By Alexander Nderitu
Kenyan writer Idza Luhumyo has won the 2022 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story ‘Five Years Next Sunday’. The announced was made by Okey Ndibe, Chair of the 2022 AKO Caine Prize Judging Panel, at an award ceremony in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Ndibe described the winning entry as ‘an incandescent story – its exquisite language wedded to the deeply moving drama of a protagonist whose mystical office invites animus at every turn.’ The other judges were: French-Guinean author and academic Elisa Diallo, South African literary curator and co-founder of The Cheeky Natives Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane, UK-based Nigerian visual artist Ade ‘Àsìkò’ Okelarin and Kenyan co-founder of the Book Bunk Angela Wachuka.
‘Five Years Next Sunday’ revolves around a young woman with the supernatural ability to summon the rain in her hair. It won the 2021 Short Story Day Africa Prize and was published in Disruption. Ms. Luhumyo beat 267 eligible entries to take home the £10,000 prize. The story will be published in the 2022 AKO Caine Prize anthology later this year by Cassava Republic Press.
The five writers on the shortlist were: Joshua Chizoma (Nigeria) for ‘Collector of Memories’; Nana-Ama Danquah (Ghana) for ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’; Hannah Giorgis (Ethiopia) for ‘A Double-Edged Inheritance’; Idza Luhumyo (Kenya) for ‘Five Years Next Sunday’; and Billie McTernan (Ghana) for ‘The Labadi Sunshine Bar’. Okey Ndibe, Chair of Judges, said: ‘The 2022 entries represented a staggering feast. It was a testament to the vibrancy, variety and splendour of creative talent among writers of African descent.’ In an online analysis of the shortlisted entries, Nigerian writer Obinna Udenwe (author of Colours of Hatred and Satans & Shaitans) wrote:
‘I think the list this year isn’t quite strong but one particular story “Five Years Next Sunday” by Kenya’s Idza Luhumyo stands out in terms of its adherence to the short story form, it’s poetic feel and the poignancy of its theme. I think it deserves to win and I give it 8.7/10. Written in a form that makes you believe you are reading poetry. The author understands the short story form – captivates the reader till the end, makes the ending as vivid and memorable as the beginning. I like the theme and the progression of the plot, not packing too much inside the plot. A winner.’
Idza’s win has been widely praised, marking out the previously little-known scribe as a talent to be watched in African literary circles. Ian Kiyingi Muddu is Ugandan writer, teacher and media producer who studied with Idza in the SOAS University of London. Reacting to the news, he said:
‘Writers in real life can be really condescending. Not Idza Luhumyo. Modest, quiet, yet hardworking to boot. If you weren’t sure which way is the library, and you met Idza in the foyer or lift, you just had to follow her. You were sure she was heading there. Always. To thumb a book, or a keyboard. That girl simply knew the right directions. Perhaps it wasn’t hard for Okey Ndibe and his distinguished team to choose Five Years Next Sunday. Such a magisterially-crafted story!… Idza is definitely a literary force to be reckoned with.’
Idza is the fifth Kenyan to win the UK-based literary prize in its 22-year history. The others were Binyavanga Wainaina (2002), Yvonne Owuor (2003), Okwiri Oduor (2014) and Makena Onjerika (2018).
Alexander Nderitu: Literary Correspondent Africa Zone
Categories: Lit News