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The 2017 Caine Prize shortlist, which was announced two weeks ago, is arguably, as Petina Gappah suggested, the prize’s most thematically-diverse shortlist in years. Each of the five stories—Lesley Arimah’s “Who Will Greet You at Home?”; Arinze Ifeakandu’s ‘God’s Children Are Little Broken Things”; Bushra Al-Fadil’s “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away”; Magogodi oaMphela Makhene “The Virus”; and Chikodili Emelumadu’s ‘Bush Baby”—has something going for it.

The 2017 Caine Prize Judges: Monica Arac de Nyeko, Professor Ricardo Ortiz, Ghazi Gheblawi, Dr Ranka Primorac, and Nii Ayikwei Parkes.

The judging panel comprises the 2007 Caine Prize winner, Monica Arac de Nyeko; author and Chair of the English Department at Georgetown University, Professor Ricardo Ortiz; Libyan author and human rights campaigner, Ghazi Gheblawi; University of Southampton’s African literature scholar, Dr Ranka Primorac; and the chair, Nii Ayikwei Parkes. In a brief piece on The Caine Prize Blog, titled “Finding Sweetness in the Caine,” Nii Ayikwei Parkes writes about the collective strength of the shortlist.

Nii Ayikwei Parkes. Photo credit: Herby Sachs/version-Foto.

Here is an excerpt from his piece.

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People who know me will know that I have been one of the Caine Prize’s critics for many years; first as an outside observer, then from the inside as a member of the Caine Prize council. My problem has never been the idea of the prize itself, but elements in its setup that I believed skewed its relevance away from the continent of Africa. The saving grace of the Prize has always been the winning writers, who have gone on to do amazing things and have continued to engage with and help develop literature on the continent.

In a world where, in the centre, aesthetics are often conflated with ideas of quality (Victor Ehikhamenor’s recent comments noting how Damien Hirst’s appropriated versions of Ife art seem to have rid them of the tag ‘primitive’ reserved for the originals, only serve to reinforce this approach), my concerns were to do with slants in the narrative. What did the Prize say of contemporary short story writing in Africa if most of the entries were published by editors in Europe and North America?  As we are a continent with hundreds of languages, can a prize with no translations allowed possibly claim to reflect the continent’s voice? It is thus a huge pleasure to have read a pile of entries where the majority were published on the African continent and to have a translated story on the shortlist.

Read the full essay on the Caine Prize blog.

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Read our #CainePrize2017 reviews of Arinze Ifeakandu’s “God’s Children Are Little Broken Things” and Chikodili Emelumadu’s “Bush Baby.”

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, an academic, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review ("Mulumba," 2016), Transition ("A Tenderer Blessing," 2015), and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award ("You Sing of a Longing," 2017), for which he was shortlisted. His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. He attended the 2018 Miles Morland Foundation Creative Writing Workshop facilitated by Giles Foden. He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, Enter Naija: The Book of Places (October, 2016), focuses on Nigerian cities. The second, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (June, 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. He studied history and literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. When bored, he just Googles Rihanna.

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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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