This year’s contest marks significant milestones for the Caine Prize, with a joint submission and an all-women judging panel chaired by Fareda Banda.
By Helena Olori
The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing has shortlisted five outstanding stories for its 2023 edition. The finalists were carefully selected from a pool of 297 entries from across 28 African countries.
Representing the rich diversity of African literature, the shortlist for the 2023 Caine Prize features writers from renowned publishers including Yejide Kilanko‘s This Tangible Thing, published by HarperVia in 2023; Tlotlo Tsamaase (Botswana) nominated for Peeling Time (Deluxe Edition) published by TorDotCom in 2022; Senegalese authors, Mame Bougouma Diene and Woppa Diallo, selected for A Soul of Small Places, also published by TorDotCom in 2022; Ekemini Pius from Nigeria, is nominated for Daughters, By Our Hands, published in 2022 by Isele Magazine; and Ugandan author, Yvonne Kusiima, shortlisted for Weaving, published in 2022 by Isele as well.
This year’s contest marks significant milestones for the Caine Prize, with a joint submission and an all-women judging panel chaired by Fareda Banda, a Zimbabwean Law professor based at SOAS, University of London. She’s joined by Ivorian literary activist, Edwige-Renée Dro; Kadija George Sesay, a Sierra Leonean/British scholar; British-Nigerian author and editor, Jendella Benson; and, a Somali-British writer and poet, Warsan Shire.
Regarding the shortlist, Banda said, “Together we have read, discussed and wrestled an eligible submission list of 230 stories down to the final five. This has not been an easy task. The entries showed the depth and scope of writing on the continent and beyond […] The five shortlisted embrace speculative fiction and artivism (using art as a form of activism). Each story will have its fans and advocates-we loved them all.”
Four of the shortlisted finalists currently reside in Africa. Yejide Kilanko, a Nigerian writer based in Canada, is celebrated for her poetry and fiction. She gained recognition for her debut novel, Daughters Who Walk This Path, a Canadian national bestseller and longlisted for the 2016 Nigeria Prize for Literature. Motswana author, Tlotlo Tsamaase, is known for her award-nominated works, including the Lambda Literary Award finalist novella, The Silence of the Wilting Skin, and the upcoming debut adult novel, Womb City. Her short fiction has appeared in prestigious publications such as Clarkesworld, Terraform, and the Africanfuturism Anthology.
Mame Bougouma Diene, a Franco-Senegalese American humanitarian, contributes to African speculative fiction while his co-author, Woppa Diallo, is a human rights lawyer and feminist activist dedicated to promoting social change and the realisation of women’s rights.
Nigerian writer and editor, Ekemini Pius, has his work published writer on several magazines. He is an alumnus of the 2019 Wawa Literary Fellowship, a finalist for the 2022 Guest Artist Space Fellowship, and is currently working on his debut novel. Yvonne Kusiima, a Ugandan writer, explores societal complexities and advocates for change through storytelling. Her work has been published in prestigious platforms and shortlisted for the Isele short story prize.
Named in honour of the late Sir Michael Caine, former Chairman of Booker plc, The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing, an annual literary award, aims to amplify African voices and support emerging writers in the mainstream publishing industry. The selected winner from the five shortlisted candidates will receive the grand prize of £10,000.