Nigerian writer Lesley Nneka Arimah has won the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing. The 36-year-old author defeated writers from other countries in Africa like Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Kenya to win the highly coveted prize.
The short story that got Lesley Arimah the win is titled Skinned. It was published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern (Issue 53) 2018. This fictional work visualises a society in which young girls are ceremonially ‘uncovered’ and must marry in order to regain the right to be clothed.
The story is centered around a young woman named Ejem who is uncovered at the age of 15 and is still yet ‘unclaimed’ in adulthood. It speaks of her attempts to negotiate a rigidly stratified society following the breakdown of a protective friendship with the married Chidinma.
With wit, prescience, and roguish, Skinned passes for a bold and unsettling tale of bodily autonomy and womanhood, and the fault lines along which solidarity are formed and broken.
According to Peter Kimani, the chair of judges, for winning the prize, Lesley Arimah will get £10,000 (an equivalent of over N4.4m) prize at an award dinner on Monday, July 8. Also, the prestige that comes with the award is no small one as the category of Caine Prize won by Arimah is often described as Africa’s leading literary award.
Kimani who announced the winner had this to say: “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.”
Arimah is a 2019 United States Artists Fellow in Writing and she lives in Las Vegas, United States of America. The other shortlisted works for the 2019 Caine Prize include: The Wall by Ethiopian author, Meron Hadero; Sew My Mouth by Kenyan Author, Cherrie Kandie; It Takes A Village Some Say by Cameroonian author, Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti; All Our Lives by Nigerian author, Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor.
Recently, Chimamanda Adichie bagged another doctorate degree from the prestigious Yale University. The beautiful and famous writer shared lovely photos from the award ceremony on social media.
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