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South Sudanese on African Poetry Awards shortlist

By William Madouk


A South Sudanese poet, essayist, and songwriter beat stiff competition to be shortlisted among finalists for the prestigious 2023 African Writers Awards (AWA) for poetry.

Marial Awendit, also known as James Marial Matueny, who is the author of the chapbook poetry The Night Does Not Drown Us and Keeping the Sun Secret, is among the five shortlisted candidates for the Best Poetry Awards.

The list, published by the 2023 African Writers Awards for Poetry, indicates that Mr. Awendit was nominated for his poem ‘The Nilotic Coddiwomple’, a group of poems that talk about people in the labyrinth of cultures.

Among other candidates are Nyachide by Emelda Gwitimah (Zimbabwe), Oracles of Zeros and Ones by Truth Ndubueze (Nigeria), Robo Fantasies by Mufumba Jonathan (Uganda), and Scorching by Uduogu Victor (Nigeria).

Those shortlisted now sit with fingers and toes crossed as they await the grand unveiling of the winners that will take place at the 2023 African Writers Conference, from November 1–5 in Accra, Ghana.

Only three out of five will be declared the winners; however, the prize that the frontrunners will obtain is not yet known.


In an exclusive interview with the No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper, Mr. Awendit was thrilled to make it to the top five.

“It is an honor to be a finalist for the award. This is my first time to enter for an audition for the African Writers Awards.” He added, “So, to get straight to the shortlist is a good indicator.”

He explained that he had won a continentally contested award before, so this is a good add-up.

“There has been a good reception of my poetry among the African literati, and given that I did not start my career with any awards in mind, this is ecstatic,” he noted.

“I do not clearly know what my being a finalist means to the South Sudanese literati in general,” he continued.

But he said when the news spread, his friends on social media were so euphoric and heaped congratulatory messages.

“These awards contested at the continental literary stage have opened many doors for me and my art. I have gone to places I have not gone before,” he continued. “The Babishai-Niwe Poetry Award opened the way for the publication of my first chapbook poetry collection, The Night Does Not Drown Us.”

“I shall also have another poetry collection coming out of this contest if I win the top spot,” he stressed.

Awendit won the 2016 South Sudan Youth Talent Award in the category of best poet. And a continental award: the 2018 Babishai-Niwe Poetry Award for African poets…..Read an interview next.

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