Zambia in first place again!
Issue 3 (May 2008) Zambia is basking in the glow of success, as the nation’s brightest talents scoop prestigious international awards. Travel Zambia reports on two rising stars – writer Ellen Banda-Aaku and 16-year-old Thandiwe Chama.

Writer Ellen Banda-Aaku won the 2007 Commonwealth Short Story Competition with her story Sozi’s Box. The story, which examines the themes of loss and disability through the eyes of a child at her brother’s funeral, beat more than 2000 entries to take first prize.

“Winning the competition means a lot to me,” said Ellen. “I am honoured and at the same time humbled … 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.”

Ellen, who had previously won the Macmillan Writer’s Prize New Writer Award, was born in the UK in 1965 but grew up in Zambia. She studied at the University of Zambia and Middlesex University in the UK, and currently lives in Cape Town, where she is studying for an MA in Creative Writing. “All of the winners displayed signs of talent and writing flair,” commented Nathan Hamilton on behalf of the judging panel. “But, for me, there was one – the overall winner – that had ‘something extra’: it packed a real emotional punch.”

The annual Commonwealth Short Story Competition exists to increase understanding between different Commonwealth cultures, to showcase the rich diversity of the Commonwealth and to support rising literary talents. Past winners include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of the internationally acclaimed Half of a Yellow Sun. The competition is funded by the Commonwealth Foundation and administered by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association.

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Sixteen-year-old Thandiwe Chama of Lusaka’s Chawama township has scooped the 2007 International Children’s Peace Prize, beating 28 other nominees from around the world. The prize, awarded annually to a child who has made an exceptional contribution to children’s rights, was presented to Thandiwe in The Hague by Nobel Peace Laureate, Betty Williams and Live8 initiator Sir Bob Geldof. Thandiwe’s story started in 1999 when, aged only eight, she refused to accept the closure of her school due to lack of teachers and led 60 other children on the long walk to find another. She has been fighting ever since for the right to education for all children. She has also written and illustrated, with a friend, a booklet called The Chicken with AIDS, and has co-written a song called For My Sake, which has been played in the UK, South Africa and Tanzania. 

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