Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor is the Short Story Day Africa Prize 2017 winner for his story All Our Lives. Agazit Abate and Michael Yee came second and third respectively.
Short Story Day Africa is a literary initiative that was set up to celebrate the diversity of Africa’s voices. It brings together writers, readers, booksellers, publishers, teachers and school children to write, submit, read, workshop and discuss stories.
One of the most well-known aspects of the initiative is the Short Story Day Africa Prize which showcases the best in short story writing on the continent today. The winner of the prize pockets a decent cash prize and many opportunities including being featured in the annual Short Story Day Africa Anthology. Previous winners of the prize are Sibongile Fisher (2016), Cat Hellisen (2015), Diane Awerbuck (2014) and Okwiri Oduor (2013).
The current edition of the competition started with writers being asked to submit stories under the theme “ID.” From the submissions, a 21 strong longlist was announced in December 2017 with writers coming from Benin, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. All of their submissions will feature in an anthology called ID: New Short Fiction from Africa edited by Helen Moffett, Nebila Abdulmelik and Otieno Owino. The shortlist would be announced in May featuring writers from Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe.
Today the winner of the prize, worth $800, has been announced and it is Lagos born writer Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor. His multiple-identity story All Our Lives examines the lives of disaffected men who drift into Nigerian cities in pursuit of a “better life”. The judges described Okafor’s story as wry, cleared-eyed, humorous and compassionate.
Judges described Agazit Abate’s The Piano Player as a brilliant inversion of the “African abroad” narrative as it presents snapshots of life in Addis Abada through the eyes and ears of a pianist in a luxury hotel bar. Abate is the daughter of immigrants and storytellers. She was raised in Los Angeles, and writes and lives in Addis Ababa.
God Skin by Michael Yee weaves together alienation, forbidden love and intimate violence against a subtle backdrop of the scars of Liberia’s civil war. Yee is a South African writer born in Pretoria.
Agazit and Michael will each receive $150, a 50% split of the prize money allocated for second and third place.