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Archive for the ‘Awards’ Category

The shortlist for the Short Story Day Africa Prize for Short Fiction has been announced!

Via Short Story Day Africa

When planning the 2017 Short Story Day Africa Prize, ID, the abbreviation for “identity” and the psychoanalytic construct of the “Id” – that deep structure that houses our unconscious desires – we called for “innovative short fiction that explores identity, especially (but not limited to) the themes of gender identity and sexuality.”

We were impressed as never before by the multiple ways in which writers from all over the continent responded, the depth, variety and innovation of their interpretations. From Benin to Ethiopia, from Morocco to South Africa, the stories on the long list reveal uncomfortable and fascinating truths about who we are.

Once editing was completed, the twenty-one stories were sent to the judges. The decision to edit the stories and to engage with the authors before judging has proven to be invaluable in enabling young writers and raw talent to compete on an equal footing with their more established and experienced peers. The final stories and indeed the shortlisted stories are more evenly balanced between those already making their mark in terms of publication and awards, and extremely talented writers who are new to the adventure of publishing or only just venturing into the terrain of short fiction.

This year, for the first time, we opted for a broad spread of volunteer judges, ably assisted by The Johannesburg Review of Books, rendering the evaluation process flatter, more consultative and democratic. The combination of the new scoring system and the extremely high standard of the stories meant that for the first time, we’ve produced a short list of nine stories, instead of the usual six.

The shortlist is as follows (in alphabetical order):

1. The Piano Player by Agazit Abate (Ethiopia)
2. Ibinabo by Michael Agugom (Nigeria)
3. The Geography of Sunflowers by Michelle Angwenyi (Kenya)
4. Limbo by Innocent Chizaram Ilo (Nigeria)
5. Sew My Mouth by Cherrie Kandie (Kenya)
6. South of Samora by Farai Mudzingwa (Zimbabwe)
7. All Our Lives by Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor (Nigeria)
8. The House on the Corner by Lester Walbrugh (South Africa)
9. God Skin by Michael Yee (South Africa)

Seen here are a variety of explorations of queer sexuality – an extremely important and necessary creative intervention, given the grim march of homophobia, including in legislative forms, across the African continent. Michael Agugom charts the challenges of negotiating biracial and sexually complex identities in a small and watchful Nigerian island community in “Ibinabo”; and Cherrie Kandie provides a powerful and painful account of the silencing (literally) of lesbian love in urban Nairobi in “Sew My Mouth”. In “The House on the Corner”, Lester Walbrugh provides a moving interpretation of the perhaps ubiquitous “gay life in Cape Town” narrative; Innocent Chizaram Ilo provides a delightfully unusual and fantastical account of heartbreak as experienced by a lesbian scarecrow in “Limbo”.

Michelle Angwenyi’s lyrical and hallucinatory “The Geography of Sunflowers” presents heteronormative love and loss as experiences that both heighten and blur identity.

Identity is also formed through friendships and family bonds, and in Farai Mudzingwa’s delicate and moving “South of Samora”, a young man whose social standing is dependent on where he lives, forms a friendship with an ailing child that forces him to define himself; while Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor’s “All Our Lives” is a wry, clear-eyed, humorous and characteristically compassionate account of the identity (multiple identities, in fact) of a much-maligned community – young and disaffected men who drift into Nigerian cities in pursuit of a “better life”.

“The Piano Player” by Agazit Abate is a brilliant inversion of the “African abroad” narrative as it presents snapshots of life in Addis Abada through the eyes and ears of a pianist in a luxury hotel bar, and “God Skin” by Michael Yee weaves together alienation, forbidden love and intimate violence against a subtle backdrop of the scars of Liberia’s civil war.

Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors.

The winners will be announced on 21 June 2018, the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere. The grand prize winner is set to win $800. A full list of project sponsors is available on our sponsors page.

