The Commonwealth Foundation has announced the shortlist for the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.
The shortlist of 25 is spread across the five regions under the commonwealth. This year, the prize received a maximum record of over 6423 entries from 50 Commonwealth countries – a 25% increase from the previous year.
The African category is not without its record. For the first time, there are three Nigerians on the shortlist of five, with the other two countries -Namibia and Lesotho- making debut appearances. However, it is rather surprising that there are no women on the shortlist.
The judging panel which is chaired by South African novelist and critic Zoë Wicomb includes Nigerian author A. Igoni Barrett (Africa), Bangladeshi writer and editor Khademul Islam (Asia), British poet and fiction writer Keith Jarrett (Canada and Europe), Jamaican environmental activist and author Diana McCaulay (Caribbean), and essayist and fiction writer Tina Makereti (Pacific).
Wicomb said the 25 stories on the shortlist “range in scope from ‘concerns with sexual identity, gender relations, animal rights’ to ‘neo-colonialism, racial exploitation and, of course, the perennial themes of love and death.’”
The shortlist from Africa are;
- “Tetra Hydro Cannabinol” by Moso Sematlane (Lesotho): In a small village in Lesotho, a young boy grapples with the arrival of a medical marijuana company.
- “Granddaughter of The Octopus” by Rémy Ngamije (Namibia): Recounting a family history of love, violence, and dispossession, Granddaughter of the Octopus is an experimental short story filled with humour, voice, and quiet, earnest truths.
- “An Analysis of a Fragile Affair” by Ola W. Halim (Nigeria):A young man is everything his lover resents, but he is determined to hide some parts of him as long as his lover accepts him. How long can that be? That’s the question.
- “Ogbuefi” by Vincent Anioke (Nigeria): A boy contends with proving that he is a man to his people. To do so, he must become an Ogbuefi.
- “A for Abortion” by Franklyn Usouwa (Nigeria): A pregnant teenager is forced to have an abortion by the abuser she believes she is in love with.
The regional winners will be announced on Wednesday 12 May, before being published online by the literary magazine Granta. The overall winner will be announced on Wednesday 30 June.
MOSO SEMATLANE is a writer and filmmaker based between Maseru, Lesotho, and Johannesburg, South Africa. He has been published in Nat Brut and is an Assistant Editor at Lolwe Magazine.
RÉMY NGAMIJE is a Rwandan-born Namibian writer and photographer. He is the founder, chairperson, and artministrator of Doek, an independent arts organisation in Namibia supporting the literary arts. He is also the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Doek! Literary Magazine, Namibia’s first and only literary magazine.
His debut novel The Eternal Audience of One is forthcoming from Scout Press (S&S). His work has appeared in The Johannesburg Review of Books, Brainwavez, American Chordata, Azure, Sultan’s Seal, Columbia Journal, Lolwe, and many other places. He was shortlisted for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing in 2020. He was also longlisted for the 2020 and 2021 Afritondo Short Story Prizes. In 2019 he was shortlisted for Best Original Fiction by Stack Magazines. More of his writing can be read on his website: remythequill.com
OLA W. HALIM writes fiction and poetry and also teaches English Language and Literature in Edo State, Nigeria. He seeks to tell stories not frequently told, themes rarely explored. As a teacher, he has been shortlisted for the TFCN Teacher’s Prize for Literature 2019. He edits prose for ARTmosterrific, a literary platform publishing young African writers, especially undergraduates. Halim is interested in research on sexuality, albinism, inclusive education, and feminism.
VINCENT ANIOKE was born and raised in Nigeria, studied Computer Science at MIT in the United States, and now lives in Canada. By day, he is a software engineer. By night, he voraciously reads and writes short stories. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in literary journals such as Carve, Split Lip Magazine, Pithead Chapel, and Callaloo, among others. He is currently working on his debut anthology.”
FRANKLYN USOUWA is a Nigerian of the Igbo ethnic group who was born and raised in Lagos. He is presently studying for an undergraduate degree in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Lagos. He is greatly interested in storytelling in all its possible forms but has a particularly soft spot for short stories. His short stories have been published in The Kalahari Review and Writer’s Space Africa.