Press release: The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing reveals its 2021 shortlist

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The 2021 AKO Caine Prize shortlist has been announced, revealing five stories of “impressive craft and intelligent language”, chosen from a multitude of submissions spanning over 22 countries. This year’s judging panel deliberated the stories and chose the shortlist virtually.

The shortlisted authors for the 2021 Prize are from Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia and Uganda.

Founding Director of the African Writers Trust and this year’s Chair of judges, Goretti Kyomuhendo said: “We were looking for literary excellence and great stories. It is clear that the wealth of stories presented to the Prize speak about the African experience from a multitude of perspectives and forms, while often centering the themes of love, loss, identity, hope and afterlife.

“It has been hugely encouraging to see consistently excellent editing throughout the stories put to our judgment, and we have enthusiastically noticed a large number of submissions from homegrown literary journals from the continent this year.

“What comes across vividly in this year’s shortlisted stories, through their impressive craft and intelligent language is their ability to resonate profoundly with the reader. My fellow judges and I were reminded, once again, of the redemptive power of stories. These remarkable five narratives all exemplify, with delicacy and truth, what good fiction is. 

“Intermingling politics and humour, brutality and love, loss and hope, each of these stories poignantly convey images of the continent and its diaspora that demand to be read. The true art of African storytelling is manifested in the voices of these five exceptional pieces.”

The shortlisted stories for the 2021 AKO Caine Prize are:

  • ‘Lucky' by Doreen Baingana (Uganda) published in Ibua Journal, Online in Kampala, Uganda, 2021. Please find her story here.
  • ‘The Street Sweep’ by Meron Hadero (Ethiopia) published in ZYZZYVA, Ethiopia, 2018. Please find her story here.
  • ‘The Giver of Nicknames' by Rémy Ngamije (Namibia) published in Lolwe, Kenya, 2020. Please find his story here.
  • ‘This Little Light of Mine’ by Troy Onyango (Kenya) published in Doek! Literary Magazine, Namibia, 2020. Please find his story here.
  • ‘A Separation' by Iryn Tushabe (Ugandan) published in EXILE Quarterly, Canada 2018. Please find her story here.

Biographies of the shortlisted writers are available on the website here.

Goretti Kyomuhendo is joined on the 2021 judging panel by Razia Iqbal, a BBC News Presenter on Newshour on the World Service, and the World Tonight on Radio 4; Victor Ehikhamenor, an award-winning multimedia artist, photographer and writer; Georgina Godwin, an independent broadcast journalist and a regular chair of literary events as well as Books Editor for Monocle 24; and Nicholas Makoha, a writer who founded The Obsidian Foundation, and sits on the board of the Arvon Foundation and the Ministry of Stories.

The winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced via a specially curated virtual award in July. Each shortlisted writer will also receive £500.

For this 2021 Prize edition, Ms Sarah Ozo-Irabor has been appointed Event Producer and as such she will work on the Prize’s award event series, curating new types of literary events for this year’s shortlist. Ms Ozo-Irabor is a literary critic and producer with a passion for bridging the gap between canonical and contemporary literatures by writers of African descent, with a solid experience in events management. She is the creator and host of the renowned Books & Rhymes Podcast and she founded Lit Avengers, an intertextual monthly literary salon.

As in previous years, our partners and co-publishers in 16 African countries will receive a print-ready PDF free of charge.

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