Aganaba Jesudubami Jemima, Reem Gaafar, and Andile MaShandu Cele.

Three manuscripts have been shortlisted for the 2023 Island Prize for African writing: Bobo Hamham by Nigerian writer Aganaba, Jesudubami Jemima,  A Mouth Full of Salt by Sudanese writer Reem Gaafar, and Braids and Migraines by South African writer Andile MaShandu Cele.

As noted in a press statement, “these are three promising and exciting writers from three different countries, across the continent and with very different subject matter. However, what they crucially all shared was emotional, intellectual, and literary depth.”

The Island prize was set up in honor of South African author Karen Jennings’ Booker-longlisted novel An Island. It is administered by Jennings in partnership with her publishers Holland House Books (UK) and Karavan Press (South Africa). In addition to a cash award of £500, £300, and £200 for first, second and third place respectively, the top three manuscripts will be considered for publication, and their authors introduced to an agent.

Congrats to all the shortlisted authors! Learn more about the authors and the selected manuscripts.

Aganaba, Jesudubami Jemima – Bobo Hamham

Bobo Hamham by esudubami Jemimais Aganaba (Nigeria): a Nigerian story told through the eyes of three children and their devastating encounters with terrorism. A story of class, missed connections, and the frail innocence of youth.

Aganaba is a Nigerian writer from Bayelsa State with a passion for stories. She studied English and Literary Studies at Niger Delta University. Her works have been published by F-bom, Kalahari Review, Creative Freelance Writerz, Michael Afenfia’s Write Now 2018, along with the anthologies Coloured and Go the Way your Blood Beats. Check out her work here.

Reem Gaafar – A Mouth Full of Salt 

A Mouth Full of Salt byReem Gaafar (Sudan): During the search for a drowned boy in the North of Sudan, a strange woman appears and with her a series of strange and tragic events. Animals die of a mysterious illness; the date tree field catches fire and burns to the ground; a young girl dies. The women in this story are trapped in a gender and racial hierarchy, with ingrained bigotry blaming all change in society on evil outside forces.

Gaafar is a Sudanese public health physician, writer, researcher, filmmaker, and mother of three boys. She has accumulated nearly 200 publications including blog posts, peer-reviewed and magazine articles, short stories, policy briefs, and book contributions. Her writing has appeared in African Arguments, African Feminism, Teakisi Magazine, Andariya, 500 Words Magazine, International Health Policies, and Health Systems Global.

Her short story “Light of the Desert'”was published in the anthology I Know Two Sudans and was awarded an Honorable Mention. Her other short story “Finding Decartes” was published in the anthology Relations: An Anthology of African and Diaspora Voices. She was also shortlisted for the Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship in 2020. Check out her work here.

Andile Mashandu Cele – Braids and Migraines

Braids and Migraines by Andile MaShandu Cele (South Africa): is a story of family, mental health, and a brewing movement. Siblings Bhutiwakhe and Nomandla Mkhize are faced with yet another crisis in their lives; this time, Nomandla has been expelled from a prestigious school in KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, where she is currently doing her final year. Bhutiwakhe is 10 years older than Nomandla and has for the past four years played a parental role in his sister’s life.

Cele is a South African writer and communications consultant. She was born in KwaZulu-Natal and grew up on a farm, where her mother worked as a domestic worker for a farming family. She then left her home to pursue post-secondary education in Pretoria, where she joined a campus poetry group. She has a B.Tech in Journalism from the Tshwane University of Technology, a BA in Creative Writing and BA (Honours) in Theory of Literature from the University of South Africa.

Congrats to the three shortlisted writers! Good luck to them.