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Zambian Author Wins The Commonwealth Short Story Prize For Africa

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Commonwealth Short Story Prize has announced the list of regional winners. Zambia’s Mbozi Haimbe is Africa’s regional winner. However, she is the second Zambian to achieve that feat. Haimbe won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her short story, “Madam’s Sister”.

The last time someone from Zambia won a commonwealth story prize was in 2007. Ellen Banda-Aaku took home the Commonwealth Short Story Competition (now defunct) for her short story, “Sozi’s Box”. Reacting to the announcement, Haimbe said,

“I am absolutely thrilled to have been selected as the regional winner and feel privileged to contribute to Africa’s literary landscape. Although a social worker by profession, I have always considered myself a writer. Winning the regional prize validates my aspiration. I thank the judges, and give acknowledgment to Zambia, which remains deeply influential to my writing.”

A brief biography of Mbozi Haimbe

The story of Mbozi Haimbe is a reassurance that you can aspire any height irrespective of your background. Notwithstanding Haimbe was born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia she believed she could make it to the global stage. Consequently, her passion for writing led her to the University of Cambridge where she completed an Mst in Creative writing in 2018. Mbozi Haimbe is currently working on a short story collection inspired by African events. The summary of her Commonwealth Short Story Prize-winning story, “Madam’s Sister” says,

“The arrival of madam’s sister from London causes upheaval within the household but has an unexpected bonus for the guard, Cephas.”

Each regional winner will get £2,500. However, the global winner selected from the regional winners will get £5,000. Till date, only one African has been able to will the overall prize. Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi went ahead to win the overall prize in 2014 after winning the regional prize for her short story, “Let’s Tell This Story Properly”.

About the Commonwealth Short Story Prize

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is an annual award open from 1st September to 1st November every year. Authors from commonwealth regions are encouraged to submit unpublished short story between 2,000 and 5,000 words. Now in its 8th year, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize received a total of 5,081 entries. However, this was streamlined to 21 shortlists. Sixteen of the 53 British Commonwealth nations made it to the shortlist. Speaking about the regional winners, Caryl Phillips, one of the jurors for the 2019 competition said,

“The regional winners of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize explore a remarkably diverse range of subject-matter, including stories about war, love, abuse, and neglect. What unites the stories is a common thread of narrative excellence and dramatic intensity. The voices of a truly global cast of characters enable us to engage with, and recognize, universal emotions of pain and loss.”

Submission of entries for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize can be in Turkish, Tamil, Swahili, Samoan, Portuguese, Malay, Greek, English, Chinese, and Bengali. However, English translations of shorts stories in other languages are also eligible. The Digital Director and Online Editor and Granta, Luke Neima, said,

“This year’s Commonwealth Short Story Prize-winning stories showcase the short story in a range of guises, innovations of form that stretch but never exhaust the potential of the short story to address the regional and universal questions this gifted crop of authors seeks to address. These outstanding stories capture the breadth of talent writing today across the Commonwealth.”

Other regional winners

In total, there are 5 regions considered for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. This includes Africa, Asia, Canada & Europe, Caribbean, and Pacific. The other regional winners and their stories are;

  • Asian Winner: Saras Manickam from Malaysia for “My Mother Pattu”
  • Canada and Europe Winner: Constantia Soterious from Cyprus for “Death Customs”
  • Caribbean Winner: Alexis Tolas from The Bahamas for “Granma’s Porch”
  • Pacific Winner: Harley Hern from New Zealand for “Screaming”.
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