Since March 2020 (the beginning of our financial year) FunDza has run six writing challenges aimed at getting our ‘FunDza Fanz’ writers to pick up pen and paper and practise their writing skills. The writing challenges have been run on FunDza’s WhatsApp platform, which has grown from strength to strength since it launched in September 2019.

There was no ice tipping, no water splashing, but there were pages full of hot and cool words in the poems and prose that entrants sent in, all hoping to be in the top 10 and win much-needed airtime!

FunDza kicked off the challenges in March with a ‘Human Rights’ challenge to celebrate Human Rights Day on March 21st. Writers were asked to write a poem in three stanzas using these sentence starters:

In my country I see…
In my country I hope…
In my country I strive for…

It was hard to choose the winners as there were so much powerful writing like this extract from, ‘Equal but not the same’ by Cassandra Cave

In my country, i see dreamers who have wild ideas but lack implementations,
I see fighters who are afraid to fight their battles,
I see strengths that lack confidence
And i see the hope that starts to fade away.

Read the top ten entrants here.

Then Lockdown Level 5 hit and we all needed some hope to keep us going. After a month of staying cooped up FunDza ran the ‘After Lockdown’ writing challenge where writers could dream about things they were looking forward to doing/or not doing when lockdown lifted. There was a lot of yearning for everyday things that we take for granted. Here are just a few of them:

“Early morning joggers, the cars hooting, children playing on the dusty grounds, teenagers leaning against the streetlights, the Gqom groups clashing!” (Dolo Mphembele Jr)

“The sound of the water boiling on the stove on a chilly Sunday morning, and the soulful sound of my mother’s voice as she hums her favourite hymn.” (Zanele Ngomane)

“Jazz music bellowing from the speakers. Men and women tapping lazily along.. an ou toppie in a Dobs hat, checked shirt and pants so finely-pressed the crease looks razor-sharp. He asks a lady to dance.

And, definitely some things that wouldn’t be missed:

“Those long and cold nights where one has to sit up and study for the June examinations. Those nights when I’m trying to get some sleep, but the people at the tavern next door are having a good time. I wish those taverns could close forever.” (Precious Mgciyo)

Read the top 10 entrants here.

By 21 September we had made it out to Lockdown Level 1 and in October and November FunDza ran another four writing challenges, starting with the ‘Diamante’ challenge where Fanz were asked to write a structured poem of seven lines in a diamond-like form that also called on their knowledge of different parts of speech.

Being constrained by the structure meant writers really had to use the best words to convey the essence of their topic. In the case of this writer – their mother.

By Inam Maswana

Strong, humble
Loving, caring, working
Flower, rock, shoulder, hustler
Cooking, feeding, washing
Happy, sad

Read the top ten entrants here.

This was followed by ‘Playing with Tenses’ where participants practiced their tenses in a creative way by reflecting on the past the present and the future in a three stanza prose poem.

When I was…
Now I am…
Someday I will…

I think we can all relate to the emotion of this line in Sabrina Mabimba’s poem ‘2020’.

“Someday I will get to hug my friends and never let go. I will be able to walk the streets without a mask. Someday I will ask my kids: “Do you know the story of Covid-19?”

Read the top ten entrants here.

The third writing challenge FunDza ran called for some practise in dialogue and description in ‘The Words we Choose’ where entrants had to write a short poem/prose piece that included some dialogue between two people, as well as information about the setting.

Here is just one of the many that stood out as winners in this challenge and which was heart-wrenching.

He Took My Innocence
Lelethu Nkantini

He took my innocence.
“Don’t scream you stupid girl.”
It was a Friday afternoon , in the forest,
The rain was pouring hard.
He was on top of me ripping my dress apart with his huge hands
I could see his big eyes full of cruelty and anticipation.
“Don’t tell anyone about this.”
I stood up and ran amidst that confined, wet forest
I couldn’t utter a word, my heart was aching.
It’s like it was torn apart along with my dress.

Read all the top entries here.

The final one for 2020 is underway at present. It’s called “Saturday evening, Sunday morning”. For this writers need to write two descriptive paragraphs each one not more than 60 words. The first is about the Saturday evening in the writer’s neighbourhood, and the second describes the sights, sounds, smells and feelings of the neighbourhood on Sunday morning. We’re looking forward to seeing what creativity is unleashed here.

Such funny, heart-wrenching and powerful pieces came out of the different writing challenges, it was tough to choose the top 10 in all of them and there was lots of deliberation amongst Team FunDza in the judging.

The challenges have highlighted yet more talented new voices and given them a space to shine. FunDza hopes these challenges will continue to engage and grow writers as they explore everything from figurative writing to punctuation and tenses in a fun and inspiring way.

To join FunDza’s WhatsApp platform is quick and easy. Just send ‘Hi’ to 0600 54 8676 or simply click here.