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Nigeria’s Lesley Nneka Arimah Wins the 20th Caine Prize for African Writing

Lesley Nneka Arimah has won the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story “Skinned.” The announcement was made on Monday July 8, 2019 in the United Kingdom.

For those not familiar with the Caine Prize, it is “awarded for a short story by an African writer published in English (indicative length 3,000 to 10,000 words).

Previous winners are Sudan’s Leila Aboulela (2000), Nigerian Helon Habila (2001), Kenyan Binyavanga Wainaina (2002), Kenyan Yvonne Owuor (2003), Zimbabwean Brian Chikwava(2004), Nigerian Segun Afolabi (2005), South African Mary Watson (2006), Ugandan Monica Arac de Nyeko (2007), South African Henrietta Rose-Innes (2008), Nigerian EC Osondu (2009), Sierra Leonean Olufemi Terry (2010), Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo (2011), Nigerian Rotimi Babatunde (2012), Nigerian Tope Folarin (2013), Kenyan Okwiri Oduor (2014), Zambian Namwali Serpell (2015), South African Lidudumalingani (2016), Sudanese Bushra al-Fadil(2017), and Kenyan writer Makena Onjerika (2018).

Lesley Nneka Arimah takes the prize in 2019, with her winning story, “Skinned, which was published in McSweeney’s Quarterly. Skinned tells the story of women who are “uncovered” and are not allowed the privilege of getting clothed until they are married.

Describing the story, Chair of Judges Peter Kimani said:

The winner of this year’s Caine Prize for African Writing is a unique retake of women’s struggle for inclusion in a society regulated by rituals. Lesley Nneka Arimah’s Skinned defamiliarizes the familiar to topple social hierarchies, challenge traditions and envision new possibilities for women of the world. Using a sprightly diction, she invents a dystopian universe inhabited by unforgettable characters where friendship is tested, innocence is lost, and readers gain a new understanding of life.,

Others on the five man shortlist included: Tochuckwu Emmanuel Okafor for his story All Our LivesMeron Hadero for the story The WallCherrie Kandie for the story Chew My Mouth, and Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkwetifor the story It Takes A Village Some Say.

Arimah has twice been shortlisted for the Caine Prize; first in 2016 for her story What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, and in 2017 for Who Will Greet You At Home. The prize money is £10,000.

Congratulations to the prize winner, Lesley Nneka Arimah and the other shortlisted writers.


Written by PH

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