Nigerian-British writer Irenosen Okojie has been awarded the 2020 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story ‘Grace Jones’, from Nudibranch, published by Dialogue Books (2019). The chair of the judging panel, director of The Africa Centre, Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp, announced the winner of the £10,000 prize in a film released today.
Olumuyiwa Tharp said: “This year’s winner of the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing is a radical story that plays with logic, time and place; it defies convention, as it unfolds a narrative that is multi-layered and multi-dimensional. It is risky, dazzling, imaginative and bold; it is intense and full of stunning prose; it’s also a story that reflects African consciousness in the way it so seamlessly shifts dimensions, and it’s a story that demonstrates extraordinary imagination. Most of all, it is world-class fiction from an African writer.
“At the heart of this story is its main protagonist, a young woman from Martinique living in London, who is moonlighting as a celebrity impersonator; her journey moves exquisitely and seamlessly between the exploration of the universal experiences of unspeakable suffering, pleasure and escape, and the particular experience of being Black and African in a global city such as London.
“In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has prompted deeply powerful questions about race, justice and equality in the world today – this story offers a salient exploration of what it can mean to embody and perform Blackness in the world. This is a story of tremendously delicate power and beauty, and one in which we recognise the tradition of African storytelling and imagination at its finest.”