Shokola hosts Penguin Prize winner Ellen Banda-Aaku

Shokola, a popular café and restaurant in Kigali, that incorporates an art gallery and a library, recently, hosted an event that attracted writers and fans of creative writing from different parts of Kigali. The event was graced by Ellen Banda-Aaku, whose novel titled ‘Patchwork’ won the Penguin Prize for Africa Writing in 2010.  Written through a child’s eyes, the novel follows the story of a nine year-old pumpkin and her life in Lusaka.
UK-based Zambian writer Ellen Banda-Aaku.The New Times/ Joseph Njata.
UK-based Zambian writer Ellen Banda-Aaku.The New Times/ Joseph Njata.

Shokola, a popular café and restaurant in Kigali, that incorporates an art gallery and a library, recently, hosted an event that attracted writers and fans of creative writing from different parts of Kigali.

The event was graced by Ellen Banda-Aaku, whose novel titled ‘Patchwork’ won the Penguin Prize for Africa Writing in 2010.

Written through a child’s eyes, the novel follows the story of a nine year-old pumpkin and her life in Lusaka.

Banda-Aaku is a Zambian writer born in the UK in 1965 but grew up in Africa where she studied Public Administration at the University of Zambia. In 2007, her short story ‘Sozi’s Box’ won the Commonwealth Short Story Competition.

Banda-Aaku has published three children’s books ‘Yours Faithfully Yogi’, ‘Twelve Months’ and ‘Wandi’s Little Voice’, which won the Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa in 2004.

In 2010, Banda-Aaku’s manuscript ‘Patchwork’ won the fiction category for the inaugural Penguin Prize for African writing. Patchwork was selected out of 250 entries for the fiction category of the competition.

The award seeks to highlight the diverse writing talent on the African continent and make new African fiction and non-fiction available to a wider readership.

During the event, Banda-Aaku led the audience through public reading and discussions.

“I had often thought of writing, but never got around to it. I started writing by chance,” Banda-Aaku said.

“I was based in Ghana at the time when I saw a call for submissions to the Macmillan Writers’ Prize for Africa. It was a call for stories for children –     I entered and to my surprise won the New Children’s Writer Award. That was in 2004,” she recounted.

Like many writers, Banda-Aaku’s journey has not been very smooth. “I was lucky in that my first manuscript won an award and was published as part of the prize. However, I have had my fair share of rejections since. So, although the ride has not been bumpy it has not been smooth sailing either,” she adds.

Banda-Aaku said that her writings are inspired by real life experiences: “Although I can’t pin-point what exactly inspired me to write Patchwork, my writing generally comes from my life and that of others” she noted.

‘Patchwork’ is available in bookstores in South Africa and on Amazon UK and Canada – the author hopes it will be in Rwanda soon.

Her advice for aspiring Rwandan writers is to read and write, a lot of time.

Banda-Aaku holds an MA in Creative Writing with distinction from the University of Cape Town. She has worked as a tutor in Literary Studies and as a Writing Consultant with the University of Cape Town.

She is in the country, courtesy of the British Council Rwanda. Banda-Aaku is scheduled to conduct similar reading and discussion sessions at Kigali Institute of Education among other institutions.

The 46-year-old is currently based in the UK, with her two children Saada and Kweku.

Speaking at the event, the British Council Rwanda representative Libby Karangwa-Milles, announced a new pilot project budded ‘World Words Radio’, a series of ten 15-minute radio programmes produced by the British Council, aimed at giving local listeners access to contemporary British Literature.

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