Innocent Chizaram Ilo was announced the winner for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2020 Africa region on June 2, 2020.
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction in English in the regions of Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. Each of these winners are then eligible for the global prize. Previous winners in the Africa region have been Jekwu Anyaegbuna (2012), Julian Jackson (2013), Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (2014), Lesley Nneka Arimah (2015), Faraaz Mahomed (2016), Akwaeke Emezi (2017), Efua Traoré (2018), and Mbozi Haimbe (2019). Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi won the global prize in 2014.
Selecting the winners for 2020 was a panel chaired by novelist, poet, and publisher Nii Ayikwei Parkes. The others were Mohale Mashigo (Africa), William Phuan (Asia), Heather O’Neill (Canada and Europe), Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw (the Caribbean), and Nic Low (the Pacific). This panel announced the regional winners for the 2020 award today.
Chair of the judges, Ghanaian writer and editor Nii Ayikwei Parkes said, ‘I don’t believe there is a perfect story; there are great stories, but no perfect stories. What is amazing is what happens when a story encounters a ready reader or listener – that moment is magic. That connection is never the same for any two people or for any two moments and that’s why I love judging competitions: I get to talk about stories with other people who love stories, but it’s completely unpredictable. We now have a list of regional winning stories that are striking for their lateral leaps, their use of language, voice and subversion – and their sheer courage. I look forward to the discussions with my fellow judges to pick an overall winner. I guarantee that it will be a story that moves people, but I don’t know which one it will be.’
The winner in the Africa region is When A Woman Renounces Motherhood, by Nigerian writer Innocent Chizaram Ilo that tells of how a woman and her mother bond in the face of a sexist tradition. 23-year-old Ilo, who lives in Lagos, explains that the story was: ‘inspired by my mother. No, she hasn’t renounced motherhood, at least not yet. But I just wanted to capture what women like my mother lose and give up in the name of marriage and, by extension, motherhood.’
The other regional winners are Kritika Pandey (India) representing Asia, Reyah Martin (United Kingdom) representing Canada and Europe, Brian S. Heap (Jamaica) representing the Caribbean, and Andrea E. Macleod (Australia) representing the Pacific.
Ilo like all other regional winners will receive £2,500 and be published online by the literary magazine Granta. The 2020 overall winner, who receives £5000, will be announced during a special award ceremony which will be broadcast online on June 30, 2020.