[The JRB Daily] The AKO Caine Prize announces 2020 judging panel—and major new sponsorship deal

The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing has announced its panel of judges for 2020, and a new sponsorship deal. 

The prize was launched in 2000, and is awarded annually to an African writer of a short story published in English. The winner receives £10,000 prize money (about R190,000), and each shortlisted writer also receives £500.

Last year’s winner was Nigerian writer Lesley Nneka Arimah.

The Chair of Judges for the 2020 edition of the prize is Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp, the director of the Africa Centre in London. 

The prize announcement says:

A prominent figure in the cultural sphere, Kenneth was made a CBE in recognition of his services to dance, which included working with the London Contemporary Dance Theatre. As a passionate champion of the arts, he brings a welcome diversity of experience to the judging panel.

Tharp will be joined on the panel by Audrey Brown, a South African journalist with BBC Africa in London; Gabriel Gbadamosi, a British poet, playwright, essayist and novelist of Irish–Nigerian descent who won the Tibor Jones Pageturner Prize in the Best International Novel category for Vauxhall, published in 2013; Kenyan journalist and JRB Editorial Advisory Panel member James Murua, whose prominent blog publishes news and reviews from the African literary scene; and Ebissé Wakjira-Rouw, a Dutch–Ethiopian editor currently working at the Council for Culture, where she advises the Dutch Parliament on arts, culture and media.

Commenting on the 2020 panel, Ellah Wakatama, Chair of the AKO Caine Prize, said: 

‘We are honoured to announce such remarkable cultural figures as our 2020 AKO Caine Prize judges. I’m sure that, with his wealth of experience across art forms, Kenneth Tharp will make an excellent Chair, and I wish all the judges great success in deciding our 2020 shortlist and, ultimately, in judicating this year’s winning story.’

The judging panel will meet to determine which entries will make the shortlist, with an announcement on their selection to be published in May 2020.

The prize, which celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2019, also recently announced a new partnership with the AKO Foundation, a London based charity that supports projects that ‘promote the arts, improve education or mitigate climate problems’.

As part of the agreement, the prize will be known as the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing, and will receive a grant to cover its core costs. The foundation’s funding will enable the prize to continue supporting writers in Africa through literary workshops, the publication of the annual anthology, and the annual award.

Commenting upon his support for the prize, Nicolai Tangen, founder of the AKO Foundation, said: 

‘We are delighted and proud to sponsor the AKO Caine Prize, and look forward to seeing the literary landscape flourish and prosper with further excellent contributions from African authors. In supporting the Prize we are making clear our desire to encourage and celebrate the exceptional work of African writers.’

The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing expressed its gratitude to the foundation for its ‘invaluable support’, and to all other dedicated supporters of the Prize for their commitment to celebrating outstanding African writing.

Wakatama said:

‘Counting the AKO Foundation as our ally not only promises more stability for the Prize, but allows us to plan for the future with additional confidence and ambition. We are so grateful to the Foundation, as well as to all our existing donors, who have provided generous and consistent support throughout the years, and we look forward to championing literature from Africa and her diaspora in this new chapter for the Prize.’

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