The 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing ceremony was held on Monday evening, with Okwiri Oduor winning for her short story, “My Father’s Head”, which was first featured in Feast, Famine and Potluck after winning Short Story Day Africa’s short story competition.
Tendai Huchu, author of The Hairdresser of Harare, was shortlisted alongside Oduor for his short story “The Intervention”. Following Monday night’s ceremony Huchu has written about the experience for amaBooks.
Huchu writes that it was “super-dope” and that the shortlisted authors, which included Efemia Chela (shortlisted for “Chicken“) and Billy Kahora (shortlisted for “The Gorilla’s Apprentice“) bonded quickly. He shares an anecdote from one of his conversations with Diane Awerbuck (shortlisted for “Phosphorescence”, from Cabin Fever): “I remember how on telling Diane that ‘fingers-crossed’ I would not have kids any time soon, she remarked drily, ‘It’s not your fingers you have to worry about, mate.’”
He also tackled some hard questions surrounding the prize: “The Caine takes a bit of flak ranging from contempt for the stories themselves to its very right to exist as a literary prize. I asked Lizzy Attree if she was an imperialist, hell bent on subverting African Literature so that we are forever mentally colonised. She said she wasn’t. In any case, with her easy smile and wit, she would make a third-rate villain.”
“So the circus comes to an end with a worthy winner. No one can doubt that Okwiri Oduor will hit us with something wicked in the future, and I am sure Billy, Efemia and Diane also have new shit planned that we will enjoy in time,” Huchu concludes.
The circus is over, the gorilla is returned to his pen, the tents are folded and the pool bulldozed, drunk poets feast on chicken and a disembodied head crowns the queen of the fair. I really should stop here, but I have more to say, coz this Caine thing was super-dope.
In The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish, our hero arrives to what he assumes to be a hotel, ignores the cues and checks in, only to realise he has unwittingly been incarcerated in a nursing home. That’s how I felt arriving at the Royal Over-Seas League Club, seeing the old biddies tottering about on the maroon carpet and the grand wooden staircases with stairlifts for the infirm. Surreal doesn’t quite describe it.
In no time at all I’d met up with the other shortlistees and we bonded with the genuine, heartfelt sentiment you feel when there is a couple of grand between you.
Image courtesy amaBooks
Nick Mulgrew holding Adults Only
Congratulations to the Short.Sharp.Stories. Awards winners:
Nick Mulgrew is the Judges’ Choice Winner for Best Story for Turning, “a story of youthful love that was handled with a deft touch, elevated by its clever linguistic insertions and a lovely sense of place.”
Sean Mayne receives the second Judges’ Choice Award for his comedic story Bring On The Clowns, “a feel good read which offers the luxury of laughing out loud.”
Tiffany Kagure Mugo receives the Publisher’s Choice Award, for Best New Voice, for her story Coming Into Self-Awareness, “an exuberant, enthusiastic tale which hit the brief perfectly, overflowing with sex and sensuality.”
Donvé Lee is the recipient of the Editor’s Choice Award, for her story The Mirror. “So human and tender, bringing the eternal questions of body-image to the fore.”
Nick Mulgrew has won R20 000 while Sean Mayne, Tiffany Kagure Mugo and Donvé Lee each received R5 000.
From Sarah Kingon, of Cue:
Adults Only was officially launched on 9 July at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown at a discussion panel which featured Rhodes journalism lecturer and contributor Gillian Rennie; Alexander Matthews, editor of online publication Aerodrome; and Nick Mulgrew, Associate Editor of Prufrock literary magazine, whose story Turning wins this year’s R20 000 prize sponsored by the National Arts Festival. “As a writer,” said Mulgrew, “I never feel completely self-assured so this is a form of writing vindication.” His unique contribution to the anthology tells the story of a linguistics student at Rhodes, whose girlfriend realises she is lesbian. The beauty of the story lies in the way that linguistics weaves through this narrative about sex and homophobia.
Adults Only is the second Short.Sharp.Stories collection to be released and the topic of sex and sensuality was chosen this year because of its popularity in contemporary literature. “The collection explores the experiences of real human beings clashing around relationships,” said Hichens.
The 22 stories, selected from more than 150 entries, range in theme and style as well as the writing experience of the authors. Contributors include accomplished writers such as Christine Coates, Carla Lever and Bobby Jordan, as well as a number of new, young writers including Tiffany Kagure Mugo. Tales range from those of the bored housewife to gay marriage and on-off student relationships, while one of the more hard-hitting stories features a sado-masochistic ‘partnership’.
The discussion was not only about the book, but the purpose of such a book in a South African Context. Hichens believes that Adults Only, alongside last year’s anthology Bloody Satisfied (a crime thriller collection), offers a unique South African voice to the reader. The project gives South African writers a platform to be published, and the opportunity to be read.
“And short stories are great for those of us with ADD,” laughed contributor Alexander Matthews. “With new technology, the way we read has changed. We now read in short sharp bursts.”
Festival CEO Tony Lankester said he was proud to continue to fund this literary venture. “Festival is about good stories, and part of that is good quality writing.”
