By William Madouk
- Marial Awendit was born in 1991 in Wunagal cattle camp, Lakes State. He is a renowned South Sudanese poet, essayist, and songwriter. He went to Yangtkyom, Mapuordit, and Holy Cross primary schools.
- He studied at Anyafio Role Model SS, Crane High School, Kitintale St. Mbuga, where he obtained a senior four certificate. Presently, he is pursuing medicine and surgery at KIU-WC.
- He is the author of the chapbook poetry collection The Night Does Not Drown Us, published by Babishai-Niwe Poetry Foundation; Keeping the Sun Secret, a poetry collection published by Mwanaka Media and Publishing Pvt Ltd; and Whispers over a Brewing Dawn, published by Carnelian Heart Publishing Ltd.
- He won the 2016 South Sudan Youth Talent Award for the category of Best Poet and the 2018 Babishai-Niwe Poetry Award for African poets. And he’s currently a finalist for the 2023 African Writers Awards.
The No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper caught up with Mr. Marial Awendit, a born South Sudanese poet who is at the peak of his career in the wonderful world of literature, to share his writing experience and the beauty of poetry.
Awendit, who is an aspiring medical doctor, spoke to our reporter, William Madouk, in an exclusive interview, talking about poetry in South Sudan and what the future holds for poets.
Below is the in-depth interview details:
Madouk: Briefly introduce yourself to our readers. Who is Marial Awendit?
Awendit: Marial Awendit, a.k.a. James Marial Matueny Majak, is a South Sudanese poet, essayist, and songwriter. My poems have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies.
I am the author of the chapbook poetry collection The Night Does Not Drown Us, published by Babishai-Niwe Poetry Foundation; Keeping the Sun Secret, a poetry collection published by Mwanaka Media and Publishing Pvt Ltd; and Whispers over a Brewing Dawn, published by Carnelian Heart Publishing Ltd.
I won the 2016 South Sudan Youth Talent Award for the category of Best Poet and the 2018 Babishai-Niwe Poetry Award for African poets. I am currently a finalist for the 2023 African Writers Awards.
Madouk: How many poems have you written?
Awendit: I have written more than 600 poems.
Madouk: How many books have you written and published so far?
Awendit: I have published 3 poetry collections, and I still have 3 poetry collections in consideration with 3 different publishers.
Madouk: What was your inspiration behind your poems?
Awendit: I write about love, injustice, and varied subject matter. Injustice is talked about at least in one poem in every collection I write because it pervades our society, almost on a daily basis.
I am a survivor of injustice myself; my younger brother was murdered by a cousin after a family conspiracy, and the family charlatans who were behind the murder masqueraded as peacemakers.
They used that cover to deter justice, select, and manipulate their own jury of local chiefs, and this consequentially led to the death of my father, 8 months after my brother’s. These two incidents highlighted the impact of injustices on those affected.
Madouk: How has the ride been from when you began until now?
Awendit: I have had a sweet journey. I mean, I have seen better things: one national award and one continental award, and a lot of good mentions. I am currently a finalist for the 2023 African Writers Award for Poetry, alongside four other poets.
Madouk: What challenges did you encounter, and how did you handle them?
Awendit: I have had challenges with the distribution of my books. My books are mainly sold on Amazon, eBay, and Barnes & Noble, and these bookstores do not operate in South Sudan, which means I have to raise enough money to buy my own books from the publisher, specifically for the South Sudanese market.
Madouk: When was the ultimate breakthrough?
Awendit: My breakthrough came with the Babishai-Niwe Poetry Award for African poets, which I won in 2018, from a list of more than one thousand contestants. This award steered the publication of my chapbook poetry collection, The Night Does Not Drown Us.
Madouk: What are your plans for tomorrow?
Awendit: I plan to publish a total of 10 poetry collections, and I can see from then… I still have seven poetry collections coming.
Madouk: What were your dreams before you embarked on writing?
Awendit: I wanted to be a medical doctor and a poet, but now I am a poet who will be a medical doctor in the next 4 years.
Madouk: Who is your role model?
Awendit: Role model? That rarely happens in poetry. I only have poets I like. By liking, I mean to say I like the stuff they write, but I have to write my own poems. This is one way poetry is different from many things, and many upcoming writers should differentiate between liking and writing original art.
Madouk: What are your impressions of South Sudanese poetry and poets?
Awendit: Whereas there are a few real upcoming poets and established poets: Jon Pen, Taban Lo-Lyong, Wenne Madyt Dengs, Taban Abel, John Gai Yoh, Victor Lugala, etc., there are upcoming poets and writers who still require discipline and originality to be of use to the writing community.
Madouk: What does the future hold for South Sudanese poets in the ten years to come?
Awendit: I still contemplate a better civilized literary landscape, and I shall be involved in fomenting that landscape.
Madouk: What do you have to tell upcoming poets?
Awendit: Avoid shortcuts and fame-hunting. Write your own poems or stories.
Madouk: What are your impressions of South Sudanese poetry compared to the rest of the globe in terms of theme, style, and language usage?
Awendit: I have read a few writers who I think are real. There is a tendency to tell stories that resonate with the status quo of our South Sudanese society, which I think is equally important.
Madouk: What do you think is a major hindrance, and how can it be avoided?
Awendit: The major hindrance is the reading culture. We have a pitiable reading culture.
Madouk: How do you rate the reading culture in South Sudan? For instance, the majority don’t read leave-behind writing.
Awendit: Our reading culture is below the average of countries I know. We should embrace literature and art to view our society, its ills, and its endowments.