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Mbozi Haimbe. Image from Commonwealth Writers.

Zambia’s Mbozi Haimbe has been awarded the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa Region, for her “Madam’s Sister.” She is the second Zambian to receive a Commonwealth Prize, following Ellen Banda-Aaku’s 2007 win of the defunct Commonwealth Short Story Competition, for “Sozi’s Box.”

The short story, like those of the four other winners for the Asia, Pacific, Caribbean, and Canada & Europe regions, will now be available on Granta. Here is the given synopsis:

The arrival of madam’s sister from London causes upheaval within the household, but has an unexpected bonus for the guard, Cephas.

Born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia, Mbozi Haimbe, who lives in Norfolk, completed an MSt in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge in 2018, and is currently working on “a collection of African inspired short stories.”

Her win is the latest in the blossoming international recognition for Zambian fiction: from the rapturous reception of Namwali Serpell’s The Old Drift to Mubanga Kalimamukwento’s Dinaane Debut Fiction Award winner The Mourning Bird. We hope there’s more.

As is the prize’s tradition, the 2019 judges each represent the five regions of the Commonwealth: Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi for Africa, Mohammed Hanif for Asia, Chris Power for Canada and Europe, Karen Lord for the Caribbean, Courtney Sina Meredith for the Pacific, and the chair Caryl Phillips. From 5,081 entries, they selected a shortlist of 21; from the five regional winners, they will select an overall winner.

“The regional winners of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize explore a remarkably diverse range of subject-matter, including stories about war, love, abuse and neglect,” Caryl Phillips said. “What unites the stories is a common thread of narrative excellence and dramatic intensity. The voices of a truly global cast of characters enable us to engage with, and recognise, universal emotions of pain and loss.”

For Luke Neima, Granta’s Digital Director and Online Editor: “This year’s Commonwealth Short Story Prize winning stories showcase the short story in a range of guises, innovations of form that stretch but never exhaust the potential of the short story to address the regional and universal questions this gifted crop of authors seeks to address. These outstanding stories capture the breadth of talent writing today across the Commonwealth.”

“I am absolutely thrilled to have been selected as the regional winner, and feel privileged to contribute to Africa’s literary landscape,” Mbozi Haimbe said. “Although a social worker by profession, I have always considered myself a writer. Winning the regional prize validates my aspiration. I thank the judges, and give acknowledgement to Zambia, which remains deeply influential to my writing.”

OTHER REGIONAL WINNERS

ASIA

“My Mother Pattu,” Saras Manickam (Malaysia)

‘My Mother Pattu’ explores a mother’s violent jealousy and envy towards her daughter who finds no one can protect her from the abuse except herself.

CANADA AND EUROPE

“Death Customs,” Constantia Soteriou (Cyprus)

Translated by Lina Protopapa (Cyprus)

This is a story about the women of Cyprus, mothers or wives who were left to believe that their beloved persons were missing after the 1974 war, while the state had clear evidence about their death. It is a story of death customs, memories, bitterness and justice.

CARIBBEAN

“Granma’s Porch,” Alexia Tolas (The Bahamas)

Abandoned by her father on her grandmother’s porch, Helena fumbles along the delicate border between adolescence and adulthood, guided by the past traumas of her friends and family and her troubled first love.

PACIFIC

“Screaming,” Harley Hern (New Zealand)

A visit to a New Zealand rest home and a kapa haka performance force two friends to confront deceit, identity and endings.

The regional winners will each receive £2,500 while the overall winner, who will be announced in Québec City, Canada, on 9 July, will receive £5,000. Africa Region has had one previous overall winner in Jennifer Makumbi in 2014, for her “Let’s Tell This Story Properly.”

Find out more about the other regional winners HERE.

Congratulations to Mbozi Haimbe and the other winners.

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Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize and the 2019 Miles Morland Writing Scholarships. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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