The resulting anthology from the longlisted prize entries, ID: New Short Fiction From Africa, is edited by Nebila Abdulmelik, Otieno Owino and Helen Moffett as part of the SSDA/Worldreader Editing Mentorship. ID is due for release on 21 June 2018, the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere, in partnership with New Internationalist.

All of SSDA’s previous anthologies have received critical acclaim, with two stories from Feast, Famine & Potluck shortlisted for The Caine Prize for African Writing – with one, “My Father’s Head” by Okwiri Oduor, going on to win the prize. Terra Incognita and Water likewise received wide critical praise, including reviews from the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Sunday Times and the Financial Mail. Stacy Hardy’s story “Involution”, published in Migrations is shortlisted for the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing.

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Barry Ronge Fiction Prize shortlist: Maxine Case discusses the origins of Softness of the Lime

Published in the Sunday Times

Maxine Case is based in Cape Town. When not writing, she works as an independent communications consultant. She is currently working on a screenplay, which is not based on her family history.

I don’t exactly remember when exactly I started writing Softness of the Lime. I know it was sometime during 2011 or 2012, while I was living in New York and completing an MFA degree in creative writing at the New School. For a long time before then I’d been struggling to find the space to write while working full time.

Luckily, I received a fellowship from the Ford Foundation which paid for my studies and would allow me the time and distance to work on the story of my family’s claim to a fabled fortune, which they believed was a master’s legacy to his descendants from his favourite slave, my great-great-great-great grandmother. A newspaper reported on this claim and how my great-great-great grandmother, Johanna September, had destroyed important proof required to claim the money to hide what she believed to be the taint of her slave blood.

So, Johanna was the initial focus of my story, and I planned to tell it truthfully, by discovering the facts of her life through archival research and interviews with surviving family members. Johanna was the illegitimate daughter of a servant, raised in the home of her master/father in Wynberg. There, Johanna was treated not quite like a servant, but not like a daughter either until she married and moved.

Johanna was an uncomfortable character for me to understand. I wrote several chapters before I realised that to understand Johanna, and to get to the root of the story, I’d have to go further back: to Lena, Johanna’s grandmother and our family’s first known slave ancestor.

Lena was at the heart of the mystery of the master’s money and strange bequest, but all I had was a name, possibly an incomplete name at that. Family lore has it that Lena came from Indonesia, but once I established the time that she would have arrived at the Cape, I thought that was unlikely.

I returned to Cape Town and tried to find traces of Lena’s life in the Western Cape archives. I found records of the master who’d impregnated her, but nothing of Lena – not a name, not a date or place of birth.

In trying to tell Lena’s story, I realised I needed to eschew any allegiance to nonfiction and would instead imagine what her life was. Many slaves came from Madagascar, so I gave Lena this homeland. I felt that to be fair to Lena, I’d need to strip Geert of his history too. I saw that many of the Cape’s wealthier citizens were those who had concessions to sell goods such as alcohol, grain and meat to the Dutch East India Company, and so Geert became a meat man.

Later, I learned that slaves were trafficked from the Madagascar highlands along cattle paths to the coast. I never visited Madagascar, but my mind inhabited the island for many months.

In Cape Town I trod the paths that Lena and Geert would once have navigated, separately, seldom together, I thought. I realise that I was grappling with who I am and what it means to have such a twisted history and bloodline, what it means to be a South African and a descendant of slaves, a woman today and then.

Book details

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Alan Paton Award shortlist: Stuart Doran talks to us about his book Kingdom, Power, Glory: Mugabe, Zanu and the Quest for Supremacy, 1960-1987

Published in the Sunday Times

Stuart Doran is and independent historian. He completed his secondary education in Zimbabwe and later graduated from the Australian National University with a PhD in history. He has spent the last 15 years researching and writing about Zimbabwe’s early post-independence period, including the Gukurahundi massacres of 1983 and 1984.

You have a PhD in history – what was your area of study for that?

I studied 20th-century political history during my undergraduate days and then wrote a PhD thesis on the Cold War.

