Stories of their lives - Winning entries reach greater heights in third Intercultural Writing Contest
2017-08-15 14:00:00 -

By Staff Reporter

Five young writers who won the third annual Metro Éireann–Kenan Institute for Ethics Intercultural Writing Competition have been presented with €3,200 in prizes.

The competition was launched in 2015 to provide an opportunity for young writers aged 14 to 21 of all nationalities to explore the ethical challenges associated with intercultural diversity in Ireland.


The organisers also said they hoped the programme would promote integration and enrich Irish intercultural life while at the same time helping the development of the next generation of great Irish writers.


Speaking at the presentation of prizes which also marked the end of Duke University’s annual DukeEngage Dublin summer programme, the competition’s 2017 co-ordinator Bill McCarthy praised the participants for entering the competition.


“Having read the bulk of your submissions, I do believe you young people are plotting an incredibly interesting future,” said the Duke student and intern at Metro Éireann. “This summer, our competition received a record of 67 submissions, all of which were remarkably insightful and inspiring. All of you wrote from the depths of your imagination; some of you drew from personal experiences and hardships.”


He added: “Many of you told stories of struggle, of anxiety and wonder and redemption. Others told tales of migration, of fear and trepidation and anticipation. You explored what it means to find home and friendship and a sense of identity. You grappled with the ethical challenges that arise when new cultures bring new people, religion, ideas, and perspectives to a place. You thought about what an intercultural Ireland would look like, and with vivid details and compelling plotlines, you brought the reader there.


“You have all done so well, and we at Metro Éireann and the Kenan Institute are so incredibly pleased to have provided an outlet for this work. We thank you for your interest in intercultural diversity, ethics, and the written word.”


Eleven out of the 67 entries were selected as finalists for the awards. In the 14-17 age group, McKenna Whitfield, Antoinette Atik, Alison Dunne, and Eniola Malomo made the final list, while Ilyana Kuhling, Laura Carroll, Rere Ukponu, and Christie Kandiwa were shortlisted in the 18-21 category. Others included Ife Uzor, Tia Burke, and Namra Amir in the Spirit of Intercultural Ethics category.


Before the presentation, the young writers gathered at the event heard from two special guests – Liz McManus, former Government minister, award-winning author and current chair of the Irish Writers Centre; and writer and performance poet Colm Keegan – on how they could succeed as authors.


First prize of €800 in the 14-17 group went to Antoinette Atik from Thurles, Co Tipperary. One of our judges said Atik winner’s entry, a collection of three poems, was remarkably impressive for a writer of such a young age, while another took note of the “very strong imagery and use of symbols to capture the challenges [of life in Ireland]”.


Runner-up was McKenna Whitfield from Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, who went home with €400. Her story ‘Hidden Faith’ was described by one of the judges as “an excellent exercise in empathy” and good enough to be published widely. Another judge said it was “imaginatively engaging with the themes and gripping for the reader right to the end.”


In the 18-21 category, Rere Ukponu from Firhouse in south Dublin won the top prize of €800 with her short story ‘Different’. A member of the judging panel called her winning entry “a very strong piece that captures difference very well” in our society.


“This is an excellent narrative dramatisation of personal revolt against oppressive misidentification, linguistically and imaginatively daring and morally courageous and clear-headed,” added another judge.


The category’s runner-up, a collection of poems under the title ‘Definitions of Home’ by Llyana Kuhling of Castletroy in Limerick was referred to as truly great work. 


“It is cleverly structured and gets across the ambiguities of home and belonging in a neat and coherent way,” said the judges.


The Spirit of Intercultural Ethics Award, meanwhile, was presented to Namra Amir from Portlaoise, whose poetry collection was chosen for its attention to the themes of intercultural ethics and diversity, best representing what the competition is trying to achieve.


“Amazing interaction with the theme … weaves in very crucial symbols and has a great understanding of the subject and of poetry,” the judges said, adding that the entry was “wonderful and beautiful - a celebration of the power of poetry to transcend difference and express otherness.”


Speaking at the prizegiving, Metro Éireann editor Chinedu Onyejelem applauded the participants and organisers of the Duke Engage programme in Dublin, especially Suzanne Shanahan, director of the Kenan Institute of Ethics, and Bill Tobin for their efforts in promoting diversity in Ireland in the last 10 years.


He also praised the work of co-ordinator Bill McCarthy in getting the highest number of entries for the competition in its third year.


Onyejelem reserved special mention for the judging panel, which included Ciaran Carty, editor of the Hennessy New Irish Writing Awards; Declan Hayden, community development manager for south-east area in Dublin City Council; Kunle Animashaun, writer and director of Camino Productions; Dave Lordan, author and founder of Dublin Young Authors programme; and Joe Gorman, a winner in the 2016 Metro Éireann–Kenan Institute for Ethics Intercultural Writing Competition.


Metro Eireann Writing Composition


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