Update: For failure to attribute an original source, the Caine Prize, in September 2019, removed Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor’s “All Our Lives” from its 2019 shortlist, while Short Story Day Africa released a statement on intertextuality.
The 2017/2018 Short Story Day Africa Prize has gone to Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor, for his short story “All Our Lives.” Okafor is the first male and first Nigerian to take home the prestigious prize, now regarded as the continent’s leading award for short fiction. “All Our Lives,” a multiple-identity story examining the lives of disaffected men who drift into Nigerian cities in pursuit of a “better life,” was described by the judges as “wry, cleared-eyed, humorous and compassionate.”
Founded in 2013, the Short Story Day Africa Prize, currently at $800, recognizes the best short story submitted for Short Story Day Africa‘s themed anthologies. Works that have won or been shortlisted for the SSDA Prize have gone on to win or be shortlisted for both the Caine Prize and the Brittle Paper Award for Fiction.
Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor’s work has appeared in The Guardian, Litro, Transition, Warscapes, Columbia Journal, and elsewhere. A 2018 Rhodes Scholar finalist, he has been twice nominated for the Short Story Day Africa prize and the Pushcart Prize. His writing has been shortlisted for the 2017 Awele Creative Trust award, the 2016 Problem House Press Short Story Prize, and the 2016 Southern Pacific Review Short Story Prize. A two-time recipient of the Festus Iyayi Award for Excellence for Prose/Playwriting, he is currently a 2018 Kathy Fish fellow and writer-in-residence at Smoke-Long Quarterly.
Two stories came in joint second place: Ethiopian Agazit Abate’s “The Piano Player” and South African Michael Yee’s “God Skin.” The judges hailed the Abate’s “The Piano Player” as “a brilliant inversion of the ‘African abroad’ narrative as it presents snapshots of life in Addis Abada through the eyes and ears of a pianist in a luxury hotel bar.” They praised Yee’s “God Skin” as weaving “together alienation, forbidden love and intimate violence against a subtle backdrop of the scars of Liberia’s civil war.” Agazit Abate was raised in Los Angeles, and writes and lives in Addis Ababa. Michael Yee was born in Pretoria. His writing has appeared in the Short.Sharp.Stories anthologies.
In an email to Brittle Paper, Short Story Day Africa explained that “Agazit and Michael will each receive $150, a 50% split of the prize money allocated for second and third place.” All three winners, SSDA stated, have been participants in SSDA Flow Workshops, held in partnership with the Geothe-Institut. The three emerged from a nine-name shortlist that also comprised: “Ibinabo,” by Michael Agugom (Nigeria), “The Geography of Sunflowers,” by Michelle Angwenyi (Kenya), “Limbo,” by Innocent Chizaram Ilo (Nigeria), “Sew My Mouth,” by Cherrie Kandie (Kenya), “South of Samora,” by Farai Mudzingwa (Zimbabwe), and “The House on the Corner,” by Lester Walbrugh (South Africa).
The winning stories are published in ID: New Short Fiction from Africa, edited by Helen Moffett, Nebila Abdulmelik and Otieno Owino. ID: New Short Fiction from Africa is a collection of the twenty-one long listed stories from the 2017/2018 Short Story Day Africa Prize, and will be available as an e-book in Africa later today. ID is co-published by Short Story Day Africa and New Internationalist. The winning stories will be available to read online in the 2 July issue of The Johannesburg Review of Books.
Previous winners of the Short Story Day Africa Prize are Okwiri Oduor in 2013, Diane Awerbuck in 2014, Cat Hellisen in 2015, and Sibongile Fisher in 2016.
Congratulations to Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor, and to Agazit Abate and Michael Yee.