Namwali Serpell is the winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing 2015. The Zambian was given the prize for her short story entitled The Sack from Africa39 (Bloomsbury, London, 2014) at a ceremony held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England last night.
So what is The Sack about? The Chair of Judges Zoë Wicomb said, “The Sack” explores a world where dreams and reality are both claustrophobic and dark. The relationship between two men and an absent woman is explored through troubled interactions and power relationships which jar with the views held by the characters.”
On my own part? I have no flipping idea. Seriously. There’s like two dudes, one person called J and another called the man. Then there is a boy. There is a burning of a chicken coop at one point. And there is a knife. The author describes it as a “strange story” and I concur with her completely.
So what does she get for her efforts? She gets to take up a month’s residence at Georgetown University, as a Writer-in-Residence at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. She also takes part in the Open Book Festival in Cape Town, Storymoja in Nairobi, and Ake Festival in Abeokuta, Nigeria. Not bad. Also, she got herself 10,000 UK pounds. To the surprise of everyone who is African, the writer announced that she will be sharing the prize with all of her fellow shortlistees. They were to get 500 UK pounds but it looks like they will be leaving a bit richer than they anticipated.
Speaking to the BBC in an interview the writer who was very happy to win it said on sharing it, “It was an act of mutiny for me. I wanted to change the structure of the prize because I felt that for the writers it’s very awkward to be placed in this position of competition with other writers that you respect immensely in this American Idol or racehorse situation when actually you want to support each other.”
This is not the first time the winner of the prize has been sufficiently philanthropic with the prize money. 2002 winner Binyavanga Wainaina famously used his prize to set up the literary juggernaut Kwani Trust when he was announced the winner.
Last year the Caine Prize was won by Kenyan writer Okwiri Oduor.
The king is dead. Long live the king.