Huge congrats to all 6 African writers on the regional shortlist for the 2023 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. [ Scroll down for more information about the storie and watch the authors talk about their writing.]
A total of twenty-eight writers were shortlisted from 19 countries representing Africa, Asia, Europe-Canada, and Pacific. The selections were made from a staggering pool of 6,642 submissions.
There are three South Africanwriters on the Africa region shortlist. Matshediso Radebe was born in 2000 and won the SA Writers College Short Story Competition in 2022. Michael Boyd completed his MA in Creative Writing in Johannesburg and is working on his first novel. Hana Gammon, born in Cape Town, is currently studying Language and Culture at the University of Stellenbosch. The two Kenyan writers on the list are Josiah Mbote who is studying Pharmacy at the University of Nairobi and compiling his debut collection of short stories and Buke Abduba, an unpublished writer who began writing after losing her father to cancer. H. B. Asari, the only Nigerian on the list, is a student at the University of Lagos.
This year’s judging panel, chaired by Pakistani author Bilal Tanweer, includes Rwandan-born author Rémy Ngamije (Africa), Sri Lankan author Ameena Hussein (Asia), British-Canadian author Katrina Best (Canada and Europe), Saint Lucian author Mac Donald Dixon (Caribbean), and New Zealand’s former Poet Laureate, Dr. Selina Tusitala Marsh (Pacific).
Tanweer praised the stories for “brim[ming] with the energy and urgency of the present moment” and for capturing the “beat and pulse of contemporary storytelling.” The stories on the Africa shortlist explore themes of grief, childhood, comedy, memory, and more.
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded for the best short fiction manuscript. Regional winners and the overall winner receive a cash award of £2,500 GBP and £5,000 GBP, respectively.
The shortlisted stories will be published on Adda, the Commonwealth Foundation’s flagship magazine. On May 17, regional winners will be announced and overall winner on June 27. Last year, Ntsika Kota made history as the first ever eSwatini writer to be shortlisted for the regional prize, which he went on to win as well as take home the overall prize.
Congrats to all the shortlisted writers! Learn more about the shortlisted stories and the writers below.
“Price Tags” by Buke Abduba (Kenya):
‘Price Tags’ is about a young girl that leaves home to buy a good life, unaware of just how much it would cost her.
“Mama Blue” by Michael Boyd (South Africa)
The story of a man remembering his life through the memories of his neighbour, Mama Blue. With touches of the magical, ‘Mama Blue’ is about hope in our ever-changing world, and how we can use the past to look forward.
“Arboretum” by H. B. Asari (Nigeria)
‘Arboretum’ is a short story that interrogates grief both collective and personal, and asks, ‘How do we pick ourselves up and keep going in the face of overwhelming tragedy.’
“The Undertaker’s Apprentice” by Hana Gammon (South Africa)
‘The Undertaker’s Apprentice’ follows the story of a group of children and their interactions with their small town’s sombre but kind mortician. As they grow up, they are forced to question issues of growth, decay, and exchange between different states of being.
“Punching Lines” by Josiah Mbote (Kenya)
An introspective exploration of the narrator’s state as a failed stand-up comedian. He dares to touch on some perennial as well as contemporary themes such as failure, love, depression, and the philosophy of life through a delicate interplay of comical and tragic lens.
Falling From A Knife Tree by Matshediso Radebe (Kenya)
‘Falling From A Knife Tree’ is essentially scattered vignettes of the coming-of-age story of a piqued girl with divorced parents.