The 2020 Kalemba Short Story Prize has been awarded to Rhodasi Mwale for her short story “If It Ain’t Broke.”
The $1000 prize, now in its third year, is funded and administered by the publishing company Ukusefya WORDS. It is annually awarded to the best work of original and unpublished short fiction written in English by a Zambian. The 2019 prize was awarded to Mubanga Kalimamukwento, for her short story “Inswa” while Mali Kambandu won the inaugural prize in 2018 for “A Hand to Hold.”
“If It Ain’t Broke” revolves around a “protagonist struggling with depression and mental problems”. The judges noted the peculiarity of the narrator who “draws the reader in from the start with a fresh, honest voice about the state of their mind and life.“
Mwale, who is a Biomedical Scientist and student of infectious diseases at the University of Zambia, said of her win: “just being shortlisted is everything because it means that I do belong on the African market. There is such a profundity to African literature that I’ve always felt that my voice is a tad too informal, my prose too simplistic for the market.”
Mwale emerged winner from a shortlist that included Chowa Chikumbi for “A Silent Cry”, Vanessa Nakayange for “I’ll Keep You Safe”, Samuel Zimba for “Junta or Divorce”, Mukuka Nkude for “Daze”, and Otensia Kapinga for “After the Storm”.
The judging panel comprised acclaimed Zambian novelist Ellen Banda-Aaku (chair), South African writer and 2015 Caine Prize finalist Masande Ntshanga, Rwandan author and 2020 Caine Prize finalist Remy Ngamije, and Mali Kabandu who won the inaugural prize in 2018.
Banda-Aaku observed that “the stories that ended up in the top six were heartbreaking anf poignant in different ways; a disgruntled housewife takes the opportunity to go back and change her life; a drunk husband opts to stay with a cheating wife as an excuse to stay drunk; a young woman’s father sides with her after she commits murder; a woman finds the courage to stand up to an abusive husband; rain churns up painful memories, and a mother covers up her daughter’s abuse to save the family.”
Rhodasi Mwale, who also writes under the name Dhasi Mwale, has a forthcoming debut novel Note Worthy (Belonging Books). Other scheduled publications include The Scarlet Leaf Review and Bewildering Stories. An alumnus of Highbridge Secondary School, Kabwe, Mwale names Paul Cohelo as one of her major literary influences.
Brittle Paper congratulates Rhodasi Mwale.