The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing 2020 Shortlist Announced

The shortlist for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing 2020 was announced yesterday, May 19, 2020. It features Erica Sugo Anyadike, Chikodili Emelumadu, Jowhor Ile, Rémy Ngamije, and Irenosen Okojie.

The AKO Caine Prize is an annual award for a short story by an African writer published in English. It is named after the late Sir Michael Caine, who was the Chairman of Booker plc and Chairman of the Booker Prize management committee for about 25 years.

Previous winners of this prestigious prize include Leila Aboulela (2000), Helon Habila (2001), Binyavanga Wainaina (2002), Yvonne Owuor (2003), Brian Chikwava (2004), Segun Afolabi (2005), Mary Watson (2006), Monica Arac de Nyeko (2007), Henrietta Rose-Innes (2008), EC Osondu (2009), Olufemi Terry (2010), NoViolet Bulawayo (2011), Rotimi Babatunde (2012), Tope Folarin (2013), Okwiri Oduor (2014), Namwali Serpell (2015), Lidudumalingani Mqobothi (2016), Bushra al-Fadil (2017), Makena Onjerika (2018), and Lesley Nneka Arimah (2019).

The judges for the 2020 AKO Caine Prize 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. This team of judges is chaired by Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp, Director of UK’s The Africa Centre.

Announcing the shortlist for 2020 award, Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp said, “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 homogeneous 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 21st century.

“Together, this year’s shortlisted stories signal that African literature is in robust health, and, as demonstrated by the titles alone, never predictable.”

The shortlisted writers for the 2020 award are:

Erica Sugo Anyadike (Tanzania) for How to Marry An African President published in adda: Commonwealth Stories (2019).

Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigeria & 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 & Namibia) for The Neighbourhood Watch, published in The Johannesburg Review of Books (2019).

Irenosen Okojie (Nigeria & UK) for Grace Jones from “Nudibranch”, published by Hachette (2019)

With the surge in the Covid-19 crisis across the world, the AKO Caine Prize is compelled to postpone this year’s annual award ceremony. However, the winner of this year’s £10,000 prize will be announced in the autumn. There will also be a £500 cash reward for each shortlisted writer.

The shortlisted stories will be compiled and published in an anthology, and also through co-publishers in 16 African countries who will be sent a print-ready PDF free of charge.

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