Known as an Aboriginal Australian, Ali Cobby Eckermann was recently announced as one of eight recipients to receive one of the highest literary prizes granted for literary accomplishments. She is a visual artist and one of the first poets who will receive the coveted Windham-Campbell prize in the amount of $165,000. Seven other writers will receive the prize for their works in literature including fiction, nonfiction, and drama.
2017 will be the first year the Windham-Campbell prize will be given for poetry. The awards ceremony event will be held September 13-15, 2017 at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut and is free to the public. The Windham-Campbell literature prizes were established in 2013 by Donald Windham, and Sandy Campbell. Windham was a novelist, and Campbell was his partner for 40 years.
Together, they decided to put together an award to benefit gifted writers so that they could focus on their work without financial concerns. Since its inception, the award has been granted to 43 writers representing 12 different countries including North America, Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia. Eckermann, like the other writers, understands what a privilege it is to even be considered for such an outstanding gift.
The day she received the announcement telling her she had won the Windham-Campbell prize for her work in poetry was a day Eckermann will never forget. She said she “pretty much just cried”. Currently, she lives in a caravan with her elderly adoptive mother. She is a woman who has experienced pain, trauma, and loss. Her family was torn apart by the Australian government.
She was taken from her mother as a baby just as her own mother was taken. From about 1910 to 1970 children of the Yankunytjatjara/Kokatha heritage were forcibly removed from their families. Eckermann wrote about it in her memoir “Too Afraid to Cry” in 2013. Her incredible story of loss and suffering has been poured out into her performances of visual art, and poetry, spoken and written.
The affirmation that comes from knowing judges acknowledge her story, and appreciate her work is something every writer aspires to.
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