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Nigerian Writer Lesley Nneka Arimah Outdo 4 African Writers to Bag the 2019 Caine Prize with Her Short Story “Skinned”

Nigerian writer Lesley Nneka Arimah is the winner of the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing.

Arimah outdid four other African writers to bag the coveted prize – often described as Africa’s leading literary award, for her short story entitled “Skinned”, published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern (Issue 53) 2018.


Announcing the award at an award dinner on Monday, Dr. Peter Kimani, Chair of Judges described Arimah’s story as a “unique retake of women’s struggle for inclusion in a society regulated by rituals”.

“The winner of this year’s Caine Prize for African Writing is a unique retake of women’s struggle for inclusion in a society regulated by rituals. Lesley Nneka Arimah’s Skinned defamiliarizes the familiar to topple social hierarchies, challenge traditions and envision new possibilities for women of the world. Using a sprightly diction, she invents a dystopian universe inhabited by unforgettable characters where friendship is tested, innocence is lost, and readers gain a new understanding of life.”


Dr Peter Kimani.Dr Peter Kimani.

The short satirical story Skinned focuses on the challenges faced by women in African societies still dominated by traditional rituals.

The story follows the fortunes of Ejem, who comes from a culture where girls are uncovered at a certain age and go naked until they are claimed by a husband.


The 36-year-old told the Literary Hub that the idea came from a conversation about the difference between married and single women in Nigeria: “A newlywed friend marvelled at how her family — usually difficult — became easy-going after her wedding. Marriage gave unconventional women cover to be themselves, we observed.”


Names and books of the 5 African writers shortlisted for Caine Prize 2019. (Literary Hub)Names and books of the 5 African writers shortlisted for Caine Prize 2019. (Literary Hub)

Ms. Arimah outdid four other equally talented African writers to walk away with the Caine Prize, which is worth $12,500 (£10,000).

Meron Hadero from Ethiopia was shortlisted for her short story titled – The Wall alongside Nigerian author Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor (All Our Lives), Cameroon author Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti (It Takes A Village Some Say) and Kenyan writer Cherrie Kandie (Sew My Mouth) as the finalists of this year’s Caine Prize award.

The Caine Prize was established in 2000 with the aim of bringing African writing to a wider international audience by highlighting and celebrating short stories published in English by African authors.


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