Next year’s title was announced as Incredible Journey – a broad theme, “so stories can range from science fiction to road trips or even journeys of the mind,” said Hichens. The call for entries will be made on www.shortsharpstories.com.
Lauren Beukes was in studio at 5FM last week to discuss her new novel, Broken Monsters with Nick Hamman and Kim Schulze.
Hamman and Schulze took reader suggestions for characters and locations and gave Beukes 10 minutes to write a short story using these. “The zombie outbreak happened in parliament. It was the best thing which ever happened to the country,” the story starts.
Listen to the “zombie politician/ preggers teenager/cult/zoo keeper murder story”:
Alert! On the day when the sad news broke that one of its patrons, Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer, had passed away, the 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing was awarded to Okwiri Oduor for her short story, “My Father’s Head”, which originally appeared in Short Story Day Africa‘s collection, Feast, Famine and Potluck.
Oduor receives £10 000, while each shortlistee received £500. Read her winning story here.
The announcement was made, comme toujours, at a gala supper at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, UK. The winner, who hails from Kenya, emerged from a field containing another Kenyan, one South African, one Zimbabwean and a Ghanaian/Zambian – a shortlist of some contrast to the previous year’s, which was an all-West African affair, and which was won by Nigerian Tope Folarin.
Oduor, who was at the prizegiving, was quoted as follows:
Okwiri Oduor wins fifteenth Caine Prize for African Writing
Kenya’s Okwiri Oduor has won the 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing, described as Africa’s leading literary award, for her short story entitled ‘My Father’s Head’ from Feast, Famine and Potluck (Short Story Day Africa, South Africa, 2013).
The Chair of Judges, Jackie May MBE, announced Okwiri Oduor as the winner of the £10,000 prize at a dinner held this evening (Monday, 14 July) at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
‘My Father’s Head’ explores the narrator’s difficulty in dealing with the loss of her father and looks at the themes of memory, loss and loneliness. The narrator works in an old people’s home and comes into contact with a priest, giving her the courage to recall her buried memories of her father.
Jackie Kay praised the story, saying, “Okwiri Oduor is a writer we are all really excited to have discovered. ‘My Father’s Head’ is an uplifting story about mourning – Joycean in its reach. She exercises an extraordinary amount of control and yet the story is subtle, tender and moving. It is a story you want to return to the minute you finish it.”
Okwiri Oduor directed the inaugural Writivism Literary Festival in Kampala, Uganda in August 2013. Her novella, The Dream Chasers was highly commended in the Commonwealth Book Prize, 2012. She is a 2014 MacDowell Colony fellow and is currently at work on her debut novel.
Here are key tweets from the event, presided over by the prize’s vice president, Ben Okri, who gave a rousing speech on our individual and collective freedom of the imagination:
Photo courtesy the Caine Prize
One of South Africa’s most distinguished literary personalities, Nobel literature laureate Nadine Gordimer, has passed away at her home in Johannesburg, aged 90.
Among her many literary achievements number the 1974 Booker Prize, the 2002 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991.
Local writers, publishers and readers shared their condolences on Twitter:
Photo courtesy Victor Dlamini
Within the pages of Adults Only lies a wonderful range of modern sex writing; stories that are raw, dangerous and powerful, as well as those that are delicate, sensitive and poignant. This book will expose you to provocative and erotic stories that titillate the senses, as well as perverse stories that are riotously funny (but not quite pornography). Adults Only offers a sense of real characters caught in tangled webs of love and lust; the stories included run the gamut from raw and dangerous to sensitive and reserved.
Adults Only is the second of the SHORT.SHARP.STORIES annual anthologies, produced in conjunction with the National Arts Festival to showcase South African fiction-writing talent. Following 2013’s successful Bloody Satisfied, an eclectic mix of crime-thriller stories, this year’s anthology covers the fashionable theme of sex and sensuality. An anthology from established authors and rising talents, Adults Only is South African short-story writing at its best.
“Whatever you are looking for – filth, fantasy, tenderness, suspense or a grand belly laugh – you will find it here.” – Helena S Paige
About the editor
Joanne Hichens, curator of the SHORT.SHARP.STORIES awards, is an author, editor and creative-writing teacher at Rhodes University. She has edited three short-story anthologies, Bad Company, The Bed Book of Short Stories and Bloody Satisfied. Her first novel Divine Justice was published in 2011.
About the contributors
The contributors are established authors and journalists as well as previously unpublished writers. They are: Ken Barris, Efemia Chela, Christine Coates, Anthony Ehlers, Chantelle Gray van Heerden, Bobby Jordan, Aryan Kaganof, Donvé Lee, Carla Lever, Justine Loots, Alexander Matthews, Sean Mayne, Wamuwi Mbao, Dudumalingani Mqombothi, Tiffany Kagure Mugo, Nick Mulgrew, Gillian Rennie, Arja Salafranca, Alex Smith, Jo Stielau, Alan Walters, Eugene Yiga. The book features a foreword by Helena S. Paige, and an introduction by Makhosazana Xaba.