Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Ellen Banda-Aaku, from Zambia, has been announced as the overall winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Competition by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association.

As the overall winner Ellen Banda-Aaku receives £2,000 for her story, Sozi's Box, which was selected as the best story from the Africa region of the Commonwealth and as the winning story from more than 2000 entries. She received her prize at the Commonwealth People’s Forum in Uganda. Sozi’s Box examines the themes of loss and disability as seen through the eyes of a child at her brother’s funeral.

The Commonwealth Short Story Competition, awarded annually, exists to increase understanding between and appreciation of different Commonwealth cultures, to showcase the rich diversity of the Commonwealth and to support rising literary talents.

Speaking on her win, Ellen Banda-Aaku commented:

“Winning the competition means a lot to me, I am honoured and at the same time humbled that my story has been selected as the overall winning entry for the 2007 Commonwealth Short Story Competition; it really warms my heart.

“I hope my win inspires other African writers to enter the competition. I'm encouraged to write more about human behaviour and culture, and by doing so hope to heighten our conscience and raise questions about how we deal with the experiences and challenges life throws our way.”

The 4 regional winners in the competition come from Australia and the Pacific (Catherine Palmer from New Zealand), Canada and the Caribbean (Sarah Totton from Canada), Asia (Hema S. Raman from India) and Europe (Emily Pedder from the UK). Highly commended entries come from Nigeria, South Africa, Australia, Canada, St Lucia, Jamaica, India, Pakistan and the UK.

The judges were writer Donna Daley-Clarke, writer and broadcaster Lucy Hannah, and Nathan Hamilton of the New Writing Partnership.

Speaking on behalf of the Commonwealth Short Story judging panel, Nathan Hamilton commented:

“Judging was an enlightening and rewarding experience. Reading through the entries, one got an enjoyable flavour of diverse attitudes and cultures from all over the world. All of the winners displayed signs of talent and writing flair but, for me, there was one -- the overall winner -- that had 'something extra': it packed a real emotional punch.

“In general, the issues that cropped up most often were to do with terrorism or war; childhood; cultural tensions in the family across generations and racial boundaries; emigration and immigration. Environmental concerns were also prevalent. And sometimes entries seemed too preoccupied with portraying elements that may have been assumed to be what a judging panel in London wanted to read. However, each of the winners went beyond a self-consciously chosen issue or theme. They listened instead to the needs of the story and let that guide them.”

Elizabeth Smith, OBE, Secretary General of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association said:

“The winning stories open windows into other cultures. For the writers, the stories open doors into a wider world. For the peoples of the Commonwealth, they open our hearts, so that we can understand each other better.”

Past winners of the prize include: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Half of a Yellow Sun, winner of this year’s Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction and winner of the First Book Award for the 2005 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for her novel Purple Hibiscus, who was highly commended in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition for The Tree in Grandma’s Garden; and Usha Rajagopalan, an Indian writer, who published an acclaimed first novel Amrita after winning the competition.

The Commonwealth Short Story Competition began in 1996. It is funded by the Commonwealth Foundation and administered by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association. CBA member stations have the right to broadcast the short stories free of charge.

Overall winner - Sozi’s Box by Ellen Banda-Aaku

Sozi’s Box examines the themes of loss and disability as seen through the eyes of a child at her brother’s funeral.

Ellen Banda-Aaku from Zambia was born in the UK in 1965. She grew up in Zambia and later moved to the UK to study. She has a BA in Public Administration from the University of Zambia and an MA in Finance and Social Policy from Middlesex University in the UK. She lived in Ghana for several years and currently lives in Cape Town, South Africa, where she is studying for an MA in Creative Writing. She is the author of a children's book, Wandi's Little Voice, published by Macmillan UK, which won the Macmillan Writer's Prize New Writer Award in 2004.

Regional Winners

Australia and Pacific – Bushwoman by Catherine Palmer
Europe – Days Are Long by Emily Pedder
Asia – Where Do I Belong? by Hema Raman
Canada and the Caribbean – The Man with the Seahorse Head by Sarah Totton

Highly commended

Trial by Water by Molara Wood
Six-Pack by Wame Molefhe
Never Put Your Hand in a Dog’s Mouth by Linda C. Saunders

Underneath the Sky by Rayika Choudri
A Good Night’s Work by Ashwini Gowariker
A Win-Win Game by Aniruddha Sen
Arranged Marriage by Manasi Subramaniam

Australia and Pacific
Zuka’s Gift by David Campbell
Heaven by Robert Carter
The Passionfruit by Paddy O’Reilly
Hook-Up by Ash Rehn
In Transit by Eunice Tan
Do Not Disturb by Bruce Riddell

Canada and Caribbean
The Village Voice by Katherine Atkinson
Scissors by Darryl Berger
Melnyk Comes Home by Stewart Boston
Kick by Carin Makuz
The Last Ride by Ditta Sylvester
Leaving by Donna Tremblay

The Flying Carpet by Faye Davies
In Arms by Juliet O’Callaghan

1 comment:

red-handed said...

Kudos for reporting on (and promoting) this. My story was one of those 'highly commended', and it's a great thing to be associated with.
-- Darryl Berger, "Scissors"