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New Kwani? Manuscript Prize Contrasted to the Caine Prize

The longlist for the first ever Kwani? Manuscript Prize was recently announced, comprising 30 unpublished novel manuscripts, representing 10 African countries. In an article by Tristan McConnell for the London Review of Books blog, the Kwani? Manuscript Prize is presented as an alternative to the Caine Prize, which is administered in Britain.

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In the piece, titled “Mzungu Prizes”, Kenyan author Parselelo Kantai expressed his unease at the fact that, “Once the conferring [of the Caine Prize] is done in London you become big on the African landscape”. Billy Kahora, of the Kwani? Trust, is quoted as saying, “I want to give writers opportunities, to have more than the Caine Prize”. Binyavanga Wainaina, 2002 Caine Prize winner, does not deny the importance of the Caine Prize, but adds “it’s always nice to go to England but it’s far from being at the centre of where production, debate and conversation is going on, right?”.

It has to be kept in mind, however, that the Kwani? Manuscript Prize, focusing on full-length novels rather than short stories, has so far only been called a “one-off” prize.

‘Ah, the tyranny of mzungu prizes!’ the Kenyan author and journalist Parselelo Kantai said when I rang him up to talk about literary awards for African writers. Mzungu is Kiswahili for ‘white person’ and Kantai was only half-joking. Since its inception in 2000, the annual Caine Prize for African Writing – awarded, more narrowly than the ‘African Writing’ of its title might imply, ‘to a short story by an African writer published in English’ – has been the most high profile award for contemporary anglophone African writers. But it’s administered in Britain and the £10,000 cash prize is bestowed during a gala dinner at the Bodleian Library. ‘There’s something that rankles,’ says Kantai, who has been shortlisted twice. ‘Once the conferring is done in London you become big on the African landscape.’

Kwani? Manuscript Prize longlist:

The Kwani? Manuscript Project, a new one-off literary prize for unpublished fiction from African writers, is delighted to announce a longlist of 30 titles:

A Night Without Darkness (Nigeria)

Across the Mongolo (Cameroon)

Azanian Bridges (South Africa / UK)

Becoming God (Nigeria)

Born Different (South Africa)

Book details

Image courtesy The Star


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