Saturday, June 30, 2012

authors shortlisted for the 2012 caine prize for african writing meet their readers in london

 Tricia Wombell, Stanley Kenani and Billy Kahora

The five writers shortlisted for this year’s Caine prize for African Writing have been arriving in London in recent days in advance of the prizegiving dinner at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library on Monday. The £10,000 prize is for a short story, and this year's shortlist was chosen by a panel of judges - chaired by author and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Bernardine Evaristo - from 122 entries from 14 African countries.

Rotimi Babatunde 

The shortlisted writers are: Rotimi Babatunde of Nigeria for Bombay's Republic; Billy Kahora of Kenya for Urban Zoning; Stanley Kenani of Malawi for  Love on Trial; Melissa Tandiwe Myambo of Zimbabwe for  La Salle de Départ; and Constance Myburgh (the pen name of Jenna Bass) of South Africa for Hunter Emmanuel. The five stories are posted on the Caine Prize website

As every year in the 13 years of the prize’s existence the shortlisted writers are participating in a number of events in London in the days before and after the announcement of the winner.

A well-attended event in the Brunei Gallery at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London University this afternoon stressed the writer-reader relationship: it was entitled “The 2012 Caine Prize Authors Meet Their Readers.”

The writers on the stage of the gallery were flanked by the joint chairs of the event: Tricia Wombell of the Black Reading Group and Black Book News Blog, and Jacquie Auma of the London Afro-Caribbean Book Club. After the authors briefly outlined their stories, Wombell and Auma discussed the stories with them and raised some of the questions posed by members of their book groups. The floor was then thrown open for questions from members of the largely black and relatively youthful audience.

The format of the event made for a notably lively and frank session. This was very much Wombell's aim. In advance of the event she wrote on her Black Book News Blog: “This is an exciting first for us. In 2010 I went to my first Caine Prize discussion and could not quite get my head round why the talk was totally framed in a very formal and academic mindset.” She added: “ I know that Black Reading Group members will have stretching and searching questions, and I am really looking forward to an event that brings book clubbers - who love to read and talk about what they have read, face-to-face with an exciting group of supremely talented writers.”

Constance Myburgh 

The event was part of the inaugural two-day Africa Writes literary weekend, a celebration of contemporary African writing. Africa Writes is organised by the Royal African Society (RAS) and is to be held annually. It has ten partners including the Caine Prize, Black Reading Group and Black Book News Blog, and the London Afro-Caribbean Book Club.

Wombell explained that the two book groups had come together on 27 May to discuss the five stories shortlisted for the Caine Prize. The joint meeting was in the slot of the regular meeting of the Black Reading Group held at Waterstones book shop in Piccadilly on the last Sunday of every month. Before the meeting of 27 May Wombell wrote on her blog on her first impressions of each story, and listed several questions for possible discussion.

Since its inauguration in 2000 the Caine Prize has helped intensify interest in African writing. The new annual Africa Writes project is another indication of this increasing interest in the continent's literature, as is the springing up of initiatives such as the Black Reading Group (founded 13 years ago) and the London Afro-Caribbean Book Club (which meets monthly in a restaurant, and whose members "read books by Afro-Caribbean, Afro-American or African authors, or any books that explore the current state of affairs of people of African origin all over the world") The past couple of years have also seen a rapid growth of social network activity around the Caine Prize. Last year several blogs critiqued each of the shortlisted stories in turn, and this year has seen a further mushrooming of such Caine critiquing. Different bloggers have given varying assessments of this year's shortlisted stories, and there seems to be no clear frontrunner in what many consider to be one of the strongest ever Caine shortlists. 

Jacquie Auma

At the conclusion of the event the new Caine Prize administrator Lizzy Attree ascended the stage. She flourished a copy of the hot-off-the-press Caine anthology for this year, African Violet, copies of which were instantly available for sale to those attending the event. The anthology includes this year's shortlisted stories plus ten stories produced at the Caine Prize Workshop held in South Africa in March this year. The workshop participants featured in the anthology are Mehul Gohil, Grace Khunou, Lauri
Kubuitsile, Beatrice Lamwaka, Brenda Mukami, Tendai Rinos Mwanaka, Waigwa Ndiangui,
Yewande Omotoso, Rehana Roussouw, and Rachel Zadok.

Report and pictures by Susannah Tarbush

1 comment:

Tricia said...

Hello, Thank you for the lovely write up. Glad that you enjoyed the event. best, Tricia