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Olufemi Terry Wins the £10 000 Caine Prize for African Writing

Femi Terry

Alert! Olufemi Terry, better known to denizens of SA Lit as Femi – a gentleman writer BOOK SA counts as one of our own, as he has previously been a top Cape Town Book Fair stringer for us (see pic below) – has won the annual £10 000 Caine Prize for African Writing, it was announced in Oxford, UK tonight. In addition to the hefty purse, Femi wins a month-long writers residency at Georgetown University, Washington DC.

Sade Adeniran, herself a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize winner, was quickest on the draw with the news, tweeting the announcement of the winner live from the event (one presumes):

And the winner of the 2010 Caine Prize is Olufemi Terryless than a minute ago via txt

Terry, who is originally from Sierra Leone, but now calls Cape Town home, wins for his short story, “Stickfighting Days”, which the judges called “Homeric in its scale and conception”. His work was shortlisted for the award with that of Alex Smith (South Africa; “Soulmates”), Ken Barris (South Africa; “The Life of the Worm”), Lily Mabura (Kenya; “How Shall We Kill the Bishop”) and Namwali Serpell (Zambia; “Muzungu”). Each shortlistee wins a travel package that enables them to attend the Caine Prize writing workshops later this year.

Read “Stickfighting Days” by Olufemi Terry:

Thwack, Thwack, the two of them go at it like madmen, but the boys around them barely stir with excitement. They both use one stick and we find this swordy kind of stickfighting a bit crappy. Much better two on one or two on two – lots more skill involved and more likelihood of blood.

I turn to Lapy. “Let’s go off and practise somewhere. This is weak.” Lapy likes any stickfight, but almost always does what I say. His eyes linger ruefully on Paps and the other boy – don’t know his name but I see him a lot – and then he follows me.

Last year’s winner was EC Osundu of Nigeria. Here is the official 2010 announcement from the Caine Prize:

Femi Terry and Sophy KohlerPress release

Olufemi Terry Wins 10th Caine Prize for African Writing

Sierra Leone’s Olufemi Terry has won the 2010 Caine Prize for African Writing, described as Africa’s leading literary award, for ‘Stickfighting Days’ from Chimurenga vol 12/13, Cape Town. The Chair of Judges, The Economist’s Literary Editor Fiammetta Rocco, announced Olufemi as the winner of the £10,000 prize at a dinner held this evening (Monday 5 July) at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Fiammetta Rocco said “ambitious, brave and hugely imaginative, Olufemi Terry’s ‘Stickfighting Days’ presents a heroic culture that is Homeric in its scale and conception. The execution of this story is so tight and the presentation so cinematic, it confirms Olufemi Terry as a talent with an enormous future.”

Olufemi Terry was born in Sierra Leone of African and Antillean parentage. He grew up in Nigeria, the U.K, and Cote d’Ivoire before attending university in New York. Subsequently, Olufemi lived in Kenya and worked as a journalist and analyst in Somalia and Uganda. He lives in Cape Town where he is writing his first novel. His writing has appeared in Chimurenga, New Contrast and The Caine Prize for African Writing’s Eighth Annual Collection.

Also shortlisted were:

Ken Barris (South Africa) ‘The Life of Worm’ from New Writing from Africa 2009, published by Johnson & King James Books, Cape Town

Lily Mabura (Kenya) ‘How Shall We Kill the Bishop?’ from Wasafiri No53, Spring 2008

Namwali Serpell (Zambia) ‘Muzungu’ from The Best American Short Stories 2009, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston MA

Alex Smith (South Africa) ‘Soulmates’ from New Writing from Africa 2009 [as above].

Fiammetta Rocco is a third-generation Kenyan. She was educated at Oxford University where she read Arabic. Her investigative journalism has won awards on both sides of the Atlantic. She is now the literary editor of The Economist and the author of The Miraculous Fever Tree: The Cure that Changed the World. She is joined on the panel by Granta deputy editor Ellah Allfrey, Professor Jon Cook of the University of East Anglia, award-winning novelist Hisham Matar and Georgetown University Professor Samantha Pinto.

Once again the winner of the £10,000 Caine Prize will be given the opportunity to take up a month’s residence at Georgetown University, Washington DC, as a ‘Caine Prize/Georgetown University Writer-in-Residence’. The award will cover all travel and living expenses.

Last year the Caine Prize was won by Nigerian writer EC Osondu for his short story ‘Waiting’ from Guernicamag.com, October 2008. Chair of judges Nana Yaa Mensah called it “a tour de force describing, from a child’s point of view, the dislocating experience of being a displaced person. It is powerfully written with not an ounce of fat on it – and deeply moving.”

Previous winners include Uganda’s Monica Arac de Nyeko, for ‘Jambula Tree’ from African Love Stories, Ayebia Clarke Publishing, 2006, and Brian Chikwava, from Zimbabwe, whose first novel Harare North was published in 2009 by Jonathan Cape. Sudan’s Leila Aboulela, winner of the first Caine Prize in 2000, will publish her new novel Lyrics Alley in January 2011 with Weidenfeld & Nicolson, and this August will see the publication by Hamish Hamilton of Oil on Water, the third novel by Nigerian writer Helon Habila, who won the second Caine Prize in 2001.

Ends

Heartiest congratulations to Femi!

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    July 6th, 2010 @02:08 #
     
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    Femi’s story is riveting, a very well-deserved winner – having spent the past four days listening to Femi, Lily, Ken and Namwali reading from and talking about their stories, I’m glad I didn’t have to choose between them, but every time I heard Femi reading from parts of Stick Fighting Days I was enthralled. As we were leaving the Bodleian Library I asked him if it had sunk in yet and he said it felt strange. We've all just got back from Oxford, it’s after midnight and he has been whisked off to be interviewed by the BBC.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    July 6th, 2010 @08:55 #
     
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    It's great to see familiar faces making headlines. Congratulations to you all!

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  • <a href="http://henriettaroseinnes.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Henrietta</a>
    Henrietta
    July 6th, 2010 @10:52 #
     
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    CONGRATULATIONS! A wonderful story, and very well deserved! Enjoy the press onslaught, Femi!

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    July 6th, 2010 @12:08 #
     
  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    July 6th, 2010 @13:07 #
     
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    Yay yay! Splendid news to greet my return to cyberspace. Congratulations to Femi and the rest of the crew, esp Alex -- Ms Camel, I'm looking forward to Alex's Adventures in Oxfordland.

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  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    July 6th, 2010 @14:34 #
     
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    Nice to see some African writers in the spotlight in England again. Well done to all the shortlistees, and especially to Femi. I'm also looking forward to any blogs that may come out of this experience.

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