Judges are drawn from different literary fields including eminent journalists, broadcasters and academics with expertise and a connection to literature in Africa. Five stories are selected for the shortlist by the judges, with one being selected as the winner on the day of the award in July each year.
Please see below for a list of past judges.
From L-R: 2018 Panel of Judges with the prizewinner, Makena Onjerika (centre): Lola Shoneyin, Dinaw Mengestu, Ahmed Rajab and Henrietta Rose-Innes
CHAIR OF JUDGES: DINAW MENGESTU
Dinaw Mengestu is a graduate of Georgetown University and of Columbia University’s M.F.A programme in fiction. In 2007 the National Book Foundation named him a “5 under 35” honouree, and in 2012 he was selected as a MacArthur Fellow. Dinaw has written four novels: The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007); Children of the Revolution (2007); How to Read the Air (2010); and All Our Names (2014). An active journalist, his work has appeared in various publications, including Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal.
Henrietta Rose-Innes is a South Africa author based in Cape Town. She has published four novels and a collection of short stories, and is currently completing a fifth novel, Stone Plant, due in 2018. Her work has been widely published and translated into several languages, with her novel Nineveh winning the 2015 François Sommer Literary Prize in French translation. In 2012, her story ‘Sanctuary’ took second place in the BBC International Short Story Competition. A shortlistee for the Caine Prize in 2007, Henrietta was awarded the 2008 Caine Prize for her story 'Poison', which also won the Southern African PEN Literary Award.
Lola Shoneyin is a Nigerian writer, whose published work includes poems and children’s books. Her debut novel, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, was published in 2010 and went on to win the 2011 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, and the 2011 Ken Saro-Wiwa Prose Prize. Shoneyin is the Director of Ake Arts and Book Festival, an annual literary and cultural event that supports and celebrates artistic and cultural innovation in Africa, on African soil. She is also the creative director of the new Kaduna Book and Arts Festival which first took place in Kaduna State, Nigeria, earlier this year.
Ahmed Rajab has worked for the BBC World Service, Index on Censorship, Africa Events, the seminal Africa Analysis (which he edited for 20 years) as well as UNESCO. From 2006-2009 he was Head of Newsroom (Middle East/Asia Bureau in Dubai) for IRIN, the then UN humanitarian news agency. In addition to being a regular columnist for Tanzania’s premier weekly Raia Mwema, he now works as a consultant and is affiliated to the Kaduna-based Gusau Institute. Ahemed also writes poetry and his work is included in the anthology African New Voices (Longman, 1997)
CHAIR OF JUDGES NII AYIKWEI PARKEs
A 2007 recipient of Ghana’s ACRAG award, Nii Ayikwei Parkes is a writer, editor and socio-cultural commentator. He is the author of the hybrid novel, Tail of the Blue Bird, which has been translated into Dutch, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Catalan and Japanese. Originally shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth Prize, the book has gone on to win the Prix Baudelaire, Prix Mahogany and Prix Laure Bataillon. Nii serves on the editorial board of World Literature Today and in 2014 he was named as one of Africa's 39 most promising authors of the new generation. He is the director of the Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing at the African University College of Communications in Accra, the first of its kind in West Africa.
monica arac de nyeko
Monica Arac de Nyeko is from Uganda. She won the Caine Prize for African writing in 2007 for her story ‘Jambula Tree’. In 2014, she was named on the Africa39 list - as one of the most promising writers under the age of 40. She currently works for an international development agency in the Middle East. She is working on a novel.
Ghazi Gheblawi was born in Tripoli, Libya, where he studied medicine, and published his first works of fiction. He is the author of two collections of short stories in Arabic and has published various literary works in English in several publications in the UK. He runs and hosts Imtidad Cultural Blog and Podcast, which focuses on literature and arts in Britain and the Arab world. He was recently appointed a trustee of The Banipal Trust for Arab Literature. He is currently an editor at Darf Publishers an independent publishing house based in London.
Ricardo Ortiz is Associate Professor of US Latino Literature and Chair of the English Department at Georgetown University. Professor Ortiz is the author of Cultural Erotics in Cuban America (2007) and he has published articles in such journals as Studies in English Literature, The Yale Journal of Criticism, Social Text, Modern Drama, Contemporary Literature and GLQ, in addition to contributing chapters to numerous collected volumes, including The Queer Sixties, Aftermaths: Exile, Migration and Diaspora Reconsidered, Gay Latino Studies: A Critical Reader, and The Cambridge Companion to Latino American Literature. He is currently working on a book entitled The Testimonial Imagination: US Latino Literature and Cold War Geopolitics in the Americas.
