3 August 2020
Nigerian-British writer Irenosen Okojie has been awarded the 2020 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story ‘Grace Jones’, from Nudibranch, published by Dialogue Books (2019).
Now in its twentieth year, the Caine Prize was first hosted by SOAS in 2016 as part of the university’s centenary celebrations. SOAS officially became a partner of the Caine Prize in 2019 and will continue to host the annual Caine Prize award ceremony for the next decade at least.
This year, in light of the coronavirus pandemic and continuing government restrictions, the AKO Caine Prize commissioned British-Nigerian filmmaker Joseph A. Adesunloye to direct and produce a documentary film to celebrate the shortlist and announce the winner.
The Chair of the AKO Caine Prize judging panel, director of The Africa Centre, Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp CBE, announced the winner of the £10,000 prize in the film released on Monday 27 July.
‘Grace Jones’ tells the story of Sidra, a woman whose life is consumed with guilt. In a devastating tragedy, thirteen-year-old Sidra loses her entire family to a fire that destroys their flat. Years later, Sidra finds herself working as an impersonator of the famous Jamaican singer, model and actress Grace Jones. In this heart-wrenching account of loss, fractured identity and bereavement, Okojie deftly layers the psychological trauma of the daily experience of a Black woman in contemporary British society and of the specific tragedy that befalls Sidra.
Irenosen Okojie is a Nigerian-British writer. Her debut novel Butterfly Fish won a Betty Trask award and was shortlisted for an Edinburgh International First Book Award. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Observer, the Guardian, the BBC and the Huffington Post amongst other publications. Her short stories have appeared internationally in publications including Salt's Best British Short Stories 2017, Kwani? and The Year's Best Weird Fiction. She was named at the London Short Story Festival by Booker Prize winning author Ben Okri OBE as a dynamic writing talent to watch and featured in the Evening Standard Magazine as one of London’s exciting new authors. Her short story collection Speak Gigantular, published by Jacaranda Books was shortlisted for the Edgehill Short Story Prize, the Jhalak Prize, the Saboteur Awards and nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her collection of stories Nudibranch which includes her AKO Caine Prize winning ‘Grace Jones’ is published by Dialogue Books.
‘Grace Jones’ is available to read now on the AKO Caine Prize website.
About the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing
The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing, awarded annually for African creative writing, is named after the late Sir Michael Caine, former Chairman of Booker plc and Chairman of the Booker Prize management committee for nearly 25 years. Its main sponsor is the AKO Foundation, whose primary focus is the making of grants to projects which promote the arts and improve education.
The Prize is awarded for a short story by an African writer published in English (indicative length 3,000 to 10,000 words). An African writer is taken to mean someone who was born in Africa, or who is a national of an African country, or who has a parent who is African by birth or nationality.