The Caine Prize for African Writing: A vision for the future – by Dr Delia Jarrett-Macauley

Book spines of the Caine Prize for African Writing anthologies from 2001 to 2017

Book spines of the Caine Prize for African Writing anthologies from 2001 to 2017

What a busy start we’ve had to the year! So much of the work is hidden from public view. But there are times for showing and telling.

The 2018 judges are currently reading this year’s crop of short story submissions, and the board of trustees have approved the London programme for those writers who’ll make the judges’ shortlist. As of last week, the Caine Prize writing workshop was being held in Gisenyi, Rwanda, writing stories for this year’s anthology.

Organisations must change with time, and transition brings new relationships and opportunities. It is important for the Caine Prize and its supporters that our vision for the future is communicated. After many wonderful years of hospitality from the Bodleian Library in Oxford, for which we are very grateful, we have established a partnership with SOAS, University of London. There, on July 2nd, we will celebrate the award dinner for the second year running.

The Royal Over-Seas League in St James’, which provides accommodation for our shortlisted writers each year, is launching its parallel ‘ROSL Favourite’ competition, whereby its members will vote on this year’s shortlist – a financial boost for one of those talented writers - and the Caine Prize is starting its own ‘Online Editing’ scheme, which is specifically targeted at emerging writers on the African continent. This year has also seen the implementation of our expanded East Coast Programme, enabling more of the Caine Prize writers to read and speak about their work to North American audiences. I would personally like to thank the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice, Georgetown University, who hosted Bushra al-Fadil and Magogodi Makhene in February.

The Caine Prize, like any organisation, is a living thing – breathing, evolving and keeping a watchful gaze on its environment. It is a historical fact that this is a London-based organisation, necessarily under pressure to engage with the cultural, political, economic and social questions that arise from its stated aim to celebrate contemporary African writing, and it needs to continue to develop modes of analysis – whether to be applied to questions of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality or religion – which are non-essentialist and worthy of the complexities of contemporary African writing. Not an easy task! But today, our intern, a Guyanese student from Kingston University’s MA Publishing course, whose second nature awareness of how digital linkages create global connections never dreamt of when I was a child, reminds me that practices change as we adapt to new realities, and we keep moving on down the road.

This is an exciting time for the Caine Prize, leading to greater opportunities for writers on the continent. As we approach our twentieth anniversary year, we must look for new ways to ensure the next 20 years are a celebration of African writers. That is, of course, why we’re here.

Written by Dr Delia Jarrett-Macauley, Chair of The Caine Prize for African Writing