The Kwani? Manuscript Project, a new one-off literary prize for unpublished fiction from African writers, is delighted to announce a shortlist selected from a longlist of 30. The seven shortlisted titles are:
- Ayobami Adebayo, Stay with Me (Nigeria)
- Ayesha Harruna Attah, Saturday’s People (Ghana / US)
- Stanley Gazemba, Ghettoboy (Kenya)
- Toni Kan, The Carnivorous City (Nigeria)
- Timothy Kiprop Kimutai, The Water Spirits (Kenya)
- Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, The Kintu Saga (Uganda / UK)
- Saah Millimono, One Day I Will Write About This War (Liberia)
The shortlist has been selected, without the author’s name attached, by a high-profile panel of judges including Deputy Editor of Granta magazine Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, leading scholar of African literature Professor Simon Gikandi, Chairman of Kenyatta University’s Literature Department Dr. Mbugua wa Mungai, editor of Zimbabwe’s Weaver Press Irene Staunton and internationally renowned Nigerian writer Helon Habila. The Chair of Judges, award-winning Sudanese novelist Jamal Mahjoub, said:
The five judges of the Kwani? Manuscript prize 2013 have carefully worked through a longlist of 30. These showed a wide range of styles, subjects and regional concerns. The judges were primarily looking for works that show promise in terms of the writing itself as well as the breadth and depth of vision brought to bear by the authors. The final shortlist of seven entries reflects the overall consensus of the judges and summarises their individual interests.
These seven novels from five African countries take us through the underbelly of Lagos, class divisions in Nairobi and war-torn Monrovia, through families cursed, self-destructing and reuniting, bringing new scrutiny to the epic, dictatorship and points-of-view in stories that are brave, tender and beguiling.
Kwani Trust’s Managing Editor, Billy Kahora said,
In reviewing the shortlisted stories, I’m blown away by the potential these manuscripts hold, the different styles, concerns and voices that they bring to new contemporary African literature, and further add to Kwani’s fiction list. We can’t wait to bring them out as novels in the region and partner with publishing houses across the continent to make them available across Africa.
The Kwani? Manuscript Project was launched in April 2012 and called for the submission of unpublished novel manuscripts from African writers across the continent and in the diaspora. The prize received over 280 qualifying submissions from 19 African countries.
The top three manuscripts will be announced on Monday 1 July 2013 and will be awarded cash prizes totaling Ksh 525,000 (c. $6000).
In addition, Kwani Trust plans to publish 3-5 of the shortlisted manuscripts by April 2014. The Trust will also be partnering with regional and global agents and publishing houses to secure high profile international co-publication opportunities.
The Authors and Synopsis of the Stories
Ayobami Adebayo, Stay with Me
Ayobami Adebayo was born in 1988 and her short stories have appeared in Farafina Magazine, Saraba Magazine, East Jasmine Review and African Writing Online. Her work was highly commended in the 2009 Commonwealth short story competition. In 2012, she was a writer in residence at Writers Omi International (Ledig House), New York. She is the fiction editor for Saraba magazine.
Synopsis: Yejide's marriage is almost perfect. Even though she has never been pregnant, she is sure that her husband loves her and nothing can come between them. Then he marries another wife and everything Yejide has believed begins to fall apart. Still, she is not ready to lose the man she loves. Her quest to get pregnant before the new wife tests the limits of love and loss as she searches for a miracle baby on mountain tops, at stream sides and in her brother-in-law's bed.
Ayesha Harruna Attah, Saturday’s People
Ayesha Harruna Attah is the author of the novel Harmattan Rain, which was shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, Best First Book. She has had short stories published in the African Roar 2010 anthology, Imagine Africa, and the Caine Prize Writers' 2009 anthology. She received an MFA in Fiction from NYU’s Creative Writing Program in May 2011.
Synopsis: Saturday’s People is based in a West African country at the end of a 17-year military dictatorship. It weaves the stories of four members of the Avoka household, where everybody is lurching toward self-destruction. The father, Theo, is recruited to write the memoirs of the dictator-turned-president whom he loathes. Zahra, matriarch of the house, rekindles an affair with an old lover and barely keeps her family and sanity together. Theo and Zahra's son Kojo has just started the boarding school of his dreams but finds out it's nothing like he imagined. Their new help, Atsu, recently transplanted from the village, struggles to understand the eccentricities of her new family.
