As an African woman and artist living in London, I have always loved reading stories about the continent, and what a privilege it has been to read the stories submitted for the 2013 Caine Prize. I was taken to so many places without getting on a plane.
I am used to admiring works of art, especially sculptures, all over the world. The museums and shows I frequent are designed to have character and to tell the viewer a story. As an observer, one takes in a lot when you see beautiful or ugly objects, one is able to imagine all sorts of scenarios as a result of what the artist and curators have created. Taking the time to go to an exhibition or event is not as instantaneous as opening a book. The process of being a judge and keeping one’s opinions to one’s self has resulted in a very private conversation with this year’s submissions.
It has been captivating to read and concentrate on what characters are seeing and feeling.
Viewing works of art is often a public experience; it is in front of you, one can walk around or walk away. As I read the Caine Prize submissions in various locations - London, Venice, Amsterdam - it was wonderful to carry a story around with me, which I could dive into where ever I was. The descriptions of locations and textures were so vivid; when I looked up I expected to feel heat and to swipe at mosquitoes.
It was a hedonistic process to feel so much of what the characters felt; running on dusty roads and holding weapons bigger than a child’s hand - all from within the peaceful, wintery landscapes of the Western cities I visited.
My lasting memory of this batch of stories is reading about the predicament of so many girls and women on the continent. Is this the plight of my African sisters? Or is it the story of all women in the world? Survival for girls in so many of the stories was tough. In many ways it is a wonder that African women rise to the to the top anywhere in the world.
I salute these authors that have brought contemporary life and visions of the future into text. Beyond all else, it is great to be publicising something other than the Eurocentric view which is not everyone’s norm – not even in Europe.