What sparked your interest in history?

There were two reasons why I grew to love history. The first was its applied nature. It’s about real people and real events. I found that fascinating. The second reason was that I was blessed to have a number of teachers through high school and university who were passionate about history. Those teachers genuinely loved the subject – and because of that they were better at what they did than most of my other teachers. And their enthusiasm rubbed off on others. I consider myself fortunate. Many students have poor history teachers who quickly kill off the interest of their pupils by giving the impression that history consists of nothing more than memorising a string of boring and irrelevant events. It’s a false view of a historian’s work. Historians are sleuths, investigators, pioneers – people who unearth and explain mysteries. I did much of my schooling in Matabeleland and lived in Bulawayo during the Gukurahundi. I wanted to understand the turmoil of the 1980s.

Can you describe your process of research?

Like any half-decent historian, I try to unearth new source material, while re-examining the primary source material that’s already known. And, of course, I look at what other historians have written. Then there’s the process of analysis – and, finally, the challenge of presenting the results in a way that makes sense to others. One of my mentors, the great historian Hank Nelson, drilled into me the idea that you’re not a historian if you’re writing stuff that can’t be understood by a normal educated person.

Western governments were accused of “not doing enough” to prevent the mass killing of civilians – would you agree?

I don’t subscribe to the view that historians are public intellectuals. What I mean is that we shouldn’t be in the business of making moral or political judgements when we’re writing history. Our job is to find out what happened and why it happened. It’s up to our readers to decide what the moral or political implications are. That’s not to say that historians don’t have personal views on these things. But when we have our hats on as historians, we must try to separate ourselves from such matters. So, to answer your question, I’d point to the reality as it occurred rather than making a theoretical statement about what should have been done. The reality is that western governments made private representations to the Mugabe regime about the massacres, but were not prepared to push their relationship with Zanu-PF to the wire over the issue. Those representations played a part in prompting Mugabe to scale down the intensity of the killings. But he also became convinced that there would be few consequences once he had adopted a lower-intensity approach.

Was there ever a legitimate reason for the existence of the Fifth Brigade in Matabeleland?

Mugabe and his ministers claimed that 5 Brigade was a crack unit that was established to deal with banditry in Matabeleland. But that was propaganda. The brigade was created to smash the support base of Zanu-PF’s main political opposition – and that’s exactly what it did when it was deployed in January 1983.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa was Robert Mugabe’s minister of state security during the Gukurahundi – do you believe, as some do, that he was instrumental in the massacres?

Yes. The evidence is clear. He was by no means the only player, but he was one of the most important. His outright denials are, frankly, pretty silly. He needs a new PR team.

Gukurahundi happened more than 30 years ago – do you think Zimbabweans are willing to leave it behind now?

Ordinary Zimbabweans aren’t close to having a choice in the matter. The perpetrators are still in control and any dialogue is severely constrained by that fact.

What was the most disturbing or surprising thing you uncovered in your research?

There were many. The depth of the violence was not surprising – human history everywhere is immersed in blood – but it was disturbing. When former colleagues are prepared to rip each other apart, when men take pleasure in dismembering women and children alive, it’s arresting. These things are not done by monsters, but by people like you and me. It gives you a jolt. What is this beast in the human basement?

What were your biggest challenges in writing the book?

Climbing a mountain that seemed to have no end. I bit off a lot to chew. I tried to tell myself that this was finite; that it would come to an end. Yet I wasn’t sure when that would happen and there were many times when it didn’t seem worth it. You’ve got to keep on plodding, even when the oxygen runs out. Another challenge was the lack of financial support. Many donors, institutions and individuals wring their hands over issues like the Gukurahundi, but few put money and mouth together. It means that a lot of vital research never happens. And if you’re foolhardy enough to forge ahead, most of the time you’re on your own.

It is a monumental book – do you feel there is any more to be revealed in Zimbabwean history?

