Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Caine Prize for African Writing shortlist is a coup for Nigerian writers

Susannah Tarbush reports from London:

Nigerian writers have done well in the Caine Prize for African Writing in the 14 years of its existence - last year  Rotimi Babatunde became the fourth Nigerian winner, and Nigeria has been well-represented on shortlists - but this year is a real standout for Nigeria with no fewer than four of the five shortlisted stories being by writers from that country. The fifth writer on the shortlist, announced today, is from Sierra Leone which has had one winner so far: Olufemi Terry who won in 2010.

The winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced at the annual celebratory dinner to be held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford University, on Monday 8 July.

Chair of the judges, the art historian and broadcaster Gus Casely-Hayford , said: “The shortlist was selected from 96 entries from 16 African countries. They are all outstanding African stories that were drawn from an extraordinary body of high quality submissions.”

He  added: “The five contrasting titles interrogate aspects of things that we might feel we know of Africa – violence, religion, corruption, family, community – but these are subjects that are deconstructed and beautifully remade. These are challenging, arresting, provocative stories of a continent and its descendants captured at a time of burgeoning change.”

Yet again there is no author from Arab North Africa on the shortlist. But one of the judges is from the  region: the Egyptian-Sudanese winner of the Caine Prize in its inaugural year, Leila Aboulela. At the time the judges  were announced back in Feburary, the Caine Prize pointed out that Aboulela was the first past winner to judge the prize.

The other judges are award-winning Nigerian-born artist, Sokari Douglas Camp; author, columnist and Lord Northcliffe Emeritus Professor at UCL, John Sutherland; and Assistant Professor at Georgetown University, Nathan Hensley

The 2013 shortlisted authors are:

Elnathan John (Nigeria) shortlisted for ‘Bayan Layi’ from Per Contra, Issue 25 (USA, 2012) ·

 Elnathan John

Tope Folarin (Nigeria) ‘Miracle’ from Transition, Issue 109 (Bloomington, 2012) ·

Pede Hollist (Sierra Leone) ‘Foreign Aid’ from Journal of Progressive Human Services, Vol. 23.3 (Philadelphia, 2012) ·

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Nigeria) ‘The Whispering Trees’ from The Whispering Trees, published by ParrĂ©sia Publishers (Lagos, 2012) ·

 Chinelo Okparanta (Nigeria) ‘America’ from Granta, Issue 118 (London, 2012)

 Chinelo Okparanta

As always the stories will be available to read online on the Caine Prize website and will be published along with the 2013 workshop stories in the forthcoming Caine Prize anthology A Memory This Size to be published in July by New Internationalist and seven African co-publishers: Jacana Media (South Africa), Cassava Republic (Nigeria), Kwani? (Kenya), Sub-Saharan Publishers (Ghana), FEMRITE (Uganda), Bookworld Publishers (Zambia) and ‘amaBooks (Zimbabwe).

Once again, the Caine Prize winner will be given the opportunity of taking up a month’s residence at Georgetown University as a Writer-in-Residence at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. The award will cover all travel and living expenses. The winner will also be invited to take part in the Open Book Festival in Cape Town in September.

The  shortlisted writers will be reading from their work at the Royal Over-Seas League on Thursday, 4 July at 7pm and at the Southbank Centre, on Sunday, 7 July at 6.30pm.
On Friday, 5 July at 2-5pm and on Saturday, 6 July at 5pm they will take part in the Africa Writes Festival at The British Library, organised by ASAUK and the Royal African Society.

Last year's winner Rotimi Babatunde has since co-authored a play ‘Feast’ for the Young Vic and the Royal Court theatres in London.

The Caine Prize, awarded annually for African creative writing, is named after the late Sir Michael Caine, former Chairman of Booker plc and Chairman of the Booker Prize management committee for nearly 25 years. The Prize is awarded for a short story by an African writer published in English (indicative length 3,000 to 10,000 words). An “African writer” is normally taken to mean someone who was born in Africa, or who is a national of an African country, or whose parents are African.

The African winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Wole Soyinka, Nadine Gordimer and J M Coetzee are Patrons of The Caine Prize.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne is President of the Council, Ben Okri OBE is Vice President, Jonathan Taylor CBE is the Chairman and Ellah Allfrey OBE is the Deputy Chairperson.

Previous winners are Sudan’s Leila Aboulela (2000), Nigerian Helon Habila (2001), Kenyan Binyavanga Wainaina (2002), Kenyan Yvonne Owuor (2003), Zimbabwean Brian Chikwava (2004), Nigerian Segun Afolabi (2005), South African Mary Watson (2006), Ugandan Monica Arac de Nyeko (2007), South African Henrietta Rose-Innes (2008), Nigerian EC Osondu (2009), Sierra Leonean Olufemi Terry (2010), Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo (2011) and Nigerian Rotimi Babatunde (2012).

The Caine Prize is principally sponsored by The Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, the Booker Prize Foundation, Miles Morland, Weatherly International plc, China Africa Resources and CSL Stockbrokers. Other funders include the DOEN Foundation, British Council, The Lennox and Wyfield Foundation, The Beit Trust, Commonwealth Writers, the cultural initiative from the Commonwealth Foundation, the Royal Overseas League and Kenya Airways.

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