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The winner of this year’s edition of the Caine Prize for African Writing is Zambia’s Namwali Serpell

She competed against Elnathan John, F.T Kola, Masande Ntashanga and Segun Afolabi. But her story “The Sack” got her the highly-coveted literary award, making her 15,600-dollar richer.

Here is where things get interesting. The UC Berkley English professor says she doesn’t want to keep all the money to herself. She wants to split it five ways with the other contestants “as an act of mutiny.”

What exactly is she rebelling against by refusing to keep her well-earned cash? The very idea of competition.

“It is very awkward to be placed into this position of competition with other writers that you respect immensely,” she says to BBC News. Taking the full award makes her feel like she is in some kind of “American Idol or race-horse situation.” Literary competitions are not about fighting to the death to win a prize but about supporting people you respect.

I asked her on twitter to clarify a bit more. And her reply is that she doesn’t believe in the idea of “a single winner.” “Having a single winner is for hype rather than interest.”

This is certainly not the first time that a winner of an African literary prize has gifted a part of the winnings to a competitor. When Noviolet Bulawayo won the Etisalat Prize, she kept the money but gave the University of East Anglia fellowship to Yewande Omotoso.

Still Serpell’s decision to split the cash is a first.

I think it’s a gracious thing to do.

What do you think? Do you see yourself ever sharing the cash prize from a literary award with fellow contestants?

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

8 Responses to “Why This African Writer Wins 15,000 Dollars But Receives Only 3000” Subscribe

  1. Wakimuyu 2015/07/08 at 03:21 #

    If it’s coming from a genuine place then it’s a good thing, but not all of us can be Mahatma Gandhi, you want to be selfish, you want to keep the winnings to yourself after all you deserve it. You want to do something for your family but then again it depends on a lot of factors but man will always be materialistic and money will never be enough so I tip my hat to her for showing a side of humanity we rarely see.

  2. Stanley Mbakpuo 2015/07/09 at 05:49 #

    It is an action that different people will respond or react to differently. It seems to be very clear she has got enough money elsewhere to cater for other needs, thus making it easy for her to split it equally among the contestants. But what is instructional is the premise on which she choose to do this: mutual respect for all people who write and lend their voice to the growth of African literature. That more than glorifies the action, and makes it worthy of praise.

  3. Nma 2015/07/09 at 12:51 #

    Never thought of it that way. My reaction would have been to run home with the good news and share with family and friends. Good one.

  4. vivek rawat 2016/09/19 at 10:05 #

    its a nice article witch is ever seen so, pls send me such more information about this

  5. Career Choice 2017/01/10 at 23:53 #

    its not good for the winner who has won, and after that only getting some parts of it.(african writer wins 15000$ but gets only 3000 source: Ainehi Edoro) please write some more information on it.

    career test

  6. vivek 2017/02/01 at 02:34 #

    Why This African Writer Wins 15,000 Dollars But Receives Only 3000. Send more information about this topic

  7. vivek 2017/02/01 at 02:35 #

    send some link to know more .

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Namwali Serpell, Zambia’s first Caine Prize Winner | Africa 39 - 2015/07/08

    […] “It is very awkward to be placed into this position of competition with other writers that you respect immensely,” she says to BBC News. Taking the full award makes her feel like she is in some kind of “American Idol or race-horse situation.” Literary competitions are not about fighting to the death to win a prize but about supporting people you respect. […] Still Serpell’s decision to split the cash is a first. (Source: Ainehi Edoro, Why This African Writer Wins 15,000 Dollars But Receives Only 3000) […]

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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