I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are relatively few historians looking at modern Zimbabwean or Southern African history. The more the better. There can never be too many.

Book details

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Exclusive Books releases its 2018 Pan-African Writing Catalogue

To mark Africa Month, Exclusive Books has released the 2018 edition of its highly-acclaimed Pan-African Writing Catalogue – the only bookseller’s catalogue of its kind, worldwide.

The number of titles featured has increased, from 250 in the inaugural 2017 edition to almost 400 this year, and the bookseller has committed to keeping all titles permanently in stock, as far as possible.

The 62-page glossy catalogue is available for free to all customers, who may pick up copies at any Exclusive Books store.

As with the first edition of the catalogue, readers will find a wealth of writers in its pages – poets, polemicists, novelists, biographers and historians – whose collective voice from Africa, the UK, US, Caribbean and other parts of the diaspora makes plain the power of Black literature in our world.

“Our 2018 catalogue builds on the success of last year’s debut list of books, which drew an extraordinarily positive response from our customers,” said Ben Williams, GM: Marketing for Exclusive Books.

In developing the catalogue, Exclusive Books worked alongside publishers to bring certain titles back into print and has invested heavily in stockholding to ensure the titles are readily available for purchase in-store or online via the Exclusive Books website.

“While no catalogue can be comprehensive, and every curation is necessarily imperfect, we feel that this new list represents a significant step forward. We strive to improve and increase our selection each year,” Williams said.

Look out for the Exclusive Books 2018 Pan-African Writing Catalogue, in stores now. All books featured in the catalogue earn Fanatics members double points throughout May.

For more information, please contact the Exclusive Books Marketing Manager, Leigh Jackman, at

View the titles in the 2018 Exclusive Books Pan African Writing Catalogue here:

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“I wanted to create a love story that was real, true to life, flawed and challenging.” Amanda Prowse on writing Anna: One Love, Two Stories

Published in the Sunday Times

Anna: One Love Two Stories
Amanda Prowse, Head of Zeus, R255

I loved writing the book Anna, I found her a likable, relatable character and it felt like a joy to spend each day with her. I had decided to base some of her struggles and hardships on my own childhood and I think one thing that surprised me was how much I was affected by this.

Anna got under my skin, stayed with me and I found myself concerned for her. People who have read Anna have said she stays with them too and that they feel great warmth and affection for her, so I suppose though it was emotionally challenging, it helped add depth to her character on the page.

One thing I love most about this book is how much Anna’s life feels true and though some moments are quite harrowing, these are quickly followed by others which will make you laugh out loud and, for me, this is life – I think if you can learn to laugh through the bad times it somehow gives you strength to keep going. Anna’s is a love story and when she falls in love with Theo, she finds fulfilment.

We know all the things that Anna has lived through [having spent most of her life in a care home, wanting love] and we know what has shaped her. But, just as in real life, we do not know what things have shaped the person fall in love with and this is certainly the case with Theo.

We will them to work as a couple, cheering them on from the rooftops and praying that the two young people, despite being from such different backgrounds, can find a way to overcome all their demons and make this relationship work.

I wanted to create a love story that was real, true to life, flawed and challenging but also with the fairy-tale elements that make a romance like Anna’s so magical. I hope I have achieved this. Anna is without doubt one of the characters who will forever live in my heart and mind.

When writing the book, I based the character of Theo’s mother on a friend of my mother’s and I cannot tell you how funny it was when she made a particular point of mentioning to me how much she disliked the character! I guess it’s true what they say; we really don’t know how others see us. This is certainly the case with Anna, who sees herself as an ordinary girl but I think you will agree after having read the books that she is really quite extraordinary.


Book details



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When she was a teenager, the Afrikaans poet Sheila Cussons tried her hand at an English fairytale – and the results are breathtaking

Trevor in the Land of FantasySheila Cussons gave her son, Jaume Saladrigas Cussons, a gift – a manuscript she had kept to herself for decades. Her son fulfilled her wish and in due course Imbali Academic published his mother’s imaginative and inspiring story.

