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Rwandan Writer Agahozo Shortlisted for 2023 Koffi Addo Writivism Nonfiction Prize

Rwandan writer Denyse Agahozo has been shortlisted for the Koffi Addo Writivism Prize for Creative Nonfiction, an annual award recognising outstanding creative non-fiction by emerging writers of African descent.

Administered by the Center for African Cultural Excellence (CACE) and sponsored by the Koffi Addo family, the prize celebrates literary excellence and cultural diversity.

Agahozo’s essay, “Sandals are Mountain Shoes,” secured a spot on the shortlist together with other four essays: “If You’re Gay and Waiting to be Sent Out the Line” by Ekpenyong K. Collins from Nigeria, “Lilies” by Tamani Sale, also from Nigeria, “Sticking the Landing” by K.W. Ugwuede, also representing Nigeria, and “The Covenant of Fate” by South African Mlamli Tyulu.

Agahozo’s reflective essay delves into the themes of identity and grief. The author recalls childhood moments and a transformative trip to her mother’s mountain home, where she confronts familial history and loss. Through storytelling, Agahozo explores the resilience found in embracing heritage and navigating personal and collective experiences.

The Writivism Literary Initiative announced the shortlist for the prize on February 29, 2024, along with the finalists for its 2023 short story and poetry prizes. Works by five writers have been shortlisted in each category, selected from a pool of over 500 entries.

According to a statement by the organisers, readers whittled down the entries to under 50 in each category, which were sent to two judges each.

The statement indicates that the winners in each category will be announced in the forthcoming months.

Agahozo, a Rwandan writer, as described in a biography provided by the prize organisers, discovered a passion for storytelling from a young age when she often found herself hovering over candlelight, sharing stories of faraway places with people who couldn’t be more different from each other.

She believes that stories can help people make sense of some of their most unspeakable traumas and often incorporates them into her work on mental health. She writes a blog called Agahozo (something to wipe tears, in Kinyarwanda) on Substack, where she shares her thoughts through fiction and essays. In her free time, Agahozo enjoys conversations with strangers and long naps.

She was also the fourth place winner of the Hamwe Festival 2021 Short Story Contest organized by the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE).

Find out more here.

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