Without a doubt, Nigeria has produced some of the finest writers the globe has ever seen. Names like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and a host of other Nigerian writers ring a bell in the literary world. Most of these writers have won numerous awards and are globally recognised.
Nigerian writers have not seized to utilize the opportunity presented by the environ of the West African nation to make a name for themselves by telling stories from what they see around them and the day to day living conditions in Nigeria. Lesley Nneka Arimah is the rave of the moment among Nigerian writers.
The Caine Prize
In an award dinner at the Senate House, University of London on the night of Monday 8th July, 2019, Lesley was announced winner of the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing. Her short story titled, Skinned, won her the prestigious prize. It would be recalled that the West African writer has twice been shortlisted for the Caine Prize, before in 2016 and 2017, but she clinched it this time.
Internationally acclaimed Kenyan author and poet, Dr. Peter Kimani, chaired the judging panel of the Caine Prize and revealed the Nigerian writer as the winner of the 10,000 Euros prize. Kimani praised Arimah for her “unique retake of women’s struggle for inclusion in a society regulated by rituals.’’
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’ defamiliarises 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.Kimani
The Caine Prize for African Writing was introduced in the year 2000. It is awarded annually to an African writer of a short story published in English. The winner gets the grand prize of 10,000 euros, while every writer shortlisted for the award gets 500 euros. The award winning story for this year, Skinned, tells the story of a young woman, Ejem, and her attempts to negotiate a rigidly stratified society following the breakdown of a protective friendship with the married Chidinma.
Lesley Nneka Arimah
Arimah was born in the United Kingdom (in 1983) and she grew up in Nigeria and wherever her father was stationed for work. Riverhead Books and Tinder Press published her debut collection of short stories titled What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky in 2017. Her work Light won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa in 2015. Publications, which have featured her stories, include Harper’s, Per Contra, The New Yorker and a host of others. In September 2017, Lesley was named one of the fiction writers that was honoured by the National Book Foundation called “Five Under 35”.
When I think of what literature can do, and I think of the ways that literature has changed minds and opened imaginations, I want to say that we African writers must centre the African gaze. We must centre the Nigerian gaze, the Cameroonian gaze, the Ethiopian gaze, the Kenyan gaze. We need to be writing to and for each other, and we also need to play.Lesley Nneka Arimah
Featured Image source: bbc.com