Stanley Gazemba, Ghettoboy
Stanley Gazemba was born in 1974 in Western Kenya. He has published 2 novels, The Stone Hills of Maragoli (a recipient of the Jomo Kenyatta Prize and re-issued by Kwani Trust in 2009) and Khama. He has also published 7 children’s books: Shaka Zulu-Warrior King; Poko and the Jet; Poko at the Koras; The Herds boy and the Princess; Tobi and the Street boy; Ant’s Clay castle and Grandmother’s Winning Smile (long-listed for the Macmillan Prize). He has written for Msanii magazine, Sunday Nation, The New York Times, Saturday Nation and The East African. He was International Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 2007.
Synopsis: Ghettoboy explores relationships across and between urban spaces and social class within Nairobi. When Kimani gets a job with the Adamali family, a rich Asian household, he believes that his dream of escaping the harsh life of the ghetto has come true. But the job is unusual one. He is to be the day-nurse of a bedridden matriarch who is in possession of a secret formula that can alter the global construction business if put into practice. Ghosts from Idi Amin’s Uganda and Kimani’s relationship with Adamali’s daughter begin to threaten planned and expected trajectories for all concerned.
Toni Kan, The Carnivorous City
Toni Kan is the author of the poetry collection When a Dream Lingers too Long, the novella Ballad of Rage, and most recently the short story collection Nights of the Creaking Bed (Cassava Republic). He is one of Nigeria's most anthologised poets and short story writers, and his work has appeared in Salthill, Drum Voices, Revue, Farafina, Sentinel Poetry Quarterly and ANA Review. He currently edits the ‘Sunday Sun Revue’, a weekly 4 page literary supplement in Sunday Sun.
Synopsis: Carnivorous City is a novel about Lagos, the city which is at once a beast with bared fangs and a seductive mistress with wild charms. A young man arrives in the city in search of his missing brother who may or may not be dead. His search becomes, in many ways, a journey through the murky underbelly of Lagos as well as an odyssey into his own interior landscape; an odyssey that leaves him questioning long held beliefs and certitudes.
Timothy Kiprop Kimutai, The Water Spirits
Timothy Kiprop Kimutai is 27 years old and interested in finding an audience for his stories. He participates in creative writing workshops with Amka Space, a writing forum provided by the Goethe Institute in Nairobi.
Synopsis: Kogi sees an alternate world when his mother points a knife at her chest ready to plunge it in. He finds a girl lying unconscious by the river, carries her home and lets her live in their chicken house - all the while thinking that she is a water spirit. He dreams of bringing back rare chicken breeds from the brink of extinction. The Water Spirits places the mysterious alongside the quotidian, exploring Kogi’s relationships with the water spirit, his newly-widowed mother Susanna and sister Chebet, and the pains of feeling powerless.
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, The Kintu Saga
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is currently completing a PhD in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. Her work has been published by African Writing Online and Commonword. She also runs the African reading group, ARG!, in Manchester which focuses on obscure African writers.
Synopsis: At dawn, on Monday the 5th of January 2004 in Uganda, the curse of Kintu strikes. Kamu Kintu is brutally murdered by a mob in Bwaise. Three months later, ten men involved in his murder are found dead, their bodies strewn along Bwaise’s main street. The story then travels back to 1750, to the beginning of the curse in the old kingdom of Buganda. The Kintu Saga follows the misfortunes of the Kintu clan over 250 years, blending Ganda oral tradition, forms of myth, folktale and history with biblical elements. The novel explores ideas of transgression, curse and perpetuity, looking back at the history of Buganda Kingdom and tracing birth of modern Uganda.
Saah Millimono, One Day I Will Write About This War
Saah Millimono was born in 1981 and is a graduate of St. Michael’s Catholic High School in Monrovia, Liberia. He works as a freelance fiction writer for the Liberian Observer Corporation and in 2009 won the Short Fiction Prize of the Sea Breeze Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writings.
Synopsis: Tarnue and Kou are from different backgrounds, young, ambitious, and in primary school. Suddenly the Liberian Civil War erupts; they and many others are altered in ways they could hardly have thought of. One Day I Will Write About This War tenderly explores this unlikely childhood friendship and multiple human costs of war.
For more information please visit Kwani?'s website.