Four young people have been awarded for the talent, curiosity, and skills showcased in their submissions to the illuminate 2022 competition. This year’s theme of climate change and environmental impact mitigation inspired thought-provoking art pieces and carefully crafted essays, all of which were created by sixth form students hoping to win monetary prizes, as well as invaluable tutoring and support with their university applications from experienced academics.
illuminate is an Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) initiative that offers aspiring students’ insight into transformational ideas that are shaping the world today and connects them with international development industry experts. Following the inaugural cycle in 2019 and a brief hiatus due to COVID-19, the 2022 cycle kicked off in July with an event at the Aga Khan Centre, welcoming climate change experts from across the world to inspire young people to become agents of change in the climate arena. The students in attendance were invited to take part in a multimedia competition, for which they could either enter a short essay, video blog or piece of art to portray, depict and answer questions on the climate crisis.
Upon receiving a number of brilliant entries, illuminate was delighted to welcome the four winning students and their families to the Ismaili Centre in London for the awards ceremony on 12th October 2022. Staff from ARK academies, AKF and members of the Ismaili community were also present at the event.
Naushad Jivraj, President of the Ismaili National Council UK, welcomed guests to the Ismaili Centre and congratulated the winners, noting that each of them “will be a conduit for action within local and global communities”. The quality of entries was duly acknowledged, as Dr Gurdofarid Miskinzoda, Project Lead for illuminate, introduced the programme and emphasised the astuteness, talent, and wisdom of the winners.
Following a keynote address from Mahmood Ahmed, Chairman of AKF UK National Committee, exploring a case study of one of AKDN’s climate resilience initiatives in Uganda, a member of the judging panel was welcomed to the stage. Professor Nacim Pak-Shriaz of the University of Edinburgh was one of three judges who, in her words, had the “privilege to study the submissions of such a talented group of students”. Professor Pak-Shiraz mentioned how the essays took the judging panel on a journey from Antarctica to Africa, from Bangladesh to China and further afield. The art pieces were equally as intriguing, with first prize being awarded to Gema Torres for her multi-dimensional art installation pictured below.
“This was an amazing experience; I’ve learned and developed a lot of new skills. This also gave me the opportunity to meet new people who have helped me through my university application.”
Gema Torres (1st prize)
Second prize went to Zalla Popalzai for her essay on the explicit role climate justice plays in advancing and planning climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. Zalla argues higher-income countries disproportionately contribute to climate atrocities, leaving lower-income, more vulnerable countries to deal with the repercussions – only with global acknowledgement and collaboration, can the world holistically make a change to saving the planet for generations to come.
“The whole experience gave me a lot of life skills. It was really fun researching and expanding my knowledge on global issues.”
Zalla Popalzai (2nd prize)
So impressive were this year’s entries that two students were awarded with third prize. Monaza Husseini won third prize for her essay also exploring the importance of climate justice, noting “It was a really eye-opening experience, learning about climate justice and its impacts”. Beyza Gorur also won third prize for her provocative art piece pictured below (left), which featured damage in the canvas to symbolise the irreversible damage already done to our planet. Since taking part in the competition and researching sustainability, Beyza has decided to pursue studies in green architecture at university.
Beyza’s piece was displayed alongside Amirah Uddin’s artwork (right), which received a special mention for its bold colours and multiple messages.
Following the prize giving ceremony, the Ismaili Community Ensemble performed their song, Child of the Ocean, which was composed for Prince Hussain’s photography exhibition The Living Sea – Fragile Beauty, most recently displayed at the Ismaili Centre in London in September 2022. The captivating performance was a fitting end to the event, reminding those present of the importance of protecting our planet and the critical role young people will play to ‘be the change’ as the future of our planet hangs in the balance.
The entire illuminate team were hugely impressed by the desire and commitment of the young people who attended both events to tackle one of the biggest challenges of our time. The illuminate team welcome the winners as alumni and ambassadors and look forward to supporting the four winners as they progress in their academic careers.
Photos by Aliraza Pandaniya. Words by Kerensa Keevill.