Kenyan author Idza Luhumyo was announced today as the 2022 winner of the Caine Prize at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. She won for her story “Five Years Next Sunday”, which also won the 2019/20 Short Story Day Africa award and was published in the Johannesburg Review of Books.
The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing was established in 2000 in memory of Sir Michael Harris Caine, the former Chairman of the Booker Group who co-founded the Man Booker Prize. The Caine Prize is awarded each year to a short story by an African writer or from the African diaspora. The 2022 judges were award-winning Nigerian author and journalist Okey Ndibe, who served as chair; Franco-Guinean author Elisa Diallo; South African podcast host Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane; London-based Nigerian visual artist Àsìkò Okelarin; and Angela Wachuka, Kenyan co-founder of Book Bunk.
This year’s five shortlisted authors were selected from 349 entries from 27 African countries. Ndibe says this year’s nominations “represented a mind-blowing feast. It was enchantment galore, a testament to the vibrancy, variety and splendor of creative talent among writers of African descent.… It is thanks to the dedication of the judges that we have a shortlist that spans the entire stylistic and thematic range.
The other shortlisted authors were: Joshua Chizoma (Nigeria) for “Collector of Memories”, Nana-Ama Danquah (Ghana) for “When a Man Loves a Woman”, Hannah Giorgis (Ethiopia) for “A Double-Edged Inheritance” and Billie McTernan (Ghana) for “The Labadi Sunshine Bar”. Their stories are available to read here.
Oprah Daily spoke with the winner and a shortlisted author of the nomination and their future plans. Luhumyo’s stories have been published in Jalada Africa, the 2016 Writing Anthology: Sunset and Other Stories, and Gordon Square Review. She was the first winner of the 2020 Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa Award. In her Caine Award-winning story, a young woman has been farming her locs for almost five years and has become known as a “woman who calls” – the one who calls the rain. A chance encounter changes her family’s fortunes and, for the first time, she feels seen and loved. Luhumyo’s story is slow and silent, guiding the reader to an inevitable but surprising ending.
Hannah Giorgis is an editor at Atlantic, and his work has been published in The New York Times Magazine and The Guardian. “A double-edged legacy” was published in Addis Ababa Black (2020). Giorgis’ sentences are demanding, without a word out of place, in a story about the cold, calculated ways in which powerful families maintain their status by destroying obstacles and inconveniences. It’s also the story of three smart, resilient women who refused to be stereotyped.
Oprah Daily: You are an editor at Atlantic and write non-fiction. When and why did you decide to venture into fiction?
George: As far back as I can remember, I have always enjoyed reading fiction. I hid in my cousins rooms as a kid to read. But I didn’t consider myself someone capable of writing serious fiction until Maaza Mengiste, an incredible author, asked me for a short story for the Addis Ababa Black anthology. At first I was really hesitant because I knew it would require a different approach to my creative process, but it turned out that I really liked pushing myself.
What did you want to convey in this story?
George: I think a lot about the aftermath of certain types of violence, dislocation and displacement, how geopolitical conflicts play out in everyday interactions, how they shape our relationships with ourselves and our families. I was thinking about what we culturally expect of women and asking them to do it. And there had to be a specter of violence or haunting, because it’s dark.
Luhumyo: I come from the coast of Kenya, where when women or old men start to have gray hair, they call them witches and send them to certain villages where they are sort of banished. There are several reasons why people do this; sometimes just because they want land and old people don’t die fast enough. I was thinking about that and the hair connection.
What does this appointment mean to you?
George: I am so thrilled to be in the company of an incredible cohort of writers whose work challenges me. I am extremely grateful for that and to Maaza for encouraging me in the first place and for remaining a dedicated and compassionate advocate.
Luhumyo: The Caine Prize is well known on the African continent. Being nominated is very rewarding and a bit scary, but it’s pretty huge for me.
What are your plans for the future?
George: In terms of fiction, I’m not entirely sure. Maybe another story or a novel or something in the visual narrative space. I’ll keep you posted!
Luhumyo: I’m totally focused on the new novel I’m writing. And I love getting back to it!
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