Caine Prize Winner Wants More Focus On Africa
By Dipo Omoware
Winner of the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing, Lesley Nneka Arimah, has urged African writers to centre a lot more on Africa. Arimah made the call while accepting the prize for winning this year’s award. She emerged the winner of the award for her short story ‘Skinned’. The 36 year old beat four other contenders to the prize which saw her go home with £10,000.
“When I think of what literature can do, and I think of the ways that literature has changed minds and opened imaginations, I want to say that we African writers must centre the African gaze,” Arimah said.
“We must centre the Nigerian gaze, the Cameroonian gaze, the Ethiopian gaze, the Kenyan gaze. We need to be writing to and for each other, and we also need to play.
“And what I mean by play is that when one knows a thing inside and out, say cooking, the chefs who do fusion cooking do so because they know both cuisines that they are using intimately.
She added: “I think of experimentation as the sign of expertise. And I think it’s important we continue as we have started, as we have been, as we are doing always, that we continue to play within the bounds of our literatures. And I emphasise 'each other' because, yes, we must centre the African gaze. Thank you so much.”
Also, speaking at the award dinner, the chair of the of the Caine Prize judging panel, Dr Peter Kimani remarked that Lesley’s story challenged tradition and envisioned new possibilities.
According to Kimani, “the winner of this year’s Caine Prize for African Writing is a unique retake of women’s struggle for inclusion in a society regulated by rituals. Lesley Nneka Arimah’s Skinned defamiliarizes the familiar to topple social hierarchies, challenge traditions and envision new possibilities for women of the world.”
Other writers on the shortlist were Nigerian Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor for ‘All Our Lives’; Ethiopian Meron Hadero for ‘The Wall’; Kenyan Cherrie Kandie for ‘Sew My Mouth’; and Cameroon’s Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti for ‘It Takes A Village Some Say’. Each Caine shortlisted writer received £500.
Lesley Nneka Arimah was born in the UK and grew up in and out of Nigeria. She was shortlisted for the same prize in 2016 and 2017.