[The JRB Daily] 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing shortlist announced, featuring stories that tackle ‘the ordinary in an extraordinary manner’

The shortlist for the twentieth edition of the Caine Prize for African Writing has been announced, featuring writers from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria.

The £10,000 prize was launched in 2000, and is awarded annually to an African writer of a short story published in English.

This year’s five-writer shortlist was announced by chair of judges Peter Kimani.


Editor’s note, September 2019: several months after the Caine Prize shortlist was formulated, similarities between his short story and that of another writer, ‘Wanderlust’ by Laleh Khadivi, published in 2014, came to light. This caused the Caine Prize to withdraw Okafor’s story from its 2019 shortlist. It is accordingly struck through in the text below. You can read more on this story at James Murua’s African literature blog, and find the Caine Prize’s statement here. As of the time of this note, Okafor’s story remains the SSDA Prize winner.


Kimani, author of the award-winning novel Dance of the Jakaranda, says: ‘This is a special year for the Caine Prize for African Writing, as it marks its twentieth anniversary. It’s a milestone that affords for both a reflection on the past, and a projection into the future.

‘Without exception, past Caine Prize winners have been revolutionary and evolutionary—breaking fresh ground, while pushing the African story from the margins to the mainstream of world literature.

‘The five writers on this year’s shortlist carry on with that tradition, not just in their inventiveness in imagining the world, but also in tackling the ordinary in an extraordinary manner, in a wide range of issues: gender and generation; home and exile; sexuality and religion; love and hate; happiness and heartbreak.’

2019 Caine Prize shortlist

Click on the link to read the story

  • Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) for ‘Skinned’, published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Issue 53 (2018)
  • Meron Hadero (Ethiopia) for ‘The Wall’, published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Issue 52 (2018)
  • Cherrie Kandie (Kenya) for ‘Sew My Mouth’, published in ID: New Short Fiction From Africa (2018)
  • Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti (Cameroon) for ‘It Takes A Village Some Say’, published in The Baffler (2017)
  • Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor (Nigeria) for ‘All Our Lives’, published in ID: New Short Fiction From Africa (2018)

Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor’s ‘All Our Lives’ was the winner of the 2017 Short Story Day Africa Prize. Cherrie Kandie’s ‘Sew My Mouth’ was shortlisted for the same prize.

Lesley Nneka Arimah, author of the acclaimed collection of short stories What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, was previously shortlisted for the Caine Prize in 2017.

Joining Kimani on the 2019 Caine Prize judging panel are Nigerian author and playwright Sefi Atta, who was shortlisted for the 2006 Caine Prize; acclaimed author and journalist Margie Orford; Professor Scott Taylor, director of the African Studies Program at Georgetown University; and Sierra Leone-born author Olufemi Terry, winner of the 2010 Caine Prize.

The winner of this year’s prize will be announced at an award ceremony and dinner at SOAS University of London on Monday, 8 July 2018. Each shortlisted writer will also receive £500.

The shortlisted stories will be printed by New Internationalist in a special publication to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Caine Prize, and through co-publishers in sixteen African countries, including Jacana Media in South Africa. This year the Caine Prize is also publishing a special anniversary anthology to mark the twentieth year of the award.

Last year’s prize was won by Kenyan writer Makena Onjerika, for her short story ‘Fanta Blackcurrant’.

Header image: Caine Prize/Composite: The JRB

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