Qazini Writing Competition 2022: Celebrating Stories of Courage

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Article by: Editor

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On Thursday evening, the 24th of November, the Qazini 2022 Writing Competition’s Award Ceremony was held at The Chatroom in Kilimani. It was an evening that served as the climax to a process that had begun months before, in July 2022.

Perspective matters is a writing competition featuring different themes held annually by Qazini, partnering with other organisations. Through the competition, Qazini aims to reshape the African narrative, spread hope to younger generations and empower African storytellers by giving them an opportunity to write and improve their craft.

This year, with the theme of courage, perspective matters sought for stories of bravery that lead individuals or communities to discover, identify, redefine and refine who they are and their perceptions. They had to be stories that were impactful to individuals or communities, told in no more than 1000 words. Qazini had an open call that lasted for a month for writers to submit their stories of courage. 

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Attendees at the Qazini 2022 writing competition awards ceremony

Submissions came in from both local and international writers. Qazini’s editorial team followed a set of guidelines to come up with a long list of 25 essays. These 25 essays were then handed over to a panel of 10 external reviewers who received five essays each, one essay reviewed by two reviewers. Throughout this process, the identities of the writers were only known to one member of the Qazini team.

From the external review team, the top ten essays were shortlisted. These stories were edited and published on Qazini, with the permission of the writers, to give the audience a chance to read them. The stories that made it to positions 11 to 15 were also published. The essays were then sent to a panel of five final judges comprising Vincent de Paul, Dr Odhiambo David, Gladwell Pendo, Janet Onyango and Chichi Seii. Following a set of criteria, the judges ranked the essays and their scores were totalled to give the final ranking order.

On Thursday, guests invited to the event started walking into the Chatroom by 6.30 pm for the award ceremony. The space, usually a restaurant and working space, was set up for the ceremony, allowing guests to interact freely. For the top ten writers, the finalists, all came in anticipating a win when the top three would finally be unveiled.

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Cykam the poet entertains the crowd

Susan Njoroge, the master of ceremony, welcomed the guests and officially started the event by playing the pre-recorded videos from the top ten writers on the different screens around the venue. In the videos, the writers introduced themselves and briefly talked about the stories they had chosen to write about.

Sponsors were invited to share a few words with the audience. They included Dr David Odhiambo, co-founder of Ryculture, Gabriel Ndinda, founder of Writers Guild Kenya and Vincent de Paul, Founder and CEO of Mystery Publishers.

Damaris Agweyu, CEO and Founder of Qazini shared some insights into Qazini’s journey, highlighting the role that courage played in the process.

“It took courage to start Qazini. I experienced all the “what ifs” that come with starting anything. What if I didn’t have what it takes? What if it wouldn’t be enough? What if I failed? You know, all the little traps that keep us from achieving that goal. I experienced them. But I took action anyway. Because action is the antidote for fear”, she said.

On behalf of the Judges, Nyambura Gathuru shed light on the process of reviewing that the essays underwent. She congratulated the writers for writing compelling stories of courage that saw them get to be among the top ten finalists. She thanked the panels of internal and external reviewers together with the final judges for taking the time to read through all the essays they received and rank them.

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From left to right: Dr Purity Ngina (invited guest), Damaris Agweyu (founder, Qazini), Rehema Zuberi (competition winner) and Boniface Mwangi (chief guest)

The guest of honour, The People’s Watchman – Mr Boniface Mwangi, began his speech by telling the story of the challenges he faced as he tried to speak on behalf of fellow Kenyans after the 2007–2008 post-election violence. He talked about the importance of storytelling when trying to create change. “Strangers won’t follow you if they don’t understand you,” he said. Sharing your ideas, and telling your story is what leads people to make the decision to support you in what you are doing. He encouraged people to have the courage to tell their stories.

Susan Njoroge finally led the unveiling of the top three winners and their respective stories, Walking Naked by Rehema Zuberi, Damn me if I trust again by Ouma Don Collins, and The Thin Line by Dalton Munga.

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Read the top 15 essays here   

Qazini – supported by Safaricom, Writer’s Guild Kenya, Mystery Publishers, Ryculture and The Chatroom – ensured that the writers were not only awarded in cash but also opportunities to help them hone their skills.

Prizes

1st Position: Cash Prize of Ksh. 20000

2nd Position: Cash Prize of Ksh. 10000

3rd Position: Cash Prize of Ksh. 5000

4th to 10th Position:

Writers Guild Kenya awarded all entrants a free online writing workshop. The top 10 will receive a free face-to-face writing workshop. The top 10 writers will also receive membership and book publishing discounts.

Mystery Publishers awarded the top 10 writers a Free Introduction to Creative Writing course module. All entrants to the competition will also receive a discounted fee for the same course and a further discount if they continue their creative writing learning.

View the image gallery from the ceremony here.