Liberian Poet Wins Prestigious International Award

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Patrice Juah

By Tina S. Mehnpaine

Patrice Juah, a published Liberian poet, has been named among the winners of the IE Prizes in Humanities from the Instituto De Empresa (IE) Foundation in Spain. She was on Tuesday, September 22, pronounced as the 1st Prize Winner of the Poetry In English category.

The awards in the Humanities are held every year to celebrate the best written and audio-visual works created by students, alumni, faculty and staff that are part of the IE community. This year, marking the 5th edition, over 300 applicants submitted 700 hundred works in five categories:  poetry, short story and short essay in Spanish and English, video and photography. 

The prizes, issued by the IE Foundation, consist of a printed edition of all the winning works of the year, which are also featured digitally along with the winning videos.

Her winning poem, “An Afro-Madrileña Love Note”, expresses her love for the city of Madrid, Spain. Madrileña in the Spanish language refers to ‘a female resident of Madrid’. 

Juah explains that her winning poem was born “out of my love for Madrid, a city after my heart. Moreover, Spain was one of the countries that has been hardest hit by the Coronavirus pandemic. Many lives were lost and I witnessed firsthand, how gloom befell Madrid, a once bustling city. Hence, a love note to a city which has embraced and given me so much, felt befitting.”

“I am so excited to be named among the winners and emerging as the 1st Prize  Winner of the Poetry in English category. I will continue to use my voice, pen and purpose to redefine the narrative, challenge status quo and give meaning to our world,” she said. She added that though her receipt of the award is a moment to jubilate, it comes at a time when the person who supported and mentored her throughout her educational and literary sojourn, has died.

“I am dedicating my prize to my big sister and backup mom, Oretha Juah, affectionately known as O.J, who passed on in July,” Juah said. “She supported and nurtured me from the very beginning and was my biggest cheerleader. We referred to ourselves as “The Winning Team”, and together, we accomplished a lot. It breaks my heart to see that she’s not here to celebrate with me.” 

Patrice Juah holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the IE School of Global and Public Affairs 2020. She is a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow, and a 2019 Deutsche Welle Global Media Fellow.

She is also the executive director of the Martha Juah Educational Foundation and its Sexy Like A Book initiative, which champions  girls’ education and builds their leadership capacities. The organization is named after her mother, a retired educator. 

“As a firm believer in transforming the educational sector of Liberia, I will continue to contribute to the Liberia Literary Society and keep championing girls’ education through my various initiatives.”

This pledge she is fulfilling by nurturing the skills and confidence of many young, aspiring female writers through her Sexy Like A Book initiative. In 2017, she published a book of poems through Village Tales Publishing. “Enchanting Voices”, the collection of poems by teenage girls who she mentored, produced several profound works of poetry over the course of one year. Published under the auspices of the Martha Juah Education Foundation, Enchanting Voices “echoes stories of a Liberia that could be, but struggles in the now. It echoes stories of hope and dreams; of courage and resilience; of possibilities and a future waiting to bloom. It is a poetic celebration of youth, innocence, joy and emergence from a place of despair to one of progress and fulfilled dreams, if Liberians stay on the path of development, change their mindsets, and value Liberia for the true treasure that she is”.

100% of the proceeds from the book is used to provide scholarships and educational resources to girls in rural Liberia. A second anthology written by the current cohort of girls is scheduled to be released later this year.

As an author, public speaker and award-winning poet, Juah’s literary works cover a wide range of human interests.

Her first book, “Under Ducor Skies”, published in 2018, is a collection poems from her own pen and musings about Liberia, and upon its release, became Amazon’s #1 New Release in African Poetry.

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