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K1 million top prize for National Literary Award

Malawi Writers Union (Mawu) on Friday announced the introduction of the National Literary Award, which is a replacement for the Peer Gynt Award.

Mawu President Sambalikagwa Mvona said they were excited as a writers body to dangle the award which will see the winner walking away with K1 million with second and third prize winners receiving K500,000 and K200,000 respectively.

Mvona also said that, apart from the three prizes, there will be consolation prizes.

He said the coming of the National Literary Award indicates that they are making progress in as far as uplifting writing is concerned.

A lot has been said that writing has gone down in the country and that the country can no longer stand out on the international platform and compete in top competitions such as Caine Prize.

But Mvona said there was progress, only that writers have to do more and be serious in their writing, hence introducing awards on the ground to motivate them.

“The National Literary Award is a replacement for Peer Gynt Literary Award. You remember that the Peer Gynt Award has been running for almost 10 years, funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy, but we said we would change after sourcing extra funds,” said the Mawu leader.

He said the Peer Gynt Award was part of honouring Norway for its support but they have localised it, hence wearing the brand new name of National Literary Award.

“Malawian writer s deserve to get awards in the writing circles, so the National Literary Award is here and the whole thing is to sustain this competition even if there are no donors,” he said.

Mvona said the competition will start now and that they were priviledged to have funding from Hivos and the Royal Norwegian Embassy.

“Writers should get ready because the competition is starting right now and we will give them close to eight months. And while with Peer Gynt we were publishing three manuscripts this time it will only be one manuscript,” he said.

Some quarters have in the past expressed concern over Mawu competitions, saying they were not transparent which has frustrated some writers.

But Mvona insisted that their competitions are transparent.

“In most cases when we are calling for the entries we normally tell them not to indicate their names but only addresses. This is part of being transparent. The field is levelled and the judges are professional,” Mvona said.

He described such competitions as important in that they offer writers a platform to bring out their stories.

“We actually haven’t had many book productions in the country but these competitions are aimed at pushing writers to do more. We need to be aggressive and produce more books,” he said.

Mvona also said, with freedom of expression in the country, writers should be able to talk about different issues and that authors should be able to help in sustaining democracy.

He said Mawu will continue to work hard and spread its hands to reach out to more writers and create a platform for them.

“Writers should be serious in whatever they are writing. They should not try but write with full confidence,” Mvona said.

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