Breaking Iron Clad Ceilings:Paulina Chiziane First African Female To Receive Portuguese literature The Camões Prize

  • Photo By: © Lusa (Noticiasaominuto)

Paulina Chiziane is the first woman to publish a novel in Mozambique, has become the first African woman to receive the most important award for Portuguese literature, the Camões Prize. She’s also the first to break all the rules about what a writer may reveal about Mozambique’s patriarchal culture and social taboos.

Born in Manjacaze in 1955 and raised in the capital, Maputo, Chiziane’s mother tongue is Chopi, a Bantu language spoken along the southern coast of Mozambique, which she practised along with Portuguese, the language imposed during the colonial period. Today Chiziane has a degree in linguistics and is a leading global figure in Portuguese literature.

Speaking in a TV interview from the yard of her house in Zambezia province about winning the 2021 Camões Prize, she said:

This prize is for all the people of my country, because I always wrote from a collective experience, transmitting a collective voice … even if my novels are written in the first person.

She finally received the award in person at a ceremony in Lisbon in May 2023 – the annual event had been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic. Named after the famed 16th century Portuguese poet Luís de Camões, the Camões Prize was first awarded in 1988 to recognise great literature in Portuguese.

In her speech in Lisbon, Chiziane said:

I was walking without knowing my direction, and yet I arrived somewhere. I come from Africa. I am black, and I am here, being the first black woman to receive this high recognition … I am black. Yes, and so what? If you want to be someone in life, in this world, you need to affirm your space. Leave traces of your feet on the ground, indelibly engraved, for other people to say: here someone has passed.