The Caine Prize for African Writing is the richest short story prize on the continent. Established in 2000, the prize awards the best short story by an African writer in the English language. The 2018 shortlist has three Nigerians on it. For a long time, Nigerians have dominated the shortlist and won the prize.
The shortlisted writers are Nonyelum Ekwempu (Nigeria) for her story ‘American Dream’ published in Red Rock Review (2016). Stacy Hardy from South Africa was shortlisted for her story ‘Involution’ published in Migrations: New Short Fiction from Africa, by New Internationalist (2017). Olufunke Ogundimu (Nigeria) wrote ‘The Armed Letter Writers’ which she published in The African Literary Hustle (2017). She has an MFA from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Makena Onjerika from Kenya, a graduate of the MFA Creative Writing programme at New York University was shortlisted for her story ‘Fanta Blackcurrant’ which was published in Wasafiri in 2017. Wole Talabi’s ‘Wednesday’s Story’ was published in Lightspeed Magazine in 2016.
The Caine Prize for African Writing received 147 entries from 20 African countries narrowed to the shortlist of five writers. The shortlist showcases a diversity of themes and a wealth of literary talent.
The five-writer shortlist was unveiled by this year’s Chair of judges, award-winning Ethiopian-American author, Dinaw Mengestu.
Dinaw Mengestu, former Lannan Foundation Chair in Poetics at Georgetown University, said: “The best short stories have a subtle, almost magical quality to them. They can contain through the rigour of their imagination and the care of their prose more than just a glimpse into the complicated emotional, political, and social fabric of their characters’ lives. The stories submitted for this year’s Caine Prize contained worlds within them, and nothing was perhaps as remarkable as finding that in story after story, writers across the continent and in the diaspora had laid waste to the idea that certain narratives belonged in the margins”.
“The politics and aesthetics of gender, sexuality, corruption and silence were a constant presence throughout many of the stories submitted, particularly those on our shortlist. These five remarkable narratives are proof that nowhere is the complexity and diversity of Africa and African lives more evident than in the stories we tell.”
Joining Dinaw Mengestu on the 2018 judging panel are: Henrietta Rose-Innes, South African author and winner of the 2008 Caine Prize; Lola Shoneyin, award-winning author and Director of the Ake Arts and Books Festival; and Ahmed Rajab, a Zanzibar-born international journalist, political analyst and essayist.
Last year, the award went to Sudanese writer Bushra al-Fadil who became the oldest winner to win the prize.
The prize was launched in 2000 to encourage and highlight the richness and diversity of African writing by bringing it to a wider audience internationally. The Prize has however been subject to various controversies, such as awarding mostly stories that depict Africans in negative light; with characters in the negative narratives depicted as child soldiers, street children, and stories of adverse poverty. The Prize has also been awarded to former shortlisted writers and winners, thus obstructing new voices.
The Caine Prize workshop is among the activities the Caine Prize organizes. The workshop was held in Rwanda, in March, this year. An anthology made of the shortlisted stories and participants stories is usually published at the end of the workshop. This year’s anthology is titled “Redemption Song”.
The winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced at an award ceremony in July.