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Nigerian Writer Lesley Nneka Arimah Wins 2019 Caine Prize

The Nigerian writer and winner of 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa, won the 2019 Caine Prize with her short story titled ‘Skinned’, beating other four writers from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Cameroon.

Arimah urged African writers to continuously center the African gaze during her acceptance speech. She said;

“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 center the African gaze. We must center 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.”

Arimah’s Skinned tells a story of young girls who are “ceremonially uncovered” at a certain age must then marry in order to be allowed to be clothed again. Ejem, the main character of the story, is uncovered at the age of 15 but remains “unclaimed” for marriage in her adulthood. The powerful story explores womanhood and bodily autonomy in a refreshing and perhaps even unsettling way.

Chair of Judges, Kenyan author Peter Kimani, declared Lesley as the winner of the £10,000 prize (about N1.5million) at an award dinner on Monday, 8 July.

The Caine Prize for African Writing is one of the most respected literature awards for writers in the continent of Africa. This year’s theme saw writers from across the continent tackling “the ordinary in an extraordinary manner and celebrating the diversity of the African short-story writing tradition for the twentieth edition of the Prize”.

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