Marial Awendit is the Babishai Poetry Prize 2018 winner for his poem 38 Photographs of Depression. The South Sudan national was announced the winner at a ceremony at the Starlight Hotel in Mbale, Uganda on August 6, 2018.
The Babishai Poetry Prize was founded in 2009 by Ugandan Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva to shine a light on her country’s women poetry scene. The prize would go to Lillian Aujo (2009), Sophie Brenda Alal (2010), followed by Sanyu Kisaka (2011), and Susan Piwang (2012). Realising that their organisation is the only one coordinating annual African poetry competitions, whose secretariat is based on the continent, the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation expanded the prize to both genders and all Africans. The prize would subsequently be won by Tom Jalio (2014), Adeeko Ibukun (2015), and Sanya Noel and Moyosore Orimoloye (2016).
The 2018 edition started off with a callout by the prize organisers who were looking for the best poetry from the continent. Those who would enter would have their work judged by Prof Remi Raji, Alfred Msadala, and Rehema Nanfuka.
A longlist of thirty five of the best poems submitted was followed in July by a shortlist that included Marial Awendit, Boluwatife Afolabi, Grace Sharra, George Gumikiriza, Mhraf Worku (Ethiopia), Stephen Ogunfoworin, Adedayo Adeyemi Agarau, Tariro Ndoro, Yakeeb, Salawu Olajide, and Rex Omonla.
The announcement was made at the Babishai Poetry Festival in Uganda with Marial Awendit being declared the winner for his poem 38 Photographs of Depression. The Chief Judge, Prof Remi Raj, also a Babishai board member, acknowledged, on behalf of the judging team, that his poem was potent, highly imaginative and brimming with originality. He received US$700 and publication of a chapbook poetry collection.
In second place was Grace Sharra from Malawi who delivered her acceptance speech on phone as she was unable to travel to the ceremony. She said she was still dazed (at her achievement).
In third place was George Gumikiriza a young Ugandan poet studying for his degree in Mechanical Engineering at Makerere University, with a passion for art and creativity.