“As adults we often lose sight of the fantasy world that exists in our imaginations,” says Ute Spath, Director of Sales and Marketing at Imbali Academic Publishers. “We are privileged to make this creative piece available. Cussons seamlessly incorporated old-world charm into a whimsical dreamland, and the result is Trevor in the Land of Fantasy.”

During an interview Cussons confirmed: “When I was about 14 I wrote an English story for my little brother, who was two at the time. I named it Trevor in the Land of Fantasy and I also illustrated it. I recall writing it in a hammock between two trees in our garden”.

Offering the perfect escape, the book will appeal to children and adults alike, and was re-lived by Cussons on many occasions as she read it to her brother, and then to her sons later in life.

Having moved to Spain she enjoyed sharing this secret story with her family. In later life Cussons moved back to South Africa and lived, for the last part of her life, at Nazareth House in Cape Town.

“While most of Cussons’ work was published between the 1970s and 1990s, this rare youth work held a very special place in her heart. Set in her home country, South Africa, the book instantly transports readers to a fantasy world. The imaginary piece will serve an important purpose in her memory, as all sales proceeds will be donated to Nazareth House,” concludes Spath.

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SA illustrator wins international literary award

Via Golden Baobab: Accra, Ghana (9 May 2018)

Toby Newsome, a renowned Cape Town based artist has won the internationally coveted Children’s Africana Book Award (CABA) for his illustrations in the children’s book, Grandma’s List. The book was written by Ghanaian author, Portia Dery, who who jointly won the CABA with Toby Newsome.

Toby Newsome, the acclaimed illustrator of Grandma’s List.

The Children’s Africana Book Award is an annual prize presented to authors and illustrators of the best children’s and young adult books on Africa published or republished in the U.S.A. The awards were created by Africa Access and the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association (ASA) and its sponsors includes the African Studies departments of universities Harvard, Howard and Yale among others. Past winning illustrators of CABA include South Africa’s Niki Daly.

One of Newsome’s stunning illustrations.

Grandma’s List is a brilliant and colorful story about an 8-year old girl, Fatima, who wants to save the day by helping her grandmother complete her list of errands. The problem is, Fatima loses the list and she has to recall from memory what was written on it. The rest of story then takes the reader on a funny and heartwarming adventure with Fatima and her family.

Grandma’s List, published by African Bureau Stories, won the 2018 CABA Young Children’s category along with two other books from international publishers, Candlewick Press and Farrar, Straus and Giroux. This is the second international children’s book award that Grandma’s List has won. It previously won the prestigious Golden Baobab Prize for The Best Picture Book manuscript in Africa in 2014.

The new children’s publishing house, African Bureau Stories, has made an impressive move in publishing a truly Pan-African book like Grandma’s List, which is a powerful literary partnership between Ghana and South Africa. The publishing house’s aim is to produce world class and contemporary African stories for children. In addition to Grandma’s List, African Bureau Stories has produced three other children’s books which according to the publisher, Deborah Ahenkorah, are “super cool books that will delight children all over the world.”

Anastasia Shown, a CABA Reviewer from the University of Pennsylvania says:

Grandma’s List is an excellent read aloud book for school or storytime. The illustrations show a neighborhood in Ghana that is very typical of many African towns with shops, gardens, small livestock, and many people outside working and playing…One of the best features of the book is the characters of many ages. There are kids playing, vendors selling, teens on their phones, grownups working, and elders relaxing. They wear African prints and western styled clothes…The book can generate lots of great open ended questions.”


With illustrations like these it’s no wonder Newsome was the recipient of this coveted award!

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Jim Crace’s brilliant The Melody explores loss, ageing, greed and gentrification, writes Paige Nick

Published in the Sunday Times

The Melody *****
Jim Crace, Picador, R285

After his Booker-nominated Harvest (2013), Jim Crace was never going to write another novel – until three things happened. The first was at a literary festival in India, in a luxury hotel where high walls and security kept the world out, except at night when animals and humans fed loudly from the bins next door.

