Billy Kahora: I hope his new book isn't about real life computer applications.
Billy Kahora: Just give it to him and set him free.

The shortlist for the Caine Prize for African literature, one of the continents hottest short story awards, has just been announced. This is the fifteenth year of the prize that was initially welcomed universally although the universality has been in question in recent years.

Some of the more famous previous recipients of the award have been Binyavanga Wainaina and Noviolet Bulawayo. The former used his award to set up the Kwani Trust and publishing house and is at the centre of the African literary discourse even doing a long list 39 of Africa’s top writers under 40. The latter has gone on to write We need new names that was nominated for everything that they could allow her to with a rare Man Booker Prize nomination and a win in the inaugural Etisalat Prize for African literature.

With these kind of opportunities available for possible winners this is without a doubt one of the most anticipated prizes in the business. Without further ado, here are the shortlisted candidates;

  • Diane Awerbuck (South Africa) for “Phosphorescence” in Cabin Fever (Umuzi, Cape Town. 2011)
    Read Phosphorescence
  • Efemia Chela (Ghana/Zambia) for “Chicken” in Feast, Famine and Potluck (Short Story Day Africa, South Africa. 2013)
    Read Chicken
  • Tendai Huchu (Zimbabwe) for “The Intervention” in Open Road Review, issue 7, New Delhi. 2013
    Read The Intervention
  • Billy Kahora (Kenya) for “The Gorilla’s Apprentice” in Granta (London. 2010)
    Read The Gorilla’s Apprentice
  • Okwiri Oduor (Kenya) for “My Father’s Head” in Feast, Famine and Potluck (Short Story Day Africa, South Africa. 2013)
    Read My Father’s Head

A notable thing about this list is the presence of Billy Kahora in his third nomination. I just wish they give him the prize this year so that he stops entering this competition. All I can say is that it is a bit sad to have one of the judges of the Etisalat Prize for African literature failing to win what could only considered an amateur prize year after year.

Also of interest is the appearance of Tendai Huchi who already has a well-regarded novel The Hairdresser of Harare.

The most obvious thing to note however is the lack of any Nigerian names on the shortlist. Whatever the reason there was no one from the populous West African country famous for dominating our continental literature space. This could be seen as being extremely bold from Jackie Kay and her team that was doing the selections. This is especially considering the shortlist was announced by none other than Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka as part of the ceremonies for the UNESCO World Book Capital 2014 celebration in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. So when they make the announcement on July 2014 there will be no Nigerian in the running to collect the UK pounds 10,000. There will be hell to pay.

So there you have it ladies and gentle. Let’s wait for the Naija fire for lack of nominations from their nationals. Let’s start with Ainehi Edoro aka @brittlepaper with this tweet;

No Nigerian in #CaineShortlist2014: Diane Awerbuck (SA) Efemia Chela (Zambia) Tendai Huchu (Zim) Billy Kahora (Kenya) Okwiri Oduor (Kenya)