Eight writers from five African countries have been shortlisted for the 2021 Short Story Day Africa Prize. The pack is led by Nigeria with three, South Africa with two, and Kenya, Sierra Leone and Zambia with one each.

In its seventh year, the Short Story Day Africa Prize awards a total of $1,100 worth of cash prizes on up to three writers for a single short story ($800 for first place, $200 for second place, and $100 for third place). It is open to an African citizen or African in the diaspora.

The 2021 Prize is themed “Disruption”. The collection of the longlisted stories will be published by US-based catalyst press. It’s gorgeous cover is designed by South African writer Megan Ross. The anthology is edited by Rachel Zadok with contributions from board members Jason Mykl Snyman and Karina Szczurek.

The judges commented on the difficulty of selecting the shortlist as a result of the high quality of the stories on the longlist. They also noted that at least five of the eight writers shortlisted have previously appeared on the SSDA long and shortlists. Also on the shortlist are the 2019 and 2020 winners of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize: Mbozi Haimbe and Innocent Ilo respectively.

See the full shortlist below:

  • ‘Static’ by Alithanayn Abdulkareem (Nigeria)
  • ‘Dɔrə’s Song’ by Victor Forna (Sierra Leone)
  • ‘The Fish Tank Crab’ by Genna Gardini (South Africa)
  • ‘Shelter’ by Mbozi Haimbe (Zambia)
  • ‘Before We Die Unwritten’ by Innocent Ilo (Nigeria)
  • ‘Laatlammer’ by Julia Smuts Louw (South Africa)
  • ‘Five Years Next Sunday’ by Idza Luhumyo (Kenya)
  • ‘When the Levees Break’ by Edwin Okolo (Nigeria)

The three winners will be announced on 21 June, 2021. The anthology Disruption: New Short Fiction from Africa, will be launched globally on 7 September 2021.

Congratulations to the shortlisted writers! Get to know more about the writers. Read their bios below.


Bios of Shortlisted Writers

Alithnayn Abdulkareem is a development practitioner and writer based in Washington DC. She writes mostly opinion articles and personal essays, with the occasional short story to keep things interesting. An alumnus of Chimamada Adichie’s Farafina writers’ workshop, she has been published by Quartz, Ozy, Brittle Paper, Wasafiri, Transition, ID: New Short Fiction from Africa, and others. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram

Victor Forna was born and raised in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He is a speculative fiction writer based in his home country, where he is currently completing an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering. He is most passionate about telling mind-boggling tales that are layered enough to reveal glimpses of the human experience, and about the unreality of reality. He’s quite unreal, too. Find more of his work on his wordpress blog, vfornashapes.wordpress.com.

Genna Gardini is a South African writer, theatre-maker, and educator. She is a PhD candidate at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and recently won the 2020 CASA award to finish her latest play, Many Scars. Genna’s poetry collection, Matric Rage, received a commendation for the Ingrid Jonker Prize and she was a 2016 National Fellow at the Institute for Creative Arts.

Mbozi Haimbe was born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia, where she lived until her mid-twenties. A qualified social worker by profession, Mbozi is relatively new to writing. Whether realist or speculative, short stories or long-form prose, all of Mbozi’s fiction is inspired by Africa. Her short story, “Madam’s Sister” won the Africa region prize of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2019, and a 2020 PEN America/Robert J. Dau Prize.  Mbozi has a Master of Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge. She was awarded a Develop Your Creative Practice award by Arts Council England in January 2020. She is currently working on her debut novel, an Afrofuturistic story loosely based on the Makishi masquerade traditions of the North-western people of Zambia. Mbozi lives in Norfolk, UK, with her family.

Innocent Chizaram Ilo is Igbo. They are the winner of 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize (African Region) and an Otherwise Award Nominee. Their works have appeared in Granta, Lolwe, Isele Magazine, Fireside Magazine, Strange Horizons, Cast of Wonders, Fantasy Magazine, Reckoning Press, Overland MagazineAl Jazeera, BBC Culture, The Guardian, and elsewhere. They currently live in Lagos, but dream of exciting lives in far-flung places.

Julia Smuts Louw is a South African screenwriter, primarily working in animation. She has won a Muse Award for animation screenwriting, and her work has appeared on Nickelodeon Digital, Disney XD, Cartoon Network Africa and other channels. Her poetry and essays have appeared in New Contrast, Stanzas, Literary Mama, Animal Literary Journal and elsewhere. Her short story “Paper House” was published in the anthology Touch: Stories of Contact (2009). She lives in Cape Town with her husband, two children, two Siberian Forest Cats and a Husky. Their family motto is “Semper capillis tecti” (always covered in hair).

Idza Luhumyo is a Kenyan writer with training in screenwriting and a background in law. Her artistic practice lies at the intersection of law, film, and literature. She is currently studying towards an MA in Comparative Literature at SOAS, University of London.

Edwin Okolo is a writer, journalist, and storyteller. He offers commentary on the intersections of gender identity, feminism, contemporary African culture, and its influence on social values. He worked as the in-house culture critic for the Native Magazine, a counter-culture media organisation with a focus on documenting black youth subcultures, and ran the editorial newsroom at YNaija.com. From there he moved to his current position as the content strategist for Clout Africa. Edwin has bylines in Vogue, The New York Times, BBC, African Arguments, and Culture Custodian. He is working on his first literary fiction novel.