UKZN Press is proud of its authors who were presented with 2021 NIHSS Human and Social Sciences (HSS) awards at a ceremony at Maropeng Cradle of Humankind on 31 March.

Our Words, Our Worlds: Writing on Black South African Women Poets, 2000–2018 edited by Makhosazana Xaba, was joint winner in the category Best Non-Fiction – Edited Volume, while Wentworth: The Beautiful Game and the Making of Place by Ashwin Desai was the winner in the category Best Non-Fiction Monograph. The HSS awards are bestowed annually by the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) to honour outstanding, innovative and socially responsive scholarship, creative as well as digital contributions that enhance and advance fields in the humanities and social sciences. They recognise and celebrate members of the broader humanities and social sciences community, in conversation with other fields of study, who are undertaking the necessary work of creating post-apartheid and post-colonial forms of scholarship, creative production, and digital humanities outputs (www.nihss.ac.za).

Our Words, Our Worlds is a ground-breaking, multi-genre anthology of literary critique, personal essays and interviews. It assembles the writings of 23 contributors, documenting a slice of South Africa’s literary landscape and relating the seismic shift that transformed national culture through poetry. It is the first to explore the history and impact of poetry by Black women, in their own voices. It straddles the disciplines of literary theory, feminism, history of the book and politics, and contributes to the decolonial conversation in relation to literary culture.

Wentworth is a history of soccer in Wentworth, Durban but, as more than one reviewer has pointed out, it is also a story of the emergent social relations beyond the boundaries of the playing field. The author innovatively uses what Professor Caroline Knowles, of the University of London calls group biography to weave a beguiling narrative of people arriving in what was a barren landscape, and (back)yard by (back)yard, building soccer teams, and through this a sense of place. Page after page reveals writing of haunting power and sensitivity as memories are cajoled from ageing soccer legends and the interior lives of families are illuminated. It is an evocative exemplar of how community history should be brought to life.

In his speech Non-Fiction Chair Judge Fred Hendricks spoke on behalf of all the judges in this category which received a record-breaking total of 64 submissions from 13 different publishers.

UKZN Press prides itself on publishing quality works that critically and rigorously reflect on the history and contemporary issues facing South Africa. Director, Debra Primo, said: ‘Both these books do exactly that. South African university presses work in a very competitive environment and all produce publications of high calibre. We are therefore particularly proud that two of our titles were named winners from amongst a collection of outstanding works.’

Words: Adele Branch

Images: Supplied