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Ishtiyaq Shukri Rails Against Awards that Classify Writers as “Emerging Voices”

I See YouThe Silent MinaretIshtiyaq Shukri recently wrote an article for Africa is a Country explaining why he withdrew his work from the inaugural Financial Times OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Awards 2015.

The author of I See You and The Silent Minaret writes that the prizes for fiction, film and art are designated for specific regions only (for example, Africa, Middle East, Asia etc) and says: “While artists reach out to the whole world through their creativity, this award divides the creative world into arbitrary categories of their own making, pushing us into spaces too small to contain the full scope of our creative splendour.”

Shukri rages against the use of contrived categories and unpacks his reasons for not believing in “emerging voices” or “emerging market countries”.

Read the article:

Some will think me sensitive. I am. Consider the meaning of emergent: fledgling, embryonic, infant, in the early stages of development. Is the implication that in creative terms we are children? Is that what the broken egg shell on their website is meant to signify which – let us note in passing – is not how human beings are born, but oviparous animals like insects, birds and reptiles? I ask because metaphors are important in an artistic award. We have heard our male elders called “boys” and our female elders “girls”, and to me, the language of this prize is reminiscent of that. Call a writing competition for school children “emergent” if you must, but we are men and women who have already received global accolades in the same global arenas as our European and North American counterparts. Why, given the evidence, this insistence on classifying us as “emergent”? Is the implication that northerners are “established” simply because their countries are rich, while we are eternally doomed to an “emergent” status simply because our countries are less wealthy?

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