Home » General » Caine Prize Denies Selection Bias

The Caine Prize for African Writing director Lizzy Attree has refuted criticism that the selection criterion for the award is slanted towards stories which are stereotypical of Africa.

Attree was responding to complaints by some critics that the stories which annually shortlisted for the prestigious award concur with Western biases about Africa.

Critics have suggested that Caine prize-winning stories are preoccupied with poverty, war, child soldiers, genocide, child prostitution, patriarchy, political violence, police brutality, dictatorships, predatory preachers, dead bodies hence ratifying global media institutions’ Dark Continent mantra with respect to Africa.

Speaking on the sidelines of Caine Prize open forum held in Harare on Wednesday, Attree told Herald Entertainment that there is no set template for writers to win the award aside merit.

“We don’t have an agenda or prescription. It is just a myth and I find it unfortunate that some people embrace it,” Attree said.

“Our judges are changed every year and they are under no restriction whatsoever. All they are after is talent and brilliant writing.

“If you are to blame anyone, you have to blame the editors and publishers. The criticism could be a case of sour grapes. It is easy to cast stones from outside. I challenge critics to submit their own work for adjudication so they can ascertain our criterion for themselves,” he said. Caine Prize was in Zimbabwe for its annual workshop for the second time since it was held at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair in 2000. Two Zimbabwean writers Brian Chikwava and NoViolet Bulawayo have won the award for short stories “Seventh Street Alchemy” (2004) and “Hitting Budapest” (2011) respectively.

“The question to be asked then is whether this new writing is a fair representation of the existential realities of Africa, or if it is just a “Caine-prize aesthetic” that has emerged in a vacuum created by the judges and the publishers and agents over the years, and which has begun to perpetuate itself”, Helon Habila queried in the article which ignited the bonfire.

“Writing is an incestuous business: style feeds on style, especially if that particular style has proven itself capable of winning prizes and book deals and celebrity,” he said.

Caine Prize held its fifteenth annual workshopfrom March 21 to 22 where 13 writers from seven African countries convened to write, read and discuss work in progress and under the tutelage of previous participants NiiParkes and Henrietta Rose-Innes.

Each writer wrote a short story for inclusion in the 2014 Caine Prize anthology which will be published by New Internationalist on July 1 this year and subsequently by seven co-publishers in Africa, including Bulawayo-based AmaBooks.

The shortlist and ultimate winner will be announced by patron Wole Soyinkasome time in July.

Participants Abubakar Ibrahim (Nigeria), Elnathan John (Nigeria), ChineloOkparanta (Nigeria), PedeHollist (Sierra Leone), Martin Egblewogbe (Ghana), Abdul Adan (Somalia), Clifton Gachagua (Kenya), NkiachaAtemnkeng (Cameroon) and Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, PhilaniNyoni, Bella Matambanadzo, Lawrence Hoba and Bryony Rheam from Zimbabwe read their works at Tambira Digital Hub on Wednesday. The open forum entitled “Caine Prize Writers in the Supermarket” was chaired by Tinashe Mushakavanhu.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Writers Association’s Harare members meeting is going to be held on Saturday from 12 noon to 4.30pm at the Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS), next to the Egyptian Embassy in Belgravia.

Presenters including Felix Mutasa (son to NobertMafumheMutasa) George Kahari (brother to Solomon Mutsvairo) and Florence Marechera (sister to Dambudzo Marechera) will deliberate on the topic “Family Remnisce.”

Source : The Herald