Okafor, Arimah make 2019 Caine Prize shortlist

Two Nigerian writers, Lesley Nneka Arimah and Tochukwu Okafor, are on the shorlist for the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing.

The Caine Prize for African Writing is a literature prize awarded to an African writer of a short story published in English. It was launched in 2000 to encourage and highlight the richness and diversity of African writing by bringing it to a wider audience internationally.

Arimah made the shortlist for her story ‘Skinned’ and Okafor for ‘All Our Lives’.

According to caineprize.com, the shortlist for the 2019 Caine Prize features stories that tackle “the ordinary in an extraordinary manner” and celebrate the diversity of the African short story writing tradition for the twentieth edition of the prize.”

The five-writer shortlist, as announced by this year’s chair of judges, Kenyan author, Peter Kimani, includes Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) for ‘Skinned’; Meron Hadero (Ethiopia) for ‘The Wall’; Cherrie Kandie (Kenya) for ‘Sew My Mouth’; Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti (Cameroon) for ‘It Takes a Village Some Say’; and Nigeria’s Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor for ‘All Our Lives’.

Kimani, author of the award-winning novel ‘Dance of the Jakaranda’, said: “This is a special year for the Caine Prize for African Writing, as it marks its 20th 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.”

The panel of judges for this year’s edition of the prize comprises Nigerian author and playwright Sefi Atta; acclaimed South African author Margie Orford; Professor Scott Taylor, director of the African Studies Programme at Georgetown University; and Olufemi Terry, Sierra Leone-born author and recipient of the 2010 Caine Prize.

The winner of this year’s £10,000 prize will be announced at an award ceremony at SOAS University of London in July.

Each shortlisted writer will also receive £500, while the shortlisted stories will be printed by the United Kingdom’s New Internationalist in a special publication to mark the 20th anniversary of the prize, and through co-publishers in 16 African countries.

A Kenyan writer, Makena Onjerika, won the 2018 edition of the prize for her short story entitled ‘Fanta Blackcurrant.

Lesley Arimah won the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa; and has twice been shortlisted for the Caine Prize (2016 and 2017). She has been described as “a skillful storyteller who can render entire relationships with just a few lines of dialogue” and “a new voice with certain staying power.”

She was born and grew up in the UK and Nigeria.

Tochukwu Okafor was the winner of the 2017 Short Story Day Africa Prize for ‘All Our Lives’. A 2018 Rhodes Scholar finalist, he has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Short Story Day Africa Prize for Short Fiction (which he eventually won in 2017.

He was shortlisted for the 2016 Southern Pacific Review Short Story Prize and the 2016 Problem House Press Short Story Prize, and is a two-time recipient of the Festus Iyayi Award for Excellence for Prose and Playwriting (2015/2016).

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