Writers Unlimited /On 13 January 2021 during online Winternachten festival’s Opening Night programme, the PEN Award for Freedom of Expression will honour Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga, for her remarkable work in fighting for freedom of expression. Dangarembga is a novelist, poet, filmmaker and playwright. Her novel This Mournable Body was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. She is also a dedicated activist, and the founding member of PEN Zimbabwe.
The award ceremony, held as part of the opening night of the online Winternachten International Literature Festival The Hague, will be introduced PEN International President and writer, Jennifer Clement.
“For the past sixteen years, PEN International has given the PEN Award for Freedom of Expression at the opening ceremony of the Winternachten Festival. With the active participation of Netherlands PEN and the PEN Emergency Fund, the award honours writers who have been persecuted for their work and continue to work despite the consequences. Over the years we have recognized courageous writers such as Anna Politkovskaya and Hrant Dink and Stella Nyanzi”. PEN International President, Jennifer Clement.
Literary guests to Winternachten Festival’s Opening Night include authors Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe), Salena Godden (UK), Samanta Schweblin (Germany), and Dutch authors Arnon Grunberg, Eva Meijer, Jaap Tielbeke, Raoul de Jong and Simon(e) van Saarloos. The Winternachten Festival’s Opening Night, including the PEN Award ceremony, will be live streamed on 13 January 2021, 20:30-22:00 hours CET. The programme will be English spoken. Programme information and tickets are available here.
The date of the PEN Award is of symbolic importance as it coincides with the PEN Emergency Fund’s 50th anniversary. Since its founding in 1971, PEN Emergency Fund has provided vital support to writers who have been persecuted for their work and are in acute financial need, as well as to their families.
Last year the PEN Award for Freedom of Expression was given to prominent Ugandan academic, writer and feminist activist Dr. Stella Nyanzi. Dr. Nyanzi was sentenced to 18-months in prison for ‘cyber harassment’ in November 2018. This was in relation to a poem she wrote on Facebook criticising President Museveni and his mother. Her conviction and sentence were overturned in February 2020, four weeks after receiving the award in the Hague. PEN International and its Centres around the world campaigned for the release of Dr Nyanzi since her arrest, and featured her case in PEN International’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2019.
Previous winners include Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich, Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, Eritrean poet and writer Amanuel Asrat, Honduran activist Dina Meza and Cameroonian journalist and academic Enoh Meyomesse.
Formerly known as the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award for Freedom of Expression, the award was originally given as a collaboration of PEN International, the PEN Emergency Fund and Oxfam Novib. It has been given to writers who continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution since 2005. This year, PIP Den Haag (People in Print) will support the Award.
The PEN Award for Freedom of Expression is the first of a series of events in 2021 marking the PEN International Centenary. 100 years after it was established, PEN International continues to embody the spirit of its remarkable founder, the English writer Catherine Amy Dawson Scott. Today, PEN International is recognized as the world’s foremost association of writers and as a leading expert on freedom of expression.