Kenya’s Idza Luhumyo wins the 2022 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story “Five Years Next Sunday,” described by the judges as “an incandescent story.” She was announced winner at an award ceremony tonight at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
Luhumyo is the fifth Kenyan to win the prize. Interestingly, with her win, she replicates the exact feat of the previous Kenyan winner Okwiri Oduor. Both women won the Caine Prize with stories that had previously won the Short Story Day Africa Award. Other winners of Kenyan origin include Binyavanga Wainaina (2002), Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (2003), and Makena Onjerika (2018).
Luhumyo emerged winner from a record-setting shortlist that included Joshua Chizoma (Nigeria) for “Collector of Memories,” Nana-Ama Danquah (Ghana) for “When a Man Loves a Woman,” Hannah Giorgis (Ethiopia) “A Double-Edged Inheritance,” and Billie McTernan (Ghana) for “The Labadi Sunshine Bar.” Luhumyo’s win comes as no surprise. It particularly stood out to Ugandan author Doreen Baingana who, in her review published here on Brittle Paper, describes the story as “a mesmerizing story of flawed individuals, need, love and greed: a heartbreaking mirror that reflects our neocolonial reality.” [Read all five stories here and our reviews here.]
“Five Years Next Sunday” appeared in the Short Story Day Africa anthology titled Disruption, published by catalyst press in 2021. It tells the story of “a young woman with the unique power to call the rain in her hair. Feared by her family and community, a chance encounter with a foreigner changes her fortunes, but there are duplicitous designs upon her most prized and vulnerable possession.”
This year’s judging panel was chaired by Nigerian author Okey Ndibe and included the French-Guinean author and academic Elisa Diallo, South African literary curator and co-founder of The Cheeky Natives Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane, UK-based Nigerian visual artist Ade ‘Àsìkò’ Okelarin, and Kenyan co-founder of the Book Bunk Angela Wachuka.
Ndibe found the main character of the story striking:
What we liked about the story was the mystical office of the protagonist, who is both ostracized and yet holds the fate of her community in her hair. She is stripped of agency by her immediate family, as well as the Europeans who give the impression of placing her on a pedestal, yet within that seeming absence of agency, and oppressive world, is her stubborn reclamation of herself. The dramatic tension in the story is so powerful and palpable that it’s like something you could cut with a knife.
For her win, Luhumyo will receive a cash award of £10,000 while the rest of the four finalists receive £500. The five stories will appear in the 2022 AKO Caine Prize anthology published later this year by Cassava Republic Press.
Idza Luhumyo is a Kenyan writer. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Popula, Jalada Africa, The Writivism Anthology, Baphash Literary & Arts Quarterly, MaThoko’s Books, Short Story Day Africa, the New Internationalist, and African Arguments. Her work has been shortlisted for the Short Story Day Africa Prize, the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship, and the Gerald Kraak Award. She is the inaugural winner of the Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa Award (2020) and winner of the Short Story Day Africa Prize (2021).
The judges praised the other shortlisted stories for being “well written and emotionally resonant.” The judges also expressed confidence in the continued significance of the AKO Caine Prize in the African literary scene. Wachuka remarks: “The historic import of the Prize on writers’ trajectories has ranged from the formation of literary entities, to unmatched global visibility, and opportunities including publishing deals and writing fellowships.”
Please join us in congratulating Luhumyo on such a monumental win!