The Irish Times Africa Day Writing Competition 2016: the winners

Shannon Coady, Stephanie Iwuala, Miriam Onwule and Wasekera Chiphazi-Banda named as winners in second annual contest


Three Dublin-based students and a Malawian national have been selected as the winners of The Irish Times Africa Day Writing Competition 2016. The competition was run in conjunction with Irish Aid as part of its annual Africa Day celebrations. It invited primary school and second-level students, as well as adult short-story writers , essayists and poets to submit a piece addressing the relationships and interactions between Ireland and Africa.

Shannon Coady from St James’s Primary School in Dublin 8 and Stephanie Iwuala from Our Lady of the Wayside, Bluebell, Dublin 12 were named joint winners of the primary school category. Both are 6th class pupils. Eva Sherlock, formerly of Newport Primary School, Tipperary, now at Sandford International School, Addis Ababa, was given a special commendation for her piece on her experience living in Ethiopia.

Miriam Onwule, a 5th year student at Maryfield College in Drumcondra, Dublin 9, won the secondary school category, while Wasekera Chiphazi-Banda won the adult category. The winning entries, chosen by Barbara Wilson of Irish Aid and Martin Doyle, assistant literary editor of The Irish Times, are published below.

The winners will each receive a selection of books to the value of €50 and there will be a photographic presentation at The Irish Times.

Africa Day, which falls on May 25th annually, is the official day of the African Union and marks African unity. In Ireland, Africa Day events highlight the scope and benefits of Ireland’s engagement with Africa.

The flagship Africa Day event is being held at Farmleigh in the Phoenix Park today, May 29th, from 11am to 6pm. The free, family-focused festival will see performances from more than 20 musical acts, including internationally renowned Irish folk and world music group, Kíla; afro-futuristic multicultural group, Ájo Arkestra; and eight-piece Afro-soul band, Feather. There will also be children’s entertainment, food, dance, drumming a “Best Dressed” competition and a fashion parade. Dublin Bus is providing a free shuttle bus from Parkgate Street into the Phoenix Park.

Irish Aid also hosts Africa Day celebrations in Limerick, Cork, Waterford and Galway, in conjunction with city and county councils.

The winning entries

Primary school category

We Are All Just People

By Shannon Coady

In Ireland we don’t know how lucky we are,
If we want to walk to school we don’t have to walk far.
Anything we need we go around to the shop,
If we turn on the tap the water won’t stop.
We spend money on stuff we don’t really need,
Companies just try make money but it’s all just for greed.
In Africa it’s different, it’s a totally different pace,
They use every little thing and nothing goes to waste.
Sometimes the world is very cruel,
While we moan, African kids just want to go to school.
It’s unfair that the world is so unequal,
At the end of the day we are all just people.

Being a black Irish person sometimes can be overwhelming

By Stephanie Iwuala

My links with Africa are very strong because my parents are from Nigeria. I was born and raised in Ireland but I have been taught their culture and language. Although I can’t speak the language, I can still hear it. But hopefully in the next few years I will be able to speak it fluently.

At home my parents mostly talk to me in Ibo, my language. I try my best to understand. They believe it is very important for me to know my own language. I think it is very important too. They raise me the way they were treated when they were younger to show me discipline. And one day I hope to be like them.

Coming to Ireland for my parents, I’m guessing they were a bit worried. Because they wouldn’t be used to anything and they didn’t have any family to depend on. But then soon enough they settled here and got to know the county better.

Having the thought of being a black Irish person sometimes can be overwhelming. But I have my family and friends here to support me every step of the way and for that I am very grateful.

Secondary school category

Life is not quite as black and white as that

By Miriam Onwule

“You’re not African if you’re not African.”

How many Young Africans have heard that statement? Repeated to them over and over, like constant echoes.

Nkechis, Bukolas and Chindedus are slowly being replaced by Chloes, Shannons and Seans. Society’s views of what is white and black have beclouded younger minds into thinking you can only be African if you are black and have an afro?.

“You’re not Irish. You’re not white?” Being a young African-Irish woman I am constantly being told what I am and even more often, what I am not.

“Don’t become an akata and forget your roots”: this is the voice of our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. They speak as if they are scared we will forget ourselves, forget our roots, forget our identity.

I was born in Abia state, Nigeria and came to Dublin when I was one with my family. I have two younger brothers, Sean and Daniel, who both were born here. I went to primary school and am now in 5th year studying for my Leaving Cert. Dublin is my home now, you could say. I would call myself a Dubliner, but yet I’m not quite the same as the others in my class. Needless to say, Sunday dinners with all the trimmings aren’t our thing. We like our geles and our jollof rice and Nigeria is so very much a part of me. But I know, it’s not quite as black and white as that…

But our identity is changing. We are not them. Often we are faced with questions about who you are? What your belief is? Where you stand? What you believe in?

The answer to all of these questions is simple… you! Being African Irish, we carry the uniqueness of both cultures.

You shouldn’t have to prove your Irish heritage by being white. There is no set colour for being Irish or African. You are the unity of two very beautiful cultures merged into one. You can be bits of both, and that’s ok.

As the new younger generation, it is our responsibility to live the example and show people that you can be any race and represent any culture you feel you belong to.

As a young black woman, pushing through these barriers we face hasn’t been easy and I know it’s easier written than done, but I also know that disregarding either of our two beautiful cultures isn’t the way. I am studying for my Leaving Certificate and I hope to move on to do medicine here. I hope to be a doctor here and I hope to build my family here. I am proud to be a young African-Irish woman and I am proud to be part of a generation that is forming and shaping a beautiful fusion of two vibrant and wonderful cultures.

Adult category

African Irish

By Wasekera Chiphazi-Banda

Our ties runs deep
Our blood flows in unity –
like the waters of the Congo River,
Where we first met and we became one
Your pain became my pain
Your pride has been my pride
Stepping above the differences
You and I are family.
Back when apartheid cut holes in our hearts
When we longed to be counted for
You saw our tears and gave us hope
You held our hands and gave us faith
And then I knew, you and I are family
Look at us now, strong as ever
Look at us now, making history together.
For giving an education to the Ugandan child
For providing to my needy brothers and sisters in Malawi
For giving hope to the South African child
I proudly stand and say:
I am African-Irish

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