2020 AKO Caine Prize Shortlist is Here!

by - 11:27

The 2020 AKO Caine Prize shortlisted stories are written in humorous, tragic and satirical tones.

2020 makes twenty years of the Caine Prize for African Writing - now known as the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing - and this just in, the shortlist for the 2020 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing has been announced. It features five stories that “speak eloquently to the human condition” through a diverse array of themes and genres. This year’s shortlist was determined virtually by the judging panel.
Twenty-eight countries were represented in this year’s eligible entries: Angola/Cabinda; Botswana; Cameroon; Cote D'Ivoire; Democratic Republic of Congo; Egypt; Ethiopia; Ghana; Kenya; Libya; Malawi; Mauritius; Morocco; Nigeria; Namibia; Rwanda; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Tanzania; The Gambia; Uganda; Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The shortlisted authors for this year’s Prize are from Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania. They 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)

Image via AKO Caine Prize

Excited by this shortlist, and I do not envy this year's judges. I'm making my way slowly through the shortlisted stories, and have started with Chikodili Emelumadu's story on Mami Wata's, which is written in the form of a paper - could even say a journal article.

"Please note: ‘Mami Wata’ (also known in various other regions as ‘Mammy Water’) is used in this context as an umbrella term for both genders of the popular water entity (i.e. Mami and Papi Watas) and does not represent those other mer-creatures without the appearance of absolute humanoid traits. For these other non-humanistic water entities including but not restricted to: permanent mermaids and mermen, crocodile fellows, shark-brides, turtle crones and anomalous jelly blobs of indeterminate orientation, please see our companion volume, ‘So You Want to Kill a Mer-Creature?’ which will guide you through the appropriate juju framework to avoid or deflect repercussions and will elucidate general and specific appeasement rituals. See also, ‘Entities and Non-entities: The Definitive Legal Position on Aquatic Interspecies Marriages, Non-Marriage Couplings and Groupings’"

On the shortlist, the Chair of judges, Director of The Africa Centre, Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp CBE, 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 homogenous 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.”
Joining Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp on the 2020 judging panel 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).
The AKO Caine Prize has had to postpone this year’s annual award ceremony, and hopes to announce the winner of this year’s £10,000 prize in the autumn noting that "the safety of our authors, staff, guests and partners remains a priority, and the Prize will continue to closely monitor the latest government guidelines." Each shortlisted writer will also receive £500.
The shortlisted stories will be published in the AKO Caine Prize anthology, alongside stories written at the AKO Caine Prize workshop - and also through co-publishers in 16 African countries.
Congratulations to the shortlisted authors, and counting down to later in the year when the winner is announced. Until then, I'll be showcasing the shortlisted authors and sharing their stories and more exciting content.

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