Kenyan writer Idza Luhumyo wins Sh1.4 million in London

Luhumyo is the fifth Kenyan writer to win the award after Binyavanga Wainaina, Yvonne Owuor, Okwiri Oduor & Makena Onjerika

Kenyan writer Idza Luhumyo wins the 2022 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing

Prolific Kenyan writer Idza Luhumyo has been awarded the 2022 AKO Caine Prize for African writing for her short story ‘Five Years Next Sunday’.

Luhumyo takes home Sh1, 424 644 (£10,000) after beating 267 eligible entries in a record year of submissions.

‘Five Years Next Sunday’, which won the 2021 Short Story Day Africa Prize, is a story about a young woman with the unique power to call the rain in her hair.

Feared by her family and community, a chance encounter with a foreigner changes her fortunes, but there are duplicitous designs upon her most prized and vulnerable possession.

Luhumyo is the fifth Kenyan writer to win the award after Binyavanga Wainaina (2002), Yvonne Owuor (2003), Okwiri Oduor (2014) and Makena Onjerika (2018).

She was announced the winner by Okey Ndibe, who is the Chairperson of the 2022 AKO Caine Prize Judging Panel, at an award ceremony that was held at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

“An incandescent story - its exquisite language wedded to the deeply moving drama of a protagonist whose mystical office invites animus at every turn,” Ndibe described Luhumyo’s story.

Judging the Prize alongside Ndibe this year 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; Kenyan co-founder of the Book Bunk Angela Wachuka.

Luhumyo will be published in the 2022 AKO Caine Prize anthology later this year by Cassava Republic Press.

Ndibe, speaking of Luhumyo’s story, said: “What we liked about the story was the mystical office of the protagonist, who is both ostracised and yet holds the fate of her community in her hair. She is stripped of agency by her immediate family, as well as the Europeans who give the impression of placing her on a pedestal, yet within that seeming absence of agency, and oppressive world, is her stubborn reclamation of herself. The dramatic tension in the story is so powerful and palpable that it’s like something you could cut with a knife,".

The 2022 Judging Panel spoke highly of the shortlist, commending the other stories for the quality of writing and variety of genre.

Mokgoroane and Diallo applauded the diversity of genre, while Ndibe added that there was ‘a sense of the genius in the other contenders’.

Okelarin said the stories were ‘well written and emotionally resonant’, and Wachuka praised the inclusion of writers who are also editors.

"The historic import of the Prize on writers' trajectories has ranged from the formation of literary entities, to unmatched global visibility, and opportunities including publishing deals and writing fellowships. I am honoured to have worked with such a formidable group of judges to contribute to the expansion of craft and our publishing ecology," Wachuka said.

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