Last night saw this year's Caine Prize shortlisted authors and ROSL musicians gather in the Princess Alexandra Hall for an evening of words and music which celebrated African creative culture.
Led by Zimbabwean broadcaster Georgina Godwin, the evening began with a conversation with writers Lesley Nneka Arimah from Nigeria and Meron Hadero from Ethiopia, discussing their nominated works Skinned and The Wall, respectively.
Lesley Nneka Arimah was born in the UK and grew up in Nigeria and wherever else her father was stationed for work. Her stories have been honored with a National Magazine Award, a Commonwealth Short Story Prize and an O. Henry Award. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, McSweeney’s, GRANTA and has received support from The Elizabeth George Foundation and MacDowell. She was selected for the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 and her debut collection What it Means When A Man Falls From The Sky won the 2017 Kirkus Prize, the 2017 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and was selected for the New York Times/PBS book club among other honors. Arimah is a 2019 United States Artists Fellow in Writing.
Meron Hadero is an Ethiopian-American born in Addis Ababa who came to the US as a refugee in her childhood via East and West Germany. Her stories appear in Best American Short Stories, McSweeney’s, Zyzzyva, The Iowa Review, and others. Her writing is also in The New York Times Book Review and the anthology The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives. She has been awarded residencies at Yaddo, Ragdale, and MacDowell, and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, a JD from Yale Law School (Washington State Bar), and a BA from Princeton in history. Meron is a recipient of a 2019-2020 Steinbeck Fellowship.
Their discussion was followed by a performance of Christopher Duigan's Soledad for Saxophone and Piano from 2018 AMC Gold Medal winner Jonathan Radford saxophone and 2006 Gold Medallist, South Africa's Ben Schoeman piano.
The conservation continued with writers Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti from Cameroon and Cherrie Kanie from Kenya, discussing their works It Takes A Village Some Say and Sew My Mouth.
Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti is a Cameroonian-American writer and graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is the recipient of fellowships and residencies from MacDowell, Vermont Studio Center, Ucross, Byrdcliffe, Kimbilio, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Clarion West, Hub City, the Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Stadler Center for Poetry and Literary Arts. Nana’s writing has been published in journals and magazines such as Brittle Paper, New Orleans Review, and The Baffler, amongst others. Her forthcoming short story collection, Like Walking on Cowry Shells, focuses on the lives of hyphenated-Americans who share her multi-cultural heritage in the United States and Africa.
Cherrie Kandie is a Kenyan writer and a senior at college in the United States. She also makes short films and enjoys dancing to Lingala (only in her room).
Jonathan and Ben then returned to the stage to perform works by Christian Lauba and Surendran Reddy, before the final shortlisted writer, Nigeria's Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor discussed his story All Our Lives. His work has appeared in the 2018 Best of the Net, the 2019 Best Small Fictions, The Guardian, Harvard’s Transition Magazine, Columbia Journal, and elsewhere. A 2018 Rhodes Scholar finalist and a 2018 Kathy Fish Fellow, he has won the 2017 Short Story Day Africa Prize for Short Fiction. He has been shortlisted for the 2017 Awele Creative Trust Award, the 2016 Problem House Press Short Story Prize, and the 2016 Southern Pacific Review Short Story Prize.
The evening concluded with a Q&A session from the audience, with the ROSL Book Group particularly well represented amongst the audience. Hear their thoughts on this year's shortlisted writers and their stories in the next edition of Overseas.
If you didn't get a chance to attend last night, don't worry as there is still a chance to have your say on who should win this year's ROSL Readers' Award. Launched in 2018, this award asks ROSL members to read each of the short stories listed for the main Caine Prize and vote for their favourite. The winner of this award receives £1,000 and is then commissioned to write an original short story, which appears in a future edition of the Overseas journal.
Last year, it was Malaysia-based Nigerian writer Wole Talabi who took home the award. His short story, Debut, which explored the future of art and artificial intelligence, appeared in the March-May 2019 edition of Overseas. You can read his work here. The response from members was fantastic, and we hope as many people as possible will get involved this year as well. A new crop of writers have already been shortlisted for the 2019 Caine Prize, their works can be read below:
Lesley Nneka Arimah, Skinned
Meron Hadero, The Wall
Cherrie Kandie, Sew My Mouth
Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti, It Takes A Village Some Say
Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor, All Our Lives
You have until 8 July to vote, so get reading!