Ngamije is Africa short story winner
THE Commonwealth Foundation on May 12 announced the regional winners of the world’s most global literary prize.
Rwandan-born Namibian author Rémy Ngamije has won the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize (Africa) for his story ‘Granddaughter of The Octopus’.
The 32-year-old author and photographer beat off competition from a strong field of shortlisted entrants including Moso Sematlane from Lesotho and Nigerian writers Ola W. Halim, Vincent Anioke and Franklyn Usouwa to become the Africa winner.
Ngamije will go through to the final round of judging and the overall winner will be announced on June 30.
Recounting a family history of love, violence, and dispossession, ‘Granddaughter of the Octopus’ is an experimental short story filled with humour, voice, and quiet, earnest truths.
The woman at the centre of the story is, the author says, ‘a fierce grandmother who refuses to cower to societal demands, a woman who is determined to live life on her own terms no matter the price she has to pay for her choices.’
Africa judge, Nigerian writer A.Igoni Barrett said, “Granddaughter of the Octopus is a psychologically astute portrait of a larger-than-life character whose rollicking essence is distilled into the reader’s imagination through concise prose, yes, and poetic detail, yes again. But there’s also that extra magic of the writer who wields metaphor like a whip cracking at untamed life.
“The unforgettable matriarch of this bittersweet tale is audacious, indecorous, and unabashedly sensual, all of which, and much, much more—I must add hilarious—are captured in a voice both raw and tender as a welt. To quote the story’s narrator, “The past always wins.” But the future, in the transfiguring writing of Rémy Ngamije, is winning this time,” said Barrett.
Commenting on his win, Remy Ngamije said, “To win for the Africa region is unexpected and humbling. I am honoured to join the likes of Innocent Chizaram, Faraaz Mohamed, Lesley Nneka Arimah, and Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi – writers whose works and unfolding careers continue to inspire me.
“It is my hope this recognition encourages more writers from my home country, and those from less established literary traditions, to continue their writing journeys, to find the courage, patience, and confidence needed to participate in this intercontinental community of storytelling.”
The story was selected from a shortlist of 25 by the international judging panel, chaired by South African writer Zoë Wicomb.
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth. It is the only prize in the world where entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, English, French, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil, and Turkish.