By Dennis Abrams
Kenya’s Okwiri Oduor won the 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing, often described as Africa’s leading literary award, for her short story “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 Monday night at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
“My Father’s Head” explores the narrator’s difficulty in dealing with the loss of her father and examines 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.
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 last year, is the author of the critically praised novella The Dream Chasers, is a 2014 MacDowell Colony fellow, and is currently at work on her debut novel.
Also shortlisted were:
- Diane Awerbuck (South Africa) “Phosphorescence” in Cabin Fever (Umuzi, Cape Town, 2011)
- Efemia Chela (Ghana/Zambia) “Chicken” in Feast, Famine and Potluck (Short Story Day Africa, South Africa 2013)
- Tendai Huchu (Zimbabwe) “The Intervention” in Open Road Review, issue 7, New Delhi. 2013)
- Billy Kahora (Kenya) “The Gorilla’s Apprentice” in Granta (London, 2010)
The winner of the Caine Prize has the opportunity to take up a month’s residence at Georgetown University as a Writer-in-Residence at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice, and will be invited to take part in the Open Book Festival in Cape Town in September 2014, The Storymoja Hay Festival in Nairobi, and the Ake Festival in Nigeria. And, to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the Prize, each shortlisted author will also receive £500.
Read “My Father’s Head” here.