The Antigua and Barbuda Independence Literary Awards dates back to 2005. You’ll find there’s a lot of overlap in the Antigua and Barbuda literary community. I served as a judge once or twice. The Awards’ first chairperson Brenda Lee Browne, who gave up the post after a four year run (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008), has been a Wadadli Pen judge for the past two years. Barbara Arrindell who announced her retirement from the chairmanship after 2011, having run it for three years (2009, 2010, 2011), has been, as manager of the Best of Books, a supporter-cum-partner of Wadadli Pen from 2004. Our literary paths overlap in other ways, and there’s a reason for all that, a shared commitment to nurture and advance the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda. The Independence Literary Awards plays a critical role in that process as it challenges participants of all ages to create to a common theme, usually a nationalistic theme. I was fortunate to be in the audience at this year’s awards to hear Barbara Arrindell deliver these words in the presence of the Culture Minister Eleston Adams. As he is himself a playwright, I hope he heeds them. The literary arts needs more foundational (and financial) support; that’s a fact.
But enough soap boxing; you came here to read about the winners. You’ll notice that this post is called ‘Selections from the A & B Independence Lit Awards 2011’. There’s a reason for that. I’m not posting and/or commenting on every single winning entry (separately), just some of my favourites (blogger’s discretion). Here they are:
First is the first, the young lady who pulled off the amazing upset by besting the two-time champion: Kimolisa Mings, of whose poetry (open mic to open mic) I am a quiet fan for its deceptively delicate force (both in delivery and content) so that
when she reads “They say the world/Is to end in 2012,/I say let it end”, you can’t help but murmur a quiet “yes!” because the flow of words has seduced you around to its point of view. And what is that point of view? Enough with the negativity, let’s tap into the positivity, and light, the God-ness that lives in us and conquer this darkness that threatens to consume. No, it’s not a religious poem but it comes from a deeply spiritual place, in my view, and most importantly, it hooks you. So, here, for your reading pleasure “This is Not a Good Time“.
And I like the concept of teen poet Jordee Josiah’s “I Whisper“. With the deft use of rhetoric, eye catching imagery, and a gently insistent tone, it’s no wonder this poet wowed the judges into granting first placed among poets 12 to 17.
I’m adding this one by one of the little ones because I think it shows promise, and an understanding that the crux of fiction is conflict …if the author were to revisit this story perhaps in a few years, they’d no doubt discover that they could give it more shade and detail, but for now, for a child, it’s a good start. Reminds me a little of one of the winning entries in the 12 and under of Wadadli Pen (2012) in that regard, a story called Mongoose in a Hole – a simple premise in search of a solution. The original submission was actually little more than the premise but it was enough of one to capture the judges’ attention and during the editing cycle of our contest, it grew not just in length but depth. That same potential resides in winner of the 11 and under short story Dante Barton’s Forward On.
Rev. Denise Smith-Lewis won the fiction contest but had to settle for second place in poetry this year even with a strong and resonant parent child take on the theme that spoke of sacrifice and pride; as usual her presentation of it lifted it from the page and it was easily a favourite of the night: Just Forward On.
Emiline Bero’s third placed story (which actually feels more like a personal essay than a short story to be honest) in the teen category was quite clean and poignant, and, as I’m reminded when I talk to nieces, nephews, and other kids I come into contact with, (unfortunately) topical. It deals with the topic of bullying and pushing through it: Forward On.
I liked the humour of Star’s (regular Wadadli Pen winners will know her as Shakeema Edwards – a 2010 and 2011 Wadadi Pen finalist in the teen category) third placed adult (yes, she’s adult now) short story: A New Stove for Independence.
In fact, I liked bits and pieces of some of the others. Some in the winners’ circle I felt clung to cliché or didn’t stretch themselves enough creatively, and I didn’t think having ‘forward on’ as the theme meant it had to be repeated incessantly (show, don’t tell, remember), but there were interesting moments even in those. Here’s the Full List of Winners: All Winners Independence Lit Awards 2011 and here’s my report on the awards ceremony.
FYI, because it’s important to keep a record of these things (so I hope I’m getting this right), this means that the Independence Literary Awards winners are, in order:
Zeina Hechme 2005
Lawrence Jardine 2006
Hazra Medica 2007
Kemal Osmel Nicholson 2008 (incidentally a 2006 Wadadli Pen Honourable Mention)
Rev Denise Smith Lewis 2009
Rev Denise Smith Lewis 2010
Kimolisa Mings 2011