I had the utmost pleasure of being in conversation with the immensely talented storytellers who are shortlisted for The AKO Caine Prize this year. Africa in Dialogue will be sharing my conversations with them this week, in anticipation for the announcement of the winner on 27 July 2020.
When I was first assigned to do the interviews for the AKO Caine Prize 2020, I didn’t know how much I would learn in the process. I thought I already knew all that was needed to get a literary interview done. In the meantime, I strictly considered authors being purely authors. Luckily for me my mentor, Nkateko Masinga, stepped in many times to direct me to the right path and to support me. And fortunately the authors with whom I conversed were open as well as passionate, unconsciously ridding me of my preconceived notions about writers.
Besides Nkateko, the representative for the AKO Caine Prize Lucy Colomb has been very helpful, so I am grateful for the time she took to help me in reaching out to the authors, and for her continuous assistance.
Taking a chance on the Africa in Dialogue Internship Program was my desire to contribute to the magazine, but instead I ended up as the one being helped. The literary interviews’ questions as I always knew them were invariable, inflexible and safe. But with the magazine’s way of conducting dialogues I learned that an interview can be a conversation instead, to be an exchange of ideas. The questions didn’t have to always be safe but can venture to explore the authors’ minds as well as feelings more. All the while letting them explore your mind and feelings too.
The originality of African literature in its subjects and craft are also things I learned so much about. The stories by these amazing storytellers about complex women, small places, individualism in society, and mental issues are all unique explorations of the human condition in unique places. The dialogues I had with them were so gratifying and opened my mind more to my continent, its people and its places. I hope they will also be gratifying for the readers and will see the passion for Africa and storytelling in them.
Below are the titles of the shortlisted short stories as well as the writers’ names:
“How to Marry an African President” by Erica Sugo Anyadike (Tanzania)
“The Neighbourhood Watch” by Rémy Ngamije (Rwanda and Namibia)
“What To Do When Your Child Brings Home a Mami Wata” by Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigeria and UK)
“Fisherman’s Stew” by Jowhor Ile (Nigeria)
“Grace Jones” by Irenosen Okojie (Nigeria and UK)
More information about the 2020 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing and the shortlisted writers can be found here.