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Shortlist for 2020 AKO Caine Prize showcases huge diversity in the writing of African lives

The shortlist for the 2020 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing has been announced, featuring 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.

The shortlisted authors for this year’s Prize are from Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania.

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 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 AKO Caine Prize are:

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

o   Read ‘How to Marry An African President’

·       Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigeria & UK) for ‘What to do when your child brings home a Mami Wata’ published in The Shadow Booth: Vol.2 (2018)

o   Read ‘What to do when your child brings home a Mami Wata’

·       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)

o   Read ‘The Neighbourhood Watch’

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

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. 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 an anthology, and also through co-publishers in 16 African countries who receive a print-ready PDF free of charge.