ART: Nigerian-British Author Wins 2020 Caine Prize For African Writing

by on July 27, 2020

Nigerian born, British raised Irenosen Okojie has been announced as winner of prestigious writing award, the Caine Prize.

Okojie was on Monday, announced as the winner of the 2020 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story about a ‘Grace Jones’ impersonator with a dark secret.

Irenosen Okojie was born in Nigeria and moved to England aged eight, and she studied Communications and Visual Culture at London Metropolitan University.

Along the way, she worked as a freelance writer, Marketing Assistant and Editorial Assistant. She is a freelance Arts Project Manager and Coordinator.

BBC informs that judges for the Caine Prize praised her writing as a “radical” and “risky” work of fiction, which deals with questions of trauma and identity as well as pleasure and escape.

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“What I want people to take away from it is not just the pain of tragedy, it’s how we reconfigure ourselves past it,” Okojie said in an interview with BBC.

The London-based writer says her £10,000 ($13,000) winnings will buy her more time to travel, to write and maybe even a garden shed as “a little enclave” to work in.

“I’m predominantly passionate about writing about black women, and for me it doesn’t just mean black women from Nigeria,” Okojie says. “I think blackness is fascinating, especially cross-culturally.”

The story, which is called Grace Jones, follows Sidra, a young Martinican woman in London who is wracked with guilt after her whole family dies in a fire that destroys their flat. In later life Sidra finds a sense of release working as a celebrity impersonator.

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Sidra is “hiding under” this mask of Jamaican singer, model and actress Grace Jones, says the author. “But under the character [she] herself is committing dreadful acts.”

Irenosen is an accomplished author, having received the 2016 Betty Trask Award for her first novel, Butterfly Fish, was published in 2015.

Her short story collection, Speak Gigantular, was published in 2016. It was shortlisted for the 2016 inaugural Jhalak Prize and the 2017 Edge Hill Short Story Prize.

Another story, titled ‘Animal Parts’ was nominated for a 2016 Shirley Jackson Award, while her short story, ‘Synsepalum’, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 to celebrate the BBC National Short Story Award 2018.

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Her new collection of short stories, Nudibranch, was published in 2019 by Dialogue Books.It was longlisted for the Jhalak Prize 2020 and the story ‘Grace Jones’ was shortlisted for and eventually winning the 2020 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing,

Irenosen has a novel, Curandera, forthcoming from Dialogue Books.

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