ^ Bridget Boakye (27 February 2018), "Poetic Attack: ‘A Nation In Labour’ by Ugandan poet Harriet Anena", Face2face Africa.
  15. ^ Caroline Ariba (27 June 2016), "Book review: A nation is in labour", New Vision.
  16. ^ Tomiwa Ilori, "Rhetoric of Pain and Other Resources", Wawa Book Review, 27 October 2015.
  17. ^ Angella Tusiime, "Book review: Anena pens out a nation in labour", The Observer (Uganda), 29 March 2015.
  18. ^ "Nine African poets shortlisted for 2018 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature", P.M. News, 3 November 2018.
  19. ^ Daily Graphic (19 November 2018), "9 African poets on 2018 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature list", Graphic Online.
  20. ^ "Arena, Ojaide, Gbadamosi shortlisted for Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature", The Cable, 28 November 2018,
  21. ^ "Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature 2018 shortlist announced", James Murua's Literature Blog, 29 November 2018.
  22. ^ "Prof Tanure Ojaide, Harriet Anena are joint Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature 2018 winners", James Murua's Literature Blog, 10 December 2018.
  23. ^ Joseph Kizza, "Ugandan wins 2018 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature", New Vision, 10 December 2018.
  24. ^ Kungu Al-Mahadi Adam, "Ugandan Author, Harriet Anena Wins 2018 Wole Soyinka Prize", SoftPower News, 10 December 2018.
  25. ^ "2018 Commonwealth Short Story Prize Shortlist", Commonwealth Writers, 23 May 2018.
  26. ^ Bamuturaki Musinguzi (10 November 2018), "Ugandan poet longlisted for Wole Soyinka prize", The East African.
  27. ^ Ninsiima Julian, "Uganda’s Harriet Anena wins Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa 2018", PML Daily, 10 December.
  28. ^ "Ugandan writer Harriet Anena wins Wole Soyinka Literature Prize", Edge, 10 December 2018.
  29. ^ Monitor Reporter (10 December 2018). "Ugandan author is joint winner of Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature". Daily Monitor. Kampala. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  30. ^ Harriet Anena, "The AWT Conference Set Me On Fire", African Writers Trust, 24 March 2017.

External links[edit]