Ranka Primorac was born in Zagreb, Croatia. She lived for many years in Harare, Zimbabwe, and is currently based in London. Ranka lectures at the Department of English at the University of Southampton, where one of her duties is supervising doctoral students of Creative Writing. She holds degrees from the Universities of Zagreb, Zimbabwe and Nottingham Trent. Her academic publications engage with the literatures and cultures of Southern Africa; her monograph is entitled The Place of Tears: The Novel and Politics in Modern Zimbabwe; she sits on the Editorial Board of The Journal of Commonwealth Studies and the Advisory Board of Journal of Southern African Studies. She recently became a Senior Research Associate with the Department of English at the university currently known as Rhodes in South Africa. Together with Yale’s Stephanie Newell, she co-edits the Boydell and Brewer African Articulations monograph series.
CHAIR OF JUDGES DELIA JARRETT-MACAULEY
Delia Jarrett-Macauley is a member of the Caine Prize Council and served as a judge in 2007. She is the author of the literary biography The Life of Una Marson 1905-1965, and of the Orwell prize-winning novel Moses, Citizen and Me 2005.
Adjoa Andoh is a British film, television, stage and radio actress of Ghanaian descent. She is known on the UK stage for lead roles at the RSC, the National Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre and the Almeida Theatre, and is a familiar face on British television (notably in two series of Doctor Who as companion Martha's mother Francine Jones, 90 episodes of the BBC's medical drama Casualty.
Muthoni has published twenty books for children, two novellas for adults, and several stories published in literary journals and in the anthology, ‘Helicopter Beetles,’ which is available on Amazon as an e book. She is also a storyteller and has appeared on stage in several countries. Muthoni is a founder member of the writer’s collective, Storymoja, which aggressively preaches the gospel of reading for pleasure. Storymoja runs several projects promoting reading among children, including the bi-annual National Read Aloud, which in 2015, broke the world record of people reading from the same text on the same day at the same time; and the Start a Library’ initiative. Since its inception in March 2012, Start a Library has installed 66 libraries in primary schools.
Robert J. Patterson is an associate professor of African American studies and English and director of the African American Studies Program at Georgetown University. He is the author of Exodus Politics: Civil Rights and Leadership in African American Literature and Culture (University of Virginia Press 2013), and co-editor of The Psychic Hold of Slavery: Legacies in American Culture (Rutgers University Press 2016). His work appears in South Atlantic Quarterly, Black Camera, Religion and Literature, The Cambridge Companion to African American Women’s Writing, the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, and the Cambridge Companion to Civil Rights Literature. He also co-guest-edited a special edition of South Atlantic Quarterly on “Black Literature, Black Leadership.” Extending his scholarly interests in the post–civil rights era, black popular culture, and the politics of race and gender, Patterson has begun work on a second book, It’s Just Another Sad Love Song: R & B Music and the Politics of Race.
Mary Watson is the author of Moss (2004), The Cutting Room (2013) and several short stories in anthologies. She won the Caine Prize in 2006. A lapsed academic, Mary did an MA in Creative Writing under the mentorship of André Brink, before completing a doctorate in Film Studies. Born in Cape Town, she currently lives in Ireland. She was a finalist for the Rolex Mentor/Protégé Initiative in 2012, and in 2014 she was included in the Hay Festival’s Africa39 list of promising writers under forty.
CHAIR OF JUDGES ZOE WICOMB
Zoë Wicomb is a South African writer who lives in Scotland where she is Emeritus Professor in English Studies at Strathclyde University. Her critical work is on Postcolonial theory and South African writing and culture. Her works of fiction are You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town, David’s Story, Playing in the Light, The One That Got Away and October. Wicomb is a recipient of Yale’s 2013 Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction.
Zeinab Badawi is a Sudanese-British television and radio journalist. In 2009 she was awarded International TV Personality of the Year by the Association of International Broadcasters. She is the current Chair of the Royal African Society, a patron of the BBC Media Action and a former trustee of the National Portrait Gallery.
Brian Chikwava won the Caine Prize in 2004 and is the author of Harare North, published by Jonathan Cape (English, 2009) and Editions Zoe (French, 2011). His short fiction has appeared in anthologies published by Picador, Granta, Weaver Press, Jacana, Umuzi and also been broadcast on BBC Radios 3 and 4 and the BBC World Service.
Neel Mukherjee is the author of the award-winning debut novel, A Life Apart (2010). His second novel, The Lives of Others (2014), was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He has reviewed fiction widely for a number of UK, Indian and US publications. He lives in London.
