As a young boy I and my friends were, somewhat, addicted to action/adventure movies. The final duel (in which we took particular interest), between the forces of good and evil, or the hero and villain, we called “last fight.”
And we did not care what their box office ratings were since we had our own rating system: the number of stars a movie got was directly proportional to the duration and intensity of the last fight in it. Simple.
As the story behind the 2016 Caine Prize builds to a climax, where the five-writer shortlist will slug it out in a last fight, I wait in anticipation of an epic end. For one, the stakes are high—with £10,000 in prize money, it’s pretty high.
The winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced at an award ceremony and dinner at the Weston Library, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, on Monday 4 July. Each shortlisted writer will also receive £500.
But it all began with a record number of entries.
“Once again we have received a record number of entries and we are delighted that so many of the best writers and publishers in Africa chose to submit their work.” That came several weeks earlier from the Caine Prize Director, Dr. Lizzy Attree, while commenting on the entries for the 2016 Caine Prize award.
The record breaking number of entries—166 short stories from writers representing 23 African countries—was an increase from last year’s 153 qualifying stories from 17 countries. And among that 23 are debutant countries, like Ethiopia, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Gambia, that will have representation in the entries for the first time.
The shortlist was announced last month.
Abdul Adan (Somalia/Kenya) for The Lifebloom Gift published in The Gonjon Pin and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing 2014 (New Internationalist, United Kingdom, 2014). His work has appeared in African magazines Kwani, Jungle Jim, Gambit, Okike, Storytime, SCARF and elsewhere. He was a participant in the 2014 Caine Prize workshop in Zimbabwe, and is a founding member of the Jalada collective.
Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) for What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky published in Catapult (Catapult, USA, 2015). Lesley Nneka Arimah is a Nigerian writer living in Minneapolis. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s and other publications. When she isn’t spreading peace and joy on Twitter, Arimah is at work on a collection of short stories (What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky) forthcoming in 2017 from Riverhead Books. There are rumours about a novel.
Tope Folarin (Nigeria) for Genesis published in Callaloo (Johns Hopkins University Press, USA, 2014). Tope Folarin won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2013, and in 2014 he was named in the Africa39 list of the most promising African writers under 39. In addition, his work has been published in various anthologies and journals. He lives in Washington DC.
Bongani Kona (Zimbabwe) for At your Requiem published in Incredible Journey: Stories That Move You (Burnet Media, South Africa, 2015). Bongani Kona is a freelance writer and contributing editor of Chimurenga. His writing has appeared in Mail & Guardian, Rolling Stone (South Africa), Sunday Times and other publications and websites. He is also enrolled as a Masters student in the Creative Writing department at the University of Cape Town.
Lidudumalingani (South Africa) for Memories we Lost published in Incredible Journey: Stories That Move You (Burnet Media, South Africa, 2015). Lidudumalingani is a writer, filmmaker and photographer. He was born in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, in a village called Zikhovane. Lidudumalingani has published short stories, non-fiction and criticism in various publications. His films have been screened at various film festivals.
CHAIR OF JUDGES: DELIA JARRETT-MACAULEY
Delia Jarrett-Macauley is a member of the Caine Prize Council and served as a judge in 2007. She is the author of the literary biography The Life of Una Marson 1905–1965, and of the Orwell prize-winning novel Moses, Citizen and Me 2005.
Adjoa Andoh is a British film, television, stage and radio actress of Ghanaian descent. She is known on the UK stage for lead roles at the RSC, the National Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre and the Almeida Theatre, and is a familiar face on British television (notably in two series of Doctor Who as companion Martha’s mother Francine Jones, 90 episodes of the BBC’s medical drama Casualty.
Muthoni has published twenty books for children, two novellas for adults, and several stories published in literary journals and in the anthology, Helicopter Beetles, which is available on Amazon as an ebook. She is also a storyteller and has appeared on stage in several countries. Muthoni is a founder member of the writer’s collective, Storymoja, which aggressively preaches the gospel of reading for pleasure. Storymoja runs several projects promoting reading among children, including the bi-annual National Read Aloud, which in 2015, broke the world record of people reading from the same text on the same day at the same time; and the Start a Library initiative. Since its inception in March 2012, Start a Library has installed 66 libraries in primary schools.
Robert J. Patterson is an associate professor of African American studies and English and director of the African American Studies Program at Georgetown University. He is the author of Exodus Politics: Civil Rights and Leadership in African American Literature and Culture (University of Virginia Press 2013), and co-editor of The Psychic Hold of Slavery: Legacies in American Culture (Rutgers University Press 2016). His work appears in South Atlantic Quarterly, Black Camera, Religion and Literature, The Cambridge Companion to African American Women’s Writing, the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, and the Cambridge Companion to Civil Rights Literature. He also co-guest-edited a special edition of South Atlantic Quarterly on “Black Literature, Black Leadership.” Extending his scholarly interests in the post–civil rights era, black popular culture, and the politics of race and gender, Patterson has begun work on a second book, It’s Just Another Sad Love Song: R & B Music and the Politics of Race.
Mary Watson is the author of Moss (2004), The Cutting Room (2013) and several short stories in anthologies. She won the Caine Prize in 2006. A lapsed academic, Mary did an MA in Creative Writing under the mentorship of André Brink, before completing a doctorate in Film Studies. Born in Cape Town, she currently lives in Ireland. She was a finalist for the Rolex Mentor/Protégé Initiative in 2012, and in 2014 she was included in the Hay Festival’s Africa39 list of promising writers under forty.
Presenting a diverse and dazzling collection from all over the continent, from Morocco to Zimbabwe, Uganda to Kenya. Helon Habila focuses on younger, newer writers – contrasted with some of their older, more established peers – to give a fascinating picture of a new and more liberated Africa.
These writers are characterized by their engagement with the wider world and the opportunities offered by the end of apartheid, the end of civil wars and dictatorships, and the possibilities of free movement. Their work is inspired by travel and exile. They are liberated, global and expansive. As Dambudzo Marechera wrote: ‘If you’re a writer for a specific nation or specific race, then f*** you.” These are the stories of a new Africa, punchy, self-confident and defiant.
Includes stories by: Fatou Diome; Aminatta Forna; Manuel Rui; Patrice Nganang; Leila Aboulela; Zoë Wicomb; Alaa Al Aswany; Doreen Baingana; E.C. Osondu.