Battle for Thrones

“As a novelist accustomed to the luxury of the long form it has been a treat to discover writers who manage to crystallise such different experiences into so few words. The stories we have chosen for the shortlist are in turn comic, touching, poetic, mysterious but always fresh and unexpected.”
Gillian Slovo, Chair of Judges, The 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Who Rules Africa?

On Wednesday, May 4th, precisely five days from the writing of this post, five writers will emerge winners of their respective regions in The 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Seven Africans—3 Nigerians and 4 South Africans—made the shortlist. In all, 26 stories by writers from 11 countries make up the shortlist.

The prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction in English, translations also eligible. Five winners from the five different Commonwealth regions are selected, winning £2,500 each, with the overall winner receiving £5,000.

Commonwealth Regions: Africa, Asia, Europe and Canada, Carribeans, and Pacific.
Chair of Judges: Gillian Slovo, South African novelist and playwright.

Here, I present to you the seven shortlisted Africans:

Exorcism, Lausdeus Chiegboka (Nigeria)

Bimpe was the most notable member of the church, mostly for her “colour-blocking” styles than for her protuberant belly. She would wear at least two sharply contrasting bright colours in her blouses and skirts, for example neon green and bright pink or lemon green and orange at the same time. The colours announced her arrival and registered her presence. She always loved the front row. I knew her for her queer style of prayer. She seemed to always be the one most possessed by the Holy Ghost. She had a frightening style of speaking in tongues, muttering and repeating incongruous syllables with “trickesai-truckesai-abasimombobrabra-nyongo” recurring frequently.

lausdeusLausdeus Chiegboka is a medical doctor trained at the University of Nigeria who practises in the Nigerian Navy. Born in Nsukka, Nigeria, he has published a novel titled Devil at Bay. Lausdeus also writes poetry and won second prize (Literature) in Anambra State Youth Awards in 2012.

Saving Obadiah, Enyeribe Ibegwam (Nigeria)
Obadiah Anyaso’s wife of two years died from an illness that shocked him, his family and friends, neighbours and parishioners: in fact all of his townspeople. Her death had been the kind where she had been seen earlier in the day, buying smoked fish and cocoyam for her evening soup, only for wails to be heard just after evening meals that Obadiah Anyaso’s wife had died. In the space of a year and six months after her death, Obadiah continued to mourn her. His beard and hair, grown as a rite for the one year mourning period, became unkempt like old toothbrush bristles.

enyeribeEnyeribe Ibegwam was brought up in Lagos, Nigeria, and now lives in Washington, DC, where he is a graduate student at Georgetown University.

The Driver, Oyinkan Braithwaite (Nigeria)

She is as they described her—a goddess with long powerful legs, skin the colour of corn and lips that would make sucking on an agbalumo look pornographic. She stands out—she is a head above most of the tired and grumbling travelers waiting for their luggage to be released by the willful conveyer belt. She scans the room, looking for—him. He remembers to raise the cardboard that has her name painted with thick black marker. Her mother had written it, convinced that he wouldn’t be able to write Aderisi correctly, revealing the flaws in the Nigerian public school system.

oyinkanOyinkan Braithwaite writes novels, short stories, scripts, poetry, articles and notes to herself. She has had work published in anthologies and has also self-published work. Her flash fiction story—‘Eba. Efo Riro and a Serving of Tears’ was recently longlisted for the Etisalat Flash Fiction Prize. She has performed spoken word live, on radio and on TV. You can find her at

The Entomologist’s Dream, Andrew Salomon (South Africa)
Yasmin Ingabire.
Forty two.
Anywhere? You are sure about that, Sergeant Migambi? Very well, I think the appropriate place to start would be at the boxing gym in Kicukiro District. This was almost a year ago.
You know the sound a padded glove makes when it hits against someone’s ribs? It’s a kind of flat smack. I heard that sound all the time in the boxing gym. When I could hear a smack, a pause and then one or two more smacks in quick succession I’d know the boxers were in a clinch. I couldn’t see the ring or much else from where I sat, but I’d been going there long enough to be able to form a picture in my head of what was happening.

andrewAndrew Salomon is the author of the young adult novel The Chrysalis and the fantasy thriller Tokoloshe Song. He has been shortlisted for the Terry Pratchett First Novel Award and his short fiction has won the PEN/Studzinski Literary Award for African Fiction and the Short.Sharp.Stories Award. He works as an archaeologist and lives in Cape Town with his wife and two young sons.