Cóilín Parsons is Assistant Professor of English at Georgetown University, where he teaches Irish literature, modernism, and postcolonial literature and theory. Cóilín, who is from Ireland, received his PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. Before joining Georgetown’s English department, he was a Lecturer in English at the University of Cape Town.
Jackie Kay MBE (Chair)
Dr. Nicole Rizzuto
Jackie Kay was born and brought up in Scotland. Jackie won the Guardian Fiction Award for her novel Trumpet, which was also shortlisted for the IMPAC award. She won the Scottish Book of the Year Award and the London Book Award for Red Dust Road, and the Decibel British Book Award for her book of stories entitledWish I Was Here. She was awarded an MBE in 2006, made a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002 and is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University.
Helon Habila was born in Nigeria and in 2001 his short story, “Love Poems”, won the Caine Prize and his first novel, Waiting for an Angel, was published the following year. The novel went on to win the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Novel (Africa Section) in 2003. In 2005-2006 Helon was the first Chinua Achebe Fellow at Bard College, New York. He stayed on in America as a professor of Creative Writing at George Mason University.
Percy Zvomuya is a Zimbabwean journalist, football fan and critic. He is a co-founder of The Con Magazine, a Johannesburg writing collective. His writing has appeared in various publications including Africasacountry.com, Mail & Guardian, The Sunday Times (South Africa) and Chimurenga. He is working on a biography of Robert Mugabe. He is a Miles Morland fellow and Wiser-Duke fellow.
South African born Gillian Slovo is the author of twelve novels and a family memoir. Her novel Ice Road was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, and Red Dust, which won the RFI Temoin du Monde prize, was made into a film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Hilary Swank.
Nicole Rizzuto is Assistant Professor of English at Georgetown University. Her areas of concentration include modernist and contemporary Anglophone literature, with a focus on narratives of Britain, Africa, and the Caribbean. Nicole Rizzuto received her PhD from Columbia University in English and Comparative Literature. Before joining Georgetown’s English department, she was Assistant Professor of English at Oklahoma State University.
Gus Casely-Hayford (Chair)
Dr Gus Casely-Hayford is an art historian and broadcaster, currently holding the position of Research Associate at SOAS. After completing his PhD in African history, Gus proceeded to teach a number of degree and MA courses in international culture. His second Lost Kingdoms of Africa series was broadcast on the BBC in early 2012. Gus was the director of Africa05 and has advised high-profile institutions such as the United Nations and the Canadian, Dutch and Norwegian Arts Councils.
Nathan K. Hensley is Assistant Professor of English at Georgetown University, where his work and teaching focus on nineteenth-century British literature, critical theory, and the novel. His critical articles have appeared in Victorian Studies, Novel: A Forum on Fiction, and a collection, The Politics of Gender in Anthony Trollope's Novels: New Readings for the Twenty-First Century. Hensley holds degrees from Vassar College (B.A.), the University of Notre Dame (M.A.), and Duke (Ph.D), where he was also a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow. He was born and raised in Fresno, California.
Leila Aboulela won the first Caine Prize for African Writing in 2000. Leila adapted her winning story The Museum for Radio 4. BBC radio has adapted her work extensively and broadcast a number of her plays including The Mystic Life and the historical drama The Lion of Chechnya. Her third novel Lyrics Alley, was published in January 2010 by Weidenfeld Nicolson. Set in 1950s Sudan, Lyrics Alley is the Fiction Winner of the Scottish Book Awards. It was long-listed for the Orange Prize and short-listed for a Regional Commonwealth Writers' Prize. Leila grew up in Khartoum and has lived much of her adult life in Scotland.
Sokari Douglas Camp
Sokari Douglas Camp was born in Buguma, Rivers State, Nigeria. She studied fine art at Central School of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art. She has had more than 40 solo shows worldwide, and has work in permanent collections at The Smithsonian Museum, Washington D.C., Setagaya Museum, Tokyo and the British Museum, London. In 2005 she became an Honorary Fellow of University of the Arts London and was awarded a CBE in recognition of her services to art.
John Sutherland is Lord Northcliffe Professor Emeritus at UCL. In a long career in Britain and America, John has written many books (most recently Lives of the Novelists: a History of Fiction in 294 Lives) and has judged a number of literary prizes including the James Tait Black, the Booker, the Man Booker, and the Encore. He believes that, in the huge profusion of published literature at the present time, prizes have a necessary and highly useful function in raising quality and discrimination. And, in the case of the Caine Prize, directing attention to areas of creativity.