It is no longer news that Nigerians are known for making the country proud. Just recently, Nigerian writer Lesley Nneka Arimah won the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing. The 36-year-old author defeated writers from other countries in Africa like Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Kenya to win the highly coveted prize.
The short story that got Lesley Arimah the win is titled Skinned. It was published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern (Issue 53) 2018. This fictional work visualizes a society in which young girls are ceremonially ‘uncovered’ and must marry in order to regain the right to be clothed.
The story is centered on a young woman named Ejem who is uncovered at the age of 15 and is still yet ‘unclaimed’ in adulthood. It speaks of her attempts to negotiate a rigidly stratified society following the breakdown of a protective friendship with the married Chidinma. With wit, prescience, and roguