It’s almost ten years since I last served as a Caine Prize judge. So much has happened. Countless compelling stories, careers taking off, millions of twists and turns on the cultural stage! As an apprentice judge, I experienced much doubt and felt a little overwhelmed. The endless divisions and factions we encounter – African, Nigerian, Ghanaian, Kenyan, black and white, straight, gay, trans. Who was I to critique others? How could I assess the multiple possibilities and varieties that manifested themselves among the entries?
But this time, I was happier, more sure-footed. I welcomed the storytellers who insinuated themselves into the few spare hours of my reading day, the ones who seemingly refused to be put aside. They were making up Africa, I felt, showing what the continent is or could be. I liked hanging out with them.
With those storytellers in the house, I had a feeling of moving around the African continent and beyond, sometimes hearing familiar voices – someone who sounded like my Auntie - or encountering well-known concerns – health problems, fear of mortality and loss - but occasionally feeling here is something genuinely new. Places, characters and emerging styles that bore no resemblance to the stories I’d heard before. I read and re-read. Made lists and made notes, and waited for my fellow judges to tell me who had moved in with them.
Written by: Delia Jarrett-Macauley, Chair of Judges 2016. To find out more about the 2016 judges click here.