Three Nigerians have been shortlisted for the 2020 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing.
The Caine Prize is an annual literary award for the best original short story by an African writer, whether in Africa or elsewhere, but published in the English language.
The trio are Chikodili Emelumadu for his short story, ‘What to do when your child brings home a Mami Wata’; Jowhor Ile for ‘Fisherman’s Stew’ and Irenosen Okojie for ‘Grace Jones’ from ‘Nudibranch,’ a collection of stories.
The five-writer shortlist for the 20th edition of the Caine Prize featured stories that “speak eloquently to the human condition” through a diverse array of themes and genres. It was virtually graded by the judging panel.
The shortlisted authors for this year’s prize are from Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania. Three out of the five writers are Nigerians. One has dual citizenship (Namibia, Rwanda).
Other writers include Tanzania’s Erica Sugo Anyadike for ‘How to Marry An African President’ and Namibia and Rwanda’s Rémy Ngamije for ‘The Neighbourhood Watch.’
Organisers of AKO Caine Prize said they had to postpone this year’s award ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic but would announce this year’s prize winner later in the year.
“The safety of our authors, staff, guests and partners remains a priority, and the prize will continue to closely monitor the latest government guidelines,” the organisers said.
The winner will receive £10,000 (approximately N4.8 million) in September while shortlisted writers will also receive £500 (approximately N240,000) each.
The shortlisted stories will be published in an anthology, and also through co-publishers in 16 African countries who receive a print-ready PDF free of charge.
Nigerian writers who won the prize in the past include: Helon Habila (2001), Segun Afolabi (2005), EC Osondu (2009), Rotimi Babatunde (2011), Tope Folarin (2013) and Lesley Armah (2019).
Meanwhile, the chair of the judging panel, Kenneth Tharp, said the shortlisted stories signal a robust African literature “that speaks to human conditions as a homogeneous whole”.
“We were energised by the enormous breadth and diversity of the stories we were presented with – all of which collectively did much to challenge the notion of the African and diaspora experience, and its portrayal in fiction, as being one homogeneous whole.
“These brilliant and surprising stories are beautifully crafted, yet they are all completely different from one another. From satire and biting humour, to fiction based on non-fiction, with themes spanning political shenanigans, outcast communities, superstition and social status, loss, and enduring love.
“Each of these shortlisted stories speak eloquently to the human condition, and to what it is to be an African, or person of African descent, at the start of the second decade of the 21st century,” he said in a statement posted on the prize’s website.