The 2019 Kalemba Short Story Prize has gone to Mubanga Kalimamukwento, for her short story, “Inswa,” described by the judges as “resonant and gripping.” 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prize, funded and administered by the publishing company Ukusefya WORDS, is awarded to the best work of original and unpublished short fiction written in English by a Zambian, and is in its second year. The inaugural prize in 2018 was won by Mali Kambandu.

Told in the first person, “Inswa” is “a coming-of-age story of a teen protagonist initiated into sexual awakening by her best friend, Wongani, while being pushed into premature adulthood by her parents.”

The 2019 judging panel comprised the writer Mulenga Kapwepwe, the poet Kayo Chingonyi, Sunday Times editor Austin Kaluba, and the chair Ainehi Edoro, Editor of Brittle Paper and Professor of Literature at UW-Madison. On the winner, Edoro said:

The author’s exploration of desire is nuanced, the prose is precise, but evocative. The writer captures the intensity and range of emotions that make such intimacies feel true and valid even in worlds where they are perceived as transgressive. 

Mubanga Kalimamukwento is a lawyer and writer whose first novel, The Mourning Bird, won the 2019 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award. A 2018/2019 Hubert Humphrey Fellow, her creative nonfiction and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Advocates for Human Rights Minnesota (USA), The Dreamers Creative Writing Magazine (Canada), Two Sisters Writing and Publishing (USA), The Eunoia Review (Singapore), The Best of Africa Magazine (Zambia), The Airgonaut (USA), SyncityNG (Nigeria), The Menteur (France), The Mark Literary Review (USA), and Overland (Australia).

“I’ve always been an avid reader of mostly African Literature, and my work is informed greatly by what I absorb,” said Kalimamukweto. “I especially love Ellen Banda-Aaku, NoViolet Bulawayo, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Kopano Matlwa, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Panashe Chigumadzi, and Tsitsi Dangarembga.” 

Finalists for the 2019 prize include Jumani Clarke for “Binary,” Fiske Nyirongo for “Pain by Any Other Name,” Lucy Zulu Simuzingili for “The Masks,” Lydia Ngoma for “All To Love,” and Mirriam Lusambo for “Career Battle.”



Zambia’s best-known writer at the moment is 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. This year, her debut novel The Old Drift was hailed as the Great Zambian Novel and reviewed by Salman Rushdie.

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.

The Kalemba Short Story Prize sponsor Ukusefya WORDS is the publisher of the national bestselling book, Insoselo na Mapinda, a collection of more than 700 Bemba proverbs and their meanings in English.


The 2020 Kalemba Prize will be open for submissions later this year. The prize can be followed on Twitter: @KalembaPrize. 

Read “Inswa” HERE.

Brittle Paper congratulates Mubanga Kalimamukwento.