By Edward Nawotka
In Africa, short story writing is thriving and the £10,000 Caine Prize for African Writing has had a great deal to do with this resurgence. The prize is given for a previously published work of fiction not longer than 10,000 words written in English by an African. It is named for the late Sir Michael Caine, former Chairman of Booker plc, and as such is often referred to incorrectly as the African Booker. Since its inception in 2000, it has become perhaps one of the most prestigious African literary prizes and its impact can be seen on organizations such as Kenya’s Storymoja and Kwani?.
In 2002, Binyavanga Wainaina won the Caine prize and founded Kwani?. The very next year Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor won the Caine prize for her story “Weight of Whispers,” which was itself published in Kwani? What’s more, two of the five founding members of Storymoja have been shortlisted for the Caine Prize — Muthoni Garland in 2006 for Tracking the Scent of My Mother (since republished by Storymoja) and Parselelo Kantai in 2004 for The Story of Comrade Lemma and the Black Jerusalem Boys Band, and again in 2009 for You Wreck Her.
Today, both Storymoja and Kwani? each run their own short story contests. Stoymoja features Story of the Week and Story of the Month contests on its web site, and Kwani? has recently announced a national competition for a story on the theme of “The Kenya I Live In.” The Kwani? contest is a riff on the recent “The Kenya We Want” conference organized by the government to discuss a vision for the country in 2030 (and some say distract from ongoing problems of corruption and ineffectiveness). The Kwani? contest accepts work in English, Kiswahili or Sheng’ and offers a generous 100,000 Ksh. ($1,300) first prize.
READ: The E.C. Osondu’s “Waiting,” the winner of the 2009 Caine Prize for African Fiction.
PERUSE: The latest entries in Storymoja’s “Story of the Week” contest.
ENTER: The Kwani? contest — the deadline is September 7.