Kenyan writer Idza Luhumyo was declared the winner of the 2022 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing in a ceremony hosted at the Victoria & Albert Museum London, UK on Monday, July 18, 2022. The judges described her story as “incandescent.”
Established in 2000, the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing is an annual literary award for the best original short story by an African writer, whether in Africa or elsewhere, published in the English language.
The prize has recognised some of the most famous writers working today like Leila Aboulela, Tope Folarin, Noviolet Bulawayo, Yvonne Adhiambo Owour, and many more. Some of the most recent winners of the prize include Meron Hadero for The Street Sweep (2021), Irenosen Okojie for Grace Jones (2020), Lesley Nneka Arimah for Skinned (2019), and Makena Onjerika for Fanta Blackcurrant (2018).
This year’s edition was judged by author, journalist, and academic Okey Ndibe who chairs the panel alongside Elisa Diallo, Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane, Angela Wachuka, and Àsìkò Okelarin. The five shortlisted writers were announced from the 349 entries from 27 African countries on June 8.
Speaking of Luhumyo’s story, Okey Ndibe, Chair of the 2022 AKO Caine Prize Judging Panel, said: ‘What we liked about the story was the mystical office of the protagonist, who is both ostracised and yet holds the fate of her community in her hair. She is stripped of agency by her immediate family, as well as the Europeans who give the impression of placing her on a pedestal, yet within that seeming absence of agency, and oppressive world, is her stubborn reclamation of herself. The dramatic tension in the story is so powerful and palpable that it’s like something you could cut with a knife.’
Five Years Next Sunday, first published in the book Disruption: New Short Fiction from Africa, is about a young woman with the unique power to call the rain in her hair. Feared by her family and community, a chance encounter with a foreigner changes her fortunes, but there are duplicitous designs upon her most prized and vulnerable possession.
Idza Luhumyo is the fifth Kenyan writer to clinch the prize after Binyavanga Wainana (2002), Yvonne Owuor (2003), Okwiri Oduor (2014) and Makena Onjerika (2018). Her story stood out in its own cadre among other shortlisted stories by talented writers. A clearly hardworking writer, Luhumyo’s work has previously been published by Popula, Jalada Africa, The Writivism Anthology, Short Story Day Africa, the New Internationalist, The Dark, and African Arguments. Her work has been shortlisted for the Short Story Day Africa Prize, the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship, and the Gerald Kraak Award. She is the inaugural winner of the Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa Award (2020) and winner of the Short Story Day Africa Prize (2021).
Idza receives the £10,000 cash prize while the other shortlisted writers receive £500.
Congratulations to Idza Luhumyo and to Kenya as well!