The second was a year later, in Malta, when Crace stayed on a promenade built for sun seekers in the 1800s. But now the buildings cast it into shade, except where an early Victorian house, badly in need of repair, had survived. Just one storey high, the sun got through and locals gathered in that little moving square of sunshine. This conflict between the built and natural world lives in all Crace’s work.

So Crace collapsed India into Malta and Malta into the Mediterranean as The Melody started to form in his head.

The third thing happened years ago while writing a short story for The Devil’s Larder (2001). In story No 60, a character named Tambar appears in just one sentence. Crace liked that the musician’s name sounded like “tambourine”, but later came to dislike it. So before the American edition came out he renamed him Alfred Busi.

And so Busi is The Melody’s lead; a famous singer coming to terms with retirement and his wife’s death. One night a lonely Busi is attacked by what could either be a wild animal or a feral child stealing food from his pantry. The attack spins the town folk into panic and Busi’s nephew, a developer, uses the crisis to further his own agenda as they wage war on whatever or whoever is living in the forest. The novel explores loss, ageing, greed and gentrification, as well as the refugee crisis and xenophobia.

Crace is the master of allegorical novels, set in no particular time or place. What The Melody lacks in fast-paced plot it makes up for with Crace’s superb lyrical style. And though the reader may not be able to pinpoint when this brilliant book is set, that doesn’t make it less of a novel for our times. @paigen

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Book Bites: 15 April

Published in the Sunday Notes

The Swimming Lesson and Other Stories
Kobus Moolman, UKZN Press, R160

Like his poems, Kobus Moolman’s short stories examine life through what can be described as a philosophical lens. The story “Like Father, Like Son” explores the impressions of religion – its restrictions on desire and language, its racial stratification, and its love, presaging violent discipline in obedience to God, nation and family. Though distinctly South African and context-specific, there is something general about contemporary society. At the same time, “The Rubbish Collectors” is a small story about who cleans up after whom. Whether it’s Maggie who smells of cigars, not perfume, or Jesus waking you up in the night because he has something on his mind, it’s the oracy of these narratives that will keep you turning the pages. Chantelle Gray van Heerden @CGrayvH

The Wicked Cometh
Laura Carlin, Hodder & Stoughton, R275

“Danger is never overcome without danger,” is how Hester White has survived in the Victorian-era slums since the death of her parents. But fortunes appear to change when a carriage accident sweeps her into the arms of the wealthy Brock family, under the tutoring care of Rebekah. Yet the aristocratic world is not as far away from the slums as it first appears, tugging the women down into the depths of mystery and murder. A sensuous Gothic tale that is slow to begin, picking up as the plot thickens and twists. Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Force of Nature
Jane Harper, Little Brown, R275

Beware the office team-building experience, especially when they take you out to the wild. In Australia. This is the second outing of Harper’s detective Aaron Falk and this time he investigates the disappearance of Alice Russell, who vanishes one night after her team of female co-workers lose their way in the forests near Melbourne. Alice is a police informer, forced into getting files on the nefarious dealings of her firm. Falk needs to find out if any of her colleagues or bosses know what she was doing. Harper won plenty of awards for The Dry, and the pace, setting and constructed character building of this follow-up will most probably garner more accolades. Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

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Enter the 2018 South African Literary Awards

Writers and publishers, the South African Literary Awards (SALA), presented by The wRite Association wants YOU to submit your book for consideration of an award in the following categories:

SALA awards the following literary categories which are also open to all South African writers; First-time Published Author Award, K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award, Poetry Award, Nadine Gordimer Short story Award, Creative Non-fiction Literary Award, Literary Translators Award, Literary Journalism Award, Posthumous Literary Award, Lifetime Achievement Literary Award, Novel Award and Children’s Literature Award.

For more information and to download entry forms visit or

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