The Pigeon, Faraaz Mahomed (South Africa)

Each morning, for about four months now, I am woken by the same foul, fat pigeon. I am certain that he’s the same one, even though I have no means to prove it. In truth, I have no way to be sure he is a he either. It used to occur to me that maybe he had left something at the window, or inside and was hoping that being here to retrieve it would allow him some release. On most Saturdays, I leave the window open. It makes me feel kind, because I am easing his spirit into the next phase or something of that nature.

faraazFaraaz Mahomed is a clinical psychologist and human rights researcher based in Johannesburg, South Africa. He also holds academic fellowships with the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Johannesburg. A former Fulbright scholar, Faraaz’s writing is largely academic in nature, having published several journal articles relating to human rights issues. He dreams of writing a novel and intends pursuing a PhD on the subject of mental health and human rights.

This is How We Burn, Cat Hellisen (South Africa)
The ink was blue, fading across the flyer into what might have once been red but was now the pink of discarded Valentine’s cards. A rainbow wave of disquiet and superstition. An A5 job lot—5000 flyers for seven hundred grimy South African rands. Lindela scanned the rest of the flyer, though it was nothing new. Just a distraction. Like the lulling rattle of the wheels against the track. A measure for passing time.

catCat Hellisen is a fantasy author for adults and children who currently lives in Cape Town, South Africa. Her children’s book Beastkeeper, a play on the old tale of Beauty and the Beast, was released 3 February 2015. Her short stories have appeared in, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Apex Magazine and more.

When I Came Home, Mark Winkler (South Africa)

When I came home there were strange people in my house, and they gathered tight at the front door to block my entry.
“How did you get in?” I asked.
A young woman raised her index finger and before my eyes the tip of it took the shape of a key.
“Go away,” she said. “You’ve lived in this house for long enough.”
The house had been my father’s, and his father’s before. Was she using the plural, I wondered? And if so how could she know these things?
I asked if I might collect some of my belongings.
“No,” the woman said. “You’ve had the benefit of them for long enough.” And she closed the door.

winklerMark Winker has spent his working life in advertising, winning over thirty local and international advertising awards. He is currently creative director at a leading Cape Town agency. Mark’s first novel, An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Absolutely Everything, was published in 2013, and his second, Wasted, in 2015. His third novel, The Safest Place You Know, will be published in September 2016. Mark lives in Cape Town with his family.

The complete 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize shortlist (African writers in olive):

  1. Aabirah, Sophia Khan (Pakistan)
  2. A Visitation, Jane Healey (United Kingdom)
  3. Black Milk, Tina Makereti (New Zealand)
  4. Charmed, Jane Downing (Australia)
  5. Children of the Zocalo, Don McLellan (Canada)
  6. Confluence, Nova Gordon-Bell (Jamaica)
  7. Cow and Company, Parashar Kulkani (India)
  8. Dirty White Strings, Kritika Pandey (India)
  9. Eel, Stefanie Seddon (United Kingdom)
  10. Ethelbert and the Free Cheese, Lance Dowrich (Trinidad and Tobago)
  11. Exorcism, Lausdeus Chiegboka (Nigeria)
  12. Girdhar’s Mansion, Sumit Ray (India)
  13. Imbecile, Craig S Whyte (United Kingdom)
  14. Instant Karma, Vinayak Varma (India)
  15. Kurram Valley, Munib A Khan (Pakistan)
  16. Niroporadh Ghum (Innocent Sleep), Sumon Rahman (Bangladesh) (translated by Arunava Sinha)
  17. Saving Obadiah, Enyeribe Ibegwam (Nigeria)
  18. Space Invaders, Stuart Snelson (United Kingdom)
  19. The Driver, Oyinkan Braithwaite (Nigeria)
  20. The Entomologist’s Dream, Andrew Salomon (South Africa)
  21. The Pigeon, Faraaz Mahomed (South Africa)
  22. This Here Land, Miranda Luby (Australia)
  23. This is How We Burn, Cat Hellisen (South Africa)
  24. Vestigial, Trent Lewin (Canada)
  25. When I Came Home, Mark Winkler (South Africa)
  26. Where Mountains Weep, Bonnie Etherington (New Zealand)

The regional winners will be announced on Wednesday, May 4th and the overall winner will be announced sometime in June 2016.



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