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Mali Kambandu. Image from Kalemba Short Story Prize.

The inaugural Kalemba Short Story Prize has gone to Mali Kambandu for her short story, “A Hand to Hold,” described by the judges as “griping and beautifully told.” The $1000 prize—funded and administered by the publishing company Ukusefya WORDS—is awarded to the best work of original and unpublished short fiction written in English by a Zambian. A total of 317 entries were received for the competition.

“A Hand to Hold” focuses on “a middle class family whose fragile bond is threatened by the resurfacing of their former house maid.” The judges described it as weaving “the themes of class, loyalty, sacrifice and love in contemporary Zambia.”

“It is an honour and affirmation,” Kambandu said of her win. “The fact that it’s a Zambian award makes it so much more meaningful.”

Kambandu’s story beat five others to win: Peter Nawa’s “A Degree of Alone,” 17-year-old Sampa Musaba’s “The Mango Tree,” Andrew Nguvu’s “God of the Mind,” Mutinta Nanchengwa’s “The Legacy of Moombe,” and Collins Chanda’s “A Broken Road in Utopia.”

The judging panel comprised: 2015 Caine Prize winner and UC Berkerly Assistant Professor of English, Namwali Serpell, who is Zambian; Zambian writer Mulenga Kapwepwe; Brittle Paper editor and Marquette University Assistant Professor of Literature, Ainehi Edoro; and Kenyan novelist and Cornell University Assistant Professor of English, Mukoma Wa Ngugi, who is the chair. Here is their comment on the winning work.

A dark yet gripping read. We were moved by this story about domestic workers and the ties that bind them to the very same families that discard them. A surprising, beautifully told story that centers the voices that we often think of as living on the margins.

A graduate of the University of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, Kambandu had a short stint writing screenplays in the US before returning to Zambia. She has written short films, documentaries and feature films, including Ulendo wa Rose, Old-time Love, Long-time Love, and The President’s Job Description. She works and lives in Lusaka with her husband and children.

THE ZAMBIAN LITERARY SCENE

Zambia’s best-known writer at the moment is one of the finest short story writers on the continent as well as one of its leading prose stylists: Namwali Serpell, whose “The Sack” won the 2015 Caine Prize and whose “Triptych: Texas Pool Party” was the subject of a feature by us early this year and was shortlisted for the inaugural Brittle Paper Award for Fiction.

James Murua’s Literature Blog has some context to the Zambian literary scene:

While Serpell is the flavour of the moment, she’s not the only Zambian writer out there of course. There is Ellen Banda-Aaku with novels like Patchwork (2011) and Madam 1st Lady (2016) to her name as well as numerous books for children as well as short stories featuring in publications galore. Also there is Binwell Sinyangwe has the Quills of Desire (1996) and A Cowrie of Hope (2000) and the “original Zambian writer” Wilbur Smith who has written well, all the novels.

Mali Kambandu will now be presented with the award at a special ceremony to be held in Lusaka in May.

The 2019 Kalemba Prize will open later in the year.

Congratulations to Mali Kambandu.

Read Mali Kambandu’s “A Hand to Hold” HERE.

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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 for which he was shortlisted ("You Sing of a Longing," 2017). 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. 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 cities in Nigeria. 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 Pop Culture, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He has completed a collection of short stories, YOU SING OF A LONGING, and is working on a novel. He is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. 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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