Senegalese writers Mame Bougouma Diene and Woppa Diallo have been awarded the 2023 Caine Prize for African Writing for their short story ‘A Soul of Small Places’.
This is the first time a writing duo has won the Caine Prize, and the pair also become the first winners from Senegal.
The prize is awarded annually for a short story by an African writer published in English. The winners receive £10,000 (about R233,000), and each shortlisted writer £500.
Diene and Diallo’s story was selected from a record pool of 297 entries from twenty-eight African countries.
Judges called the story a ‘visceral tale’ that speaks ‘powerfully, but not didactically, to one of the pressing global issues of our time’.
‘A Soul of Small Places’ will be published in the 2023 Caine Prize anthology, This Tangible Thing and Other Stories, along with the work of runners-up Yejide Kilanko, Tlotlo Tsamaase, Ekemini Pius, and Yvonne Kusiima.
Zelda Knight, co-editor at Africa Risen (TorDotCom), which first published the story, called ‘A Soul of Small Places’ an ‘evocative piece of feminist horror’.
‘Their incorporation of speculative elements to depict the everyday struggles and atrocities faced by women captured our attention and refused to let go,’ she said.
Diene is a Franco–Senegalese American writer and humanitarian based in Pretoria, and is the Francophone spokesperson for the African Speculative Fiction Society, the French language editor for Omenana Magazine, and a regular columnist at Strange Horizons. Diallo is a writer, feminist activist and lawyer with a specialisation in human rights. She founded Association pour le Maintien des Filles à l’Ecole at fifteen in Matam, Senegal, with the aim of ensuring fair access to education and health care for girls.
Diene’s short novel The Satellite Charmer has been translated in Italian, and his short novel Ogotemmeli’s Song into Bangla. His speculative fiction has been nominated for several Nommo Awards, and his debut collection Dark Moons Rising on a Starless Night was nominated for the 2019 Splatterpunk Award.
According to a report in The Guardian, Diallo contributed ideas and experience, while Diene physically wrote the story.
The Caine Prize judges this year were Fareda Banda (chair), professor of Law at SOAS, University of London; Edwige-Renée Dro, a writer, literary translator, and literary activist; Kadija George Sesay, editor and founder of Mboka Festival; Jendella Benson, author and Head of Editorial at Black Ballad; and Warsan Shire, a multi-award-winning writer and poet.