A poem inscribed on a piece of wrapping paper for embroidery thread has won its author a prize in Amnesty International’s 'You Can’t Jail Minds' competition.
The competition is aimed at school children and sets a sobering challenge. They are required to imagine they are imprisoned and denied the right to a fair trial, then express their feelings in the form of a poem – but without the use of pen and paper. Instead, they have to find alternative methods of recording their poetic outbursts.
Aditi Gaddam, 16, a pupil at St Clare’s School, used the 4cm by 4cm scrap of paper used to bind embroidery thread. The poem, called Maze, duly won her the Key Stage 4 regional awards for the Midlands heat of the Amnesty competition. Aditi’s entry now goes forward to the national heat, the winner of which will be announced later this year.
“The judges were impressed by the innovative ways in which pupils across the country took to the task and really put their minds into how individuals could continue to express themselves given limited resources,” said Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK. “Aditi’s entry illustrates that perfectly. Using the tiniest scrap, she managed to produce a truly moving poem. The standard of entries has been brilliant around the country. It shows how much human rights really means to today’s generation.”
The competition was inspired by the experience of Irina Ratushinhskaya in the former Soviet Union, Jack Mapanje in Malawia, and a number of detainees at the infamous US prison camp Guantanamo Bay. All of them produced moving poetry about their experiences, despite being banned from using pen and paper. Instead they used everyday objects such as toilet paper or disposable cups from their dinner trays to etch their words.
Aditi’s activities teacher, Rebecca Winfield, added: “I am delighted that Aditi’s poem Maze won the Amnesty International regional competition. Aditi really took account of how someone who cannot freely express themselves would find ways around it. Her poem is an inspirational piece and illustrates a sense of empathy with prisoners who are denied freedom of expression. All the staff and students are very proud of her achievement.”