Kenyan writer Idza Luhumyo has been awarded the 2022 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story ‘Five Years Next Sunday’, published in Disruption (2021). This is the fifth time a Kenyan writer has won since the Prize’s inception in 2000.
The Chair of the AKO Caine Prize Judging Panel, author and award-winning journalist Okey Ndibe, announced the winner of the £10,000 prize at an award ceremony held at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum on 18 July.
The 2022 winning work, ‘Five Years Next Sunday’, which won the 2021 Short Story Day Africa Prize, is a story about a young woman with the unique power to call the rain in her hair. Feared by her family and community, a chance encounter with a foreigner changes her fortunes, but there are duplicitous designs upon her most prized and vulnerable possession.
Judging the Prize alongside Ndibe this year were French-Guinean author and academic Elisa Diallo; South African literary curator and co-founder of The Cheeky Natives Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane; UK-based Nigerian visual artist Ade ‘Àsìkò’ Okelarin; and Kenyan co-founder and managing trustee at Book Bunk Angela Wachuka.
Speaking of Luhumyo’s story, Okey Ndibe said: “What we liked about the story was the mystical office of the protagonist, who is both ostracised and yet holds the fate of her community in her hair. She is stripped of agency by her immediate family, as well as the Europeans who give the impression of placing her on a pedestal, yet within that seeming absence of agency, and oppressive world, is her stubborn reclamation of herself. The dramatic tension in the story is so powerful and palpable that it’s like something you could cut with a knife.
“‘Five Years Next Sunday’ is an incandescent story – its exquisite language wedded to the deeply moving drama of a protagonist whose mystical office invites animus at every turn. It’s that rare story that stays imprinted in the reader’s mind long after the encounter with it. A triumph of the imagination!”
Luhumyo’s work has been published in a wide range of literary magazines and websites and she is the inaugural winner of the Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa Award (2020) and winner of the Short Story Day Africa Prize (2021).
Luhumyo’s winning story, along with that of the shortlisted writers will be published in the forthcoming anthology to be released by Cassava Republic Press.
The Caine Prize is named in memory of Sir Michael Harris Caine, former Chairman of Booker Group plc. Because of the Caine Prize’s connection to the Booker Prize, the award is sometimes called the “African Booker”.