The shortlist for the 2020 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing has been announced, including ‘The Neighbourhood Watch’ by Rémy Ngamije, which was first published right here on The JRB!
‘The Neighbourhood Watch’ was published in our February 2019 edition, and you can read it here. Ngamije’s debut novel The Eternal Audience of One was published in 2019 by BlackBird Books. Listen to the author reading an excerpt from his novel here.
The Caine Prize is awarded annually for a short story by an African writer published in English. The winner of the prize receives £10,000 (about R225,000), and each shortlisted writer £500.
This year’s five nominees hail from Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania, and their stories, according to prize organisers, ‘speak eloquently to the human condition’ through a ‘diverse array of themes and genres’, in ‘humorous, tragic and satirical tones’.
The Caine Prize judges met virtually this year, because of the current coronavirus pandemic. Chair of judges Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp says:
‘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 homogenous 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 twenty-first century.
‘Together, this year’s shortlisted stories signal that African literature is in robust health, and, as demonstrated by the titles alone, never predictable.’
2020 Caine Prize shortlist
- Irenosen Okojie (Nigeria and UK) for ‘Grace Jones’ from Nudibranch, published by Hachette (2019)
- Erica Sugo Anyadike (Tanzania) for ‘How to Marry An African President’ published in adda: Commonwealth Stories (2019)
- Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigeria and UK) for ‘What to do when your child brings home a Mami Wata’ published in The Shadow Booth: Vol. 2 (2018)
- Jowhor Ile (Nigeria) for ‘Fisherman’s Stew’, published in The Sewanee Review (2019)
- Rémy Ngamije (Rwanda and Namibia) for ‘The Neighbourhood Watch’, published in The Johannesburg Review of Books (2019)
Some of these names may be familiar: Jowhor Ile was the winner of the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature, for his book And After Many Days, while Erica Sugo Anyadike was shortlisted for the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.
The Caine Prize has had to postpone this year’s award ceremony, and hopes to announce the winner of this year’s prize later in the year.
Joining Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp, Director of The Africa Centre, on the 2020 judging panel are Audrey Brown, South African broadcast journalist, Gabriel Gbadamosi, Irish-Nigerian poet and playwright, Ebissé Wakjira-Rouw, Ethiopian-born nonfiction editor and policy adviser at the Dutch Council for Culture in the Netherlands, and James Murua, Kenyan based journalist, blogger, podcaster and editor, and JRB Editorial Advisory Panel member.
The prize received entries from twenty-eight countries this year, including Angola/Cabinda, Botswana, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Namibia, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, The Gambia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The shortlisted stories will be published in an anthology, alongside stories written at the Caine Prize workshop.
Last year’s Caine Prize winner was Nigerian writer Lesley Nneka Arimah, for her short story ‘Skinned’. Read our interview with Arimah here.
- Read: The AKO Caine Prize announces 2020 judging panel—and major new sponsorship deal
- Read: Nigerian writer Lesley Nneka Arimah wins the 2019 Caine Prize—‘We African writers must centre the African gaze’
- Read: ‘More weirdness, more work that’s unconcerned with explaining “Africa” to the West, more work that doesn’t care what people think. More of that, please.’—An interview with Caine Prize winner Lesley Nneka Arimah
- Read: Kenyan writer Makena Onjerika wins the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing
- Read: ‘Language switching is the norm in Kenya; I just wrote the way we speak’—Makena Onjerika chats to The JRB about her Caine Prize success
- Read: The Caine Prize wasn’t what I thought it would be: Efemia Chela traces the real value of big literary prizes
- Read: ‘Writing is sometimes like a thread that weaves all our hearts into one’: Lidudumalingani reflects on his Caine Prize visit to the United States