The Caine Prize for African Writing, currently in its 18th year, released the 2017 shortlist. The shortlist was announced by the chair of judges, Ghanaian writer Nii Ayikwei Parkes who said that the shortlist “reveals the depth and strength of short story writing from Africa and its diaspora”.

The shortlist includes Lesley Nneka Arimah, a former winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa in 201,  previously shortlisted for the Caine Prize. Arimah was shortlisted for the Caine Prize in 2016 for her story, “What It Means When a Man Falls From The Sky,” which became the title story of her book.

For the second time in the history of the Caine Prize, this year a story was translated from Arabic.

Read: The Caine is about the story, not the writer: On the Shortlisting of a former winner

This year’s shortlist seems to have taken a cue from the 2015 debate over inclusivity and diversity and includes a few relatively unknown names. Many critics have argued that the Prize is supposed to function as a platform to promote lesser known writers who need attention and support.

The list includes three Nigerians, one South African and one Sudanese. The nomination of 22 year old Nigerian writer, Arinze Ifekandu has set tongues waging with excitement. Ifekandu’s story “God’s Children Are Little Broken Things” was published in 2013 when he was a first year university student in A Public Space. Ifekandu joins Okwiri Oduor as one of the youngest writers to be shortlisted for the Caine Prize.

Screenshot of past Caine Prize winner and novelist, Noviolet Bulawayo.

Nii Parkes, in the press release said, “This year’s submissions were a pleasure to read; we were all impressed by the quality and imaginative ambition of the work received. Indeed, there were a dozen stories that did not make the shortlist that would win other competitions”.

The Caine Prize receives entries from publishers, either online magazines or short stories published in print. This year, 148 entries were received from 22 African countries making the total number of entries since the inception of the prize to 1,600 stories from 47 countries.

According to an earlier release, for the first time the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London will host the Caine Prize award dinner as part of their programme celebrating its centenary year. The winner will be announced at Senate House on Monday 3 July 2017. The five shortlisted stories, alongside the stories written at the annual Caine Prize workshop, are published annually by New Internationalist in the UK and Interlink in the US. This year, the anthologies will be co-published with partners in nine African countries; amaBooks (Zimbabwe), Gadsden Publishers (Zambia), FEMRITE (Uganda), Huza Press (Rwanda), Jacana Media (South Africa), Kwani? (Kenya), Mkuki na Nyota (Tanzania), Lantern Books (Nigeria) and Sub-Saharan Publishers (Ghana).

Read: Caine Prize winner shares her £10k prize

Commenting on the submissions Parkes noted, “there seemed to be a theme of transition in many of the stories. Whether it’s an ancient myth brought to life in a contemporary setting, a cyber-attack-triggered wave of migration and colonisation, an insatiable quest for motherhood, an entertaining surreal ride that hints at unspeakable trauma, or the loss of a parent in the midst of a personal identity crisis, these writers juxtapose future, past and present to ask important questions about the world we live in”.

Caine 2017 judges a week before the announcement of the shortlist. Photo: Facebook/ The Caine Prize for African Writing

The Caine Prize 2017 judges include Monica Arac De Nyeko, Ghazi Gheblawi, Ricardo Ortiz, and Ranka Primorac. Commenting on this year’s shortlist Parkes said, “Although they range in tone from the satirical to the surreal, all five stories on this year’s shortlist are unrelentingly haunting. It has been a wonderful journey so far and we look forward to selecting a winner. It will be a hard job, but I’ve always believed that you can’t go wrong with a Ghanaian at the helm of an international panel”.

The 2017 shortlist:

  • Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) for ‘Who Will Greet You At Home’ published in The New Yorker (USA. 2015)
  • Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigeria) for ‘Bush Baby’ published in African Monsters, eds. Margarét Helgadóttir and Jo Thomas (Fox Spirit Books, USA. 2015)
  • Bushra al-Fadil (Sudan) for ‘The Story of the Girl whose Birds Flew Away’, translated by Max Shmookler, published in The Book of Khartoum – A City in Short Fiction eds. Raph Cormack & Max Shmookler (Comma Press, UK. 2016)
  • Arinze Ifeakandu (Nigeria) for ‘God’s Children Are Little Broken Things’ published in A Public Space 24 (A Public Space Literary Projects Inc., USA. 2016)
  • Magogodi oaMphela Makhene (South Africa) for ‘The Virus’  published in The Harvard Review 49 (Houghton Library Harvard University, USA. 2016)