In less than a month, the 2020 AKO Caine Prize winner will be announced!
For those who are not familiar, the Caine Prize for African Writing (now known as the AKO Caine Prize), which was first awarded in year 2000, is an award “open to writers from anywhere in Africa for work published in English. Its focus is on the short story, reflecting the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition” (source).
Some notable winners of the Caine Prize include (click on links to my reviews):
- Leila Aboulela, from Sudan (2000) – author of novels Minaret, The Translator, Lyrics Alley, among other works.
- Binyavanga Wainaina, from Kenya (2002) – founding editor of Kwani?, author of memoir One Day I Will Write About This Place and the essay How To Write About Africa found in various literary magazines. *sigh* Rest In Power, Binya!
- Yvonne A. Owuor, from Kenya (2003) – author of the novel, Dust.
- E.C Osondu, from Nigeria (2009) – author of the novel This House is not For Sale and collection Voice of America: stories.
- NoViolet Bulawayo, from Zimbabwe (2011) – author of the novel, We Need New Names.
- Lesley Nneka Arimah, from Nigeria (2019) – author of short story collection, What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky
Previously shortlisted writers include: (2001) Mia Couto from Mozambique, (2002) Chimamanda Adichie from Nigeria, (2006) Laila Lalami from Morocco, (2013) Chinelo Okparanta from Nigeria, (2013) Pede Hollist from Sierra Leone, (2014) Tendai Huchu from Zimbabwe, (2013 & 2015) Elnathan John from Nigeria, among others!
The AKO Caine Prize and the shortlisted stories play huge roles in the authors I read from Africa and the Diaspora. Many AKO Caine Prize winners and shortlisted writers have found great success and I’ve reviewed a good number of these writers’ work here on African Book Addict!
This year, the AKO Caine Prize shortlist comprises of five talented writers with stories that ‘speak eloquently to the human condition’ (left to right):
(Image via caineprize.com)
Erica Sugo Anyadike (Tanzania) – Read her story: How to Marry An African President
Rémy Ngamije (Rwanda & Namibia) – Read his story: The Neighbourhood Watch
Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigeria & UK) – Read her story: What To Do When Your Child Brings Home a Mami Wata
Jowhor Ile (Nigeria) – Read his story: Fisherman’s Stew
Irenosen Okojie (Nigeria & UK) – Read her story: Grace Jones
Women dominate the shortlist again – I LOVE to see it! I’m still making my way through all the stories. So far I’ve read Erica Sugo Anyadike and Jowhor Ile’s stories; and skimmed through Chikodili Emelumadu and Irenosen Okojie’s stories.
Fisherman’s Stew by Ile is a calm story about Nimi, an elderly woman, who believes her dead husband comes home to her one night. It seems she frequently has encounters with this man who has long passed away, but when she mentions this to her daughter or her neighbor, they worry about her mental health. As the story progresses, readers get to decipher whether Nimi’s encounters are true or imagined. The story is quite simple, not mind-blowing. The writing is simple, yet beautiful. The descriptions of the market and it’s foodstuff, Nimi’s late night cooking of fish stew and even the opening scene (which caught me off-guard) where Nimi and her husband lay together, definitely showcased Ile’s lovely way with words. I’m not sure if the story is a prize-winning story, though.
How to Marry An African President is another good story that’s easy to read, but it wasn’t a story I hadn’t read before. I skimmed through What To Do When Your Child Brings Home a Mami Wata and I was reminded of Emelumadu’s humor! Her story Bush Baby was shortlisted for the Caine Prize in 2017, so I expected nothing less than her wonderful, sharp satire. I also skimmed through Grace Jones by Okojie (I really want to read her three books that have been published. But getting access to physical books is almost impossible now, thanks to the borders being close). It was a little hard for me to understand what was going on initially, but so far I’m captivated by the writing!
Sigh… To be honest, I’ve slowly lost interest in the Caine Prize over the years. I’m no longer excited about the shortlist or the stories, or who wins. I’m not sure if I’m fatigued at how repetitive everything is, or if I’m just fatigued in general.
Anyway, may the best story win. I won’t be shocked if Grace Jones is the winner. Okojie’s writing is known to be out of this world!
Which story is your favorite? Who do you think will win the AKO Caine Prize this year?
The winner will be announced on 27th July 2020. Good luck to all the shortlisted candidates!
You can also check out my past commentary on the AKO Caine Prize below: