B.C.’s Punjabi youth writing award, now in its 6th year, will be open to submissions from Indigenous students for 2023.
Traditionally, the Dhahan Youth Award grants students in Punjabi language classes the opportunity to be selected for a $500 cheque, a certificate and the publication of their story in an anthology called Lofty Heights.
However, this year two additional stories will be selected from Indigenous students attending Grade 11 or 12 in the Surrey School District.
The Indigenous stories will be translated into Punjabi by a Punjabi language student.
The initiative is a furtherance to the inclusion of three Indigenous student poems in last year’s anthology.
“As an organization committed to diversity and equity, we felt this was a small, but impactful, way to dedicate ourselves to Truth and Reconciliation for Canada’s First Nations people,” explains Barj Dhahan, founder of the Award. “We want to hear the stories from all our youth. We want to learn from the Indigenous youth.”
“Our goal is always to bridge gaps between cultures, so we can create meaningful relationships and understanding between one another. Including Indigenous voices is a natural fit for what we are trying to do,” he continues.
Typically the Punjabi students translate their own work into English before it is published in the anthology. Now two will have the challenge of using their language skills in another way: by translating another student’s work from English into Punjabi.
“They will have to delve into the meaning and sentiment that the Indigenous student is trying to express,” explains Munveer Dhahan, coordinator for the Dhahan Youth Award. “They will really need to draw on their vocabulary while comprehending the material.”
Gurpreet Bains, Languages Department Head at L.A. Matheson Secondary School in Surrey, says the topics students write about ignite class discussions that hold weight within their peer group. They include themes like mental health in youth, migration experiences, bullying, social issues like abuse and neglect, the importance of mother-tongue languages, COVID and more.
Indigenous student participation has been especially significant for L.A. Matheson’s Indigenous Department Head, Annie Ohana.
“Undoubtedly it has sparked the fire of writing for Indigenous students. Writing unpacks a connection to roots, to inner feelings. Quite a few Indigenous students are wrapped up in unpacking intergenerational trauma. We let them do that in safe spaces that empower rather than deficit, and amplify rather than erase,” she says.
“The use of mother tongues and written oral traditions are among the most effective tools in undoing colonial domination and genocide across a wide breadth of world traditions and heritages,” she continues. “We aren’t just building writers, or language speakers, we are building leaders, one word at a time.”
What is The Dhahan Youth Award?
Since 2017, the Dhahan Youth Award has recognized the written Punjabi stories of high school students taking Punjabi language classes in B.C.
To be eligible, students must create an original story in Punjabi, and then translate that story into English.
Submissions are received with approval from a classroom teacher. Punjabi language experts across Canada join a jury panel to review and select the best of the stories.
Selected stories are presented at The Dhahan Prize ceremonies alongside winning authors of the adult-focused, international Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature. The latter is the world’s richest literary prize among South Asia’s indigenous languages. Ceremonies are held yearly in the fall, at locations in the Metro Vancouver area.
Students whose stories are selected receive a certificate and a $500 cheque in front of a live audience. Their works are published in an anthology called Lofty Heights. The anthology is published in Punjabi (both Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi scripts), English and French. It is used as a teaching tool in B.C. classrooms.
To submit a story for the Dhahan Youth Award, visit the following page:https://dhahanprize.com/dhahan-prize-youth-award/
For more information, please contact:email@example.com