Irenosen Okojie, a Nigerian-British author, has bagged the 2020 AKO Caine Prize for African writing after her story on an impersonator of Grace Jones, Jamaican model.
Founded in the UK in 2000, the Caine Prize is an annual £10,000 award that has been reserved for the best original short story published in the English language by any African writer.
Announced the winning entry for 2020, Okojie’s short story ‘Grace Jones’ received all-round praise from the judges just after the shortlist of five writers for the prize had been released in May.
The London-based novelist’s short story follows the story of Sidra, a young Martinican woman in London, who is wracked with guilt after her whole family dies in a fire that destroys their flat.
The aggrieved lady, in her later life, finds relief working as a celebrity impersonator, which sees her hide under the mask of Jones while committing “dreadful acts.”
Beyond delighted & overwhelmed that my story Grace Jones has won the 2020 @CainePrize Mind blowing. Massive thanks to the judges & the prize for this honour. Big love to @EliseDillsworth @SharLovegrove @dialoguebooks for their unwavering belief in my voice. https://t.co/7UCk8INdS5
— Irenosen Okojie (@IrenosenOkojie) July 27, 2020
“What I want people to take away from it is not just the pain of tragedy, it’s how we reconfigure ourselves past it,” the BBC quoted Okojie as saying while speaking on her prize.
“I’m predominantly passionate about writing about black women, and for me, it doesn’t just mean black women from Nigeria. I think blackness is fascinating, especially cross-culturally.
“Human beings are so fascinating – we cope with things in all sorts of weird and interesting ways. So I wanted to capture a character like that.
“The psychology of it, you know the idea of hiding behind another character and, you know, how do we cope with the traumas that affect us.”
On the similarities between the fire that engulfs Sidra’s home and the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, which killed dozens, the author said she had written her work before “just before Grenfell.”
The 2019 edition was won by Lesley Nneka Arimah, another Nigerian author.