It’s that time of the year once again. The 2020 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing has been announced. We are happy to share that five writers from Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania made the coveted list. The winner is awarded £10,000. Each shortlisted writer will receive £500.

THE SHORTLIST
[see below for photos and bios]

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  • Jowhor Ile (Nigeria) for “Fisherman’s Stew,” published in The Sewanee Review (2019). Read Fishermans Stew
  • Rémy Ngamije (Rwanda & Namibia) for “The Neighbourhood Watch,” published in The Johannesburg Review of Books (2019)  Read The Neighbourhood Watch
  • Irenosen Okojie (Nigeria & UK) for “Grace Jones” from “Nudibranch”, published by Hachette (2019) Read Grace Jones

Congrats to these authors! Their stories made it to the top five out of 222 submissions representing 28 countries across the continent. Chair of the judging panel and Director of The Africa Centre Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp CBE explains in the press release why these stories stand out.

These brilliant and surprising stories are beautifully crafted, yet they are all completely different from one another. From satire and biting humour, to fiction based on non-fiction, with themes spanning political shenanigans, outcast communities, superstition and social status, loss, and enduring love. Each of these shortlisted stories speak eloquently to the human condition, and to what it is to be an African, or person of African descent, at the start of the second decade of the 21st century. Together, this year’s shortlisted stories signal that African literature is in robust health, and, as demonstrated by the titles alone, never predictable.”

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A closer look at the shortlist reveals a few surprises and interesting firsts.

Aside from Nigeria’s Chikodili Emelumadu, who made the shortlist in 2017 for “Bush Baby,” all the other writers are on the shortlist for the first time.

Rémy Ngamije is the first writer of Rwandan and Namibian descent to be shortlisted for the prize.

It is also a change to see established authors on the list. Over the years, the Caine Prize has been perceived as a prize awarded to early career writers. But the 2020 shortlist seem to honor the founding spirit of the prize, which is to recognize African writers doing innovative things with storytelling regardless of their level of accomplishments. Three of the five shortlistees are novelists. Johwor Ile’s And After Many Days was published in 2016. IIrenosen Okojie is an award winning author. She has published a novel and two short story collections. Rémy Ngamije’s novel, The Eternal Audience Of One, is forthcoming later this year.

Founded in 2000 and named after the late Sir Michael Caine, former Chairman of Booker Plc and Chairman of the Booker Prize, the Caine Prize “is awarded for a short story by an African writer published in English” between 3,000 to 10,000 words. In January 2020, the prize administrators announced a three-year partnership with the London-based charity AKO Foundation, hence the name change.

Tharp is joined on the judging panel by South African broadcast journalist Audrey Brown, Irish-Nigerian poet and playwright Gabriel Gbadamosi, Ethiopian-born nonfiction editor and policy adviser Ebissé Wakjira-Rouw and Kenyan-based journalist James Murua.

As we reported earlier, the AKO Caine Prize has had to postpone this year’s annual award ceremony, which was initially scheduled for June 23, due to compliance with “government measures to slow down the spread of Coronavirus.”

The winner will be announced in the autumn.

BIOS OF SHORTLISTED AUTHORS

Tendu

Erica Sugo Anyadike is a Tanzanian writer based in Kenya. She began her career in South Africa as a screenwriter and worked in various capacities in the television sector. As a broadcaster, she created briefs and commissioned television series that dealt with issues such as apartheid, sexuality and gender. She continued that trend, when she began to produce her own content, never shying away from events and issues that intrigued her but always ensuring she kept her focus on characters, emotions and story. Apart from short films and television series, Erica has also written several short stories. In 2019, Erica was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and the Queen Mary Wasafiri Writing Prize. Erica’s interests lie in depicting complex African female characters and mentoring young filmmakers and writers. She is writing a novel and living in Kenya with her family.

Chikọdili Emelumadu was born in Worksop, Nottinghamshire and raised in Nigeria. Her work has previously been shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson Awards (2015), the Caine Prize for African Literature (2017) and a Nommo award (2020). In 2019, she won the inaugural Curtis Brown First Novel prize for her novel ‘Dazzling’. She tweets as @chemelumadu.

Jowhor Ilewas born and raised in Nigeria. He is known for his first novel, And After Many Days. In 2016, the novel was awarded the Etisalat Prize for Literature. Ile’s short fiction has appeared in The Sewanee Review, McSweeney’s Quarterly and Litro Magazine. He earned his MFA at Boston University and is currently a Visiting professor at West Virginia. Ile splits his time between Nigeria and the U.S.

Rémy Ngamije is a Rwandan-born Namibian writer and photographer. His debut novel The Eternal Audience Of One is forthcoming from Scout Press (S&S). He is the editor-in-chief of Doek!, Namibia’s first literary magazine. His short stories have appeared in Litro Magazine, AFREADA, The Johannesburg Review of Books, The Amistad, The Kalahari Review, American Chordata, Doek!, Azure, Sultan’s Seal, Santa Ana River Review, Columbia Journal, New Contrast, Necessary Fiction, Silver Pinion, and Lolwe. He has been longlisted for the 2020 Afritondo Short Story Prize and shortlisted for Best Original Fiction by Stack Magazines in 2019. More of his writing can be read on his website: com

Irenosen Okojie is a Nigerian British writer. Her debut novel Butterfly Fish won a Betty Trask award and was shortlisted for an Edinburgh International First Book Award. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Observer,The Guardian, the BBC and the Huffington Post amongst other publications. Her short stories have been published internationally including Salt’s Best British Short Stories 2017, Kwani? and The Year’s Best Weird Fiction. She was presented at the London Short Story Festival by Booker Prize winning author Ben Okri as a dynamic writing talent to watch and featured in the Evening Standard Magazine as one of London’s exciting new authors. Her short story collection Speak Gigantular , published by Jacaranda Books was shortlisted for the Edgehill Short Story Prize, the Jhalak Prize, the Saboteur Awards and nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her new collection of stories, Nudibranch is published by Little Brown’s Dialogue Books. irenosenokojie.com I Twitter: @IrenosenOkojie