The Caine Prize for African writing is awarded to the best short story by an African writer in English language. The prize is supported, as patrons, by the four African winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature.The question most people ask is ‘how many Nigerian winners of the Caine Prize do we have??
There are 6 Nigerian writers who have clenched this prestigious prize since its inception in 2000
Below are Nigerian winners Caine Prize
(1) Helon Habila is the first on the list of Nigerian winners of the Caine Prize. He won it with his short story “Love Poems” won the Caine Prize and in 2002 his first novel, Waiting for an Angel, was published by Penguin/Hamish Hamilton. The novel won the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Novel (Africa Region) in 2003. In 2006 he co-edited the British Council’s anthology, New Writing 14.
In 2005-2006, Habila was the first Chinua Achebe Fellow at Bard College, New York. In 2007 his second novel, Measuring Time, was published. The novel won the Virginia Library Foundation’s fiction award in 2008. In the same year Habila’s short story “The Hotel Malogo” won the Emily Balch Prize and was selected by the Best American Non-Required Anthology, edited by Dave Eggers.
Habila’s third novel, Oil on Water, which deals with environmental pollution in the oil rich Niger Delta, was published in 2010 and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize (2011) and the Orion Book Award (2012). It was also a runner-up for the PEN Open Book Award (2012). He published his first non-fiction work The Chibok Girls, with Penguin in 2017. Habila lives in Virginia where he teaches creative writing at George Mason University.
(2) Nigeria’s Segun Afolabi won the 2005 prize for“Monday Morning” from Wasafiri, published in 2004. Making him the second on the list of Nigerian winners of the Caine Prize. His work also includes A Life Elsewhere, a collection of 17 short stories published in July 2006 and a novel Goodbye Lucille, published in April 2007 by Jonathan Cape. His stories have been published in various literary journals including Granta, the London Magazine and Wasafiri. He was shortlisted again in 2015 for his story “The Folded Leaf”.
(3) The third on the list of Nigerian winners of the Caine prize is E.C Osondu who won the Caine Prize 2009 for his story “Waiting”, from Guernicamag.com. He has won the Allen and Nirelle Galso Prize for Fiction and his story “A Letter from Home” was judged one of The Top Ten Stories on the Internet in 2006. In 2007 his story “Jimmy Carter’s Eyes” was shortlisted for the Caine Prize. His short story collection Voice of America was published by Harper Collins in 2010 and Granta Books in 2011. His first novel This House is Not for Sale was published by Harper Collins (US), Granta (UK) and Farafina in Nigeria in 2015. He is an Associate Professor of English at Providence College, Rhode Island, USA.
(4) Nigeria’s Rotimi Babatunde won the 2012 prize for his short story entitled ‘Bombay’s Republic’ from ‘Mirabilia Review’ Vol. 3.9 (Lagos, 2011). Chair of Judges, Bernardine Evaristo, MBE, described it as “ambitious, darkly humorous and in soaring, scorching prose exposes the exploitative nature of the colonial project and the psychology of independence”. He is currently working on a novel.
(5) Nigeria’s Tope Folarin won the 2013 prize for his short story entitled ‘Miracle’ from Transition, Issue 109 (Bloomington, 2012). ‘Miracle’ is a story set in Texas in an evangelical Nigerian church where the congregation has gathered to witness the healing powers of a blind pastor-prophet. Religion and the gullibility of those caught in the deceit that sometimes comes with faith rise to the surface as a young boy volunteers to be healed.
(6) Lesley Nneka Arimah is the last on the list of Nigerian winners of the Caine prize. She won the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing, described as Africa’s leading literary award, for her short story ‘Skinned’, published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern (Issue 53).
The Chair of the Caine Prize judging panel, internationally acclaimed Kenyan author and poet Dr Peter Kimani, announced Lesley as the winner of the £10,000 prize at an award dinner on Monday 8 July. The ceremony was held for the third time at Senate House, University of London, in partnership with SOAS and the Centre for African Studies.
‘Skinned’ envisions a society in which young girls are ceremonially ‘uncovered’ and must marry in order to regain the right to be clothed. It tells the story of Ejem, a young woman uncovered at the age of fifteen yet ‘unclaimed’ in adulthood, and her attempts to negotiate a rigidly stratified society following the breakdown of a protective friendship with the married Chidinma. With a wit, prescience, and a wicked imagination, ‘Skinned’ is a bold and unsettling tale of bodily autonomy and womanhood, and the fault lines along which solidarities are formed and broken.
Announcing the award, Dr Peter Kimani said: “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. Using a sprightly diction, she invents a dystopian universe inhabited by unforgettable characters where friendship is tested, innocence is lost, and readers gain a new understanding of life.”
Lesley Nneka Arimah was born in the UK and grew up in Nigeria and wherever else her father was stationed for work. She was selected for the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 and her debut collection What it Means When A Man Falls From The Sky won the 2017 Kirkus Prize, the 2017 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, and was selected for the New York Times/PBS book club among other honours. Lesley is a 2019 United States Artists Fellow in Writing. She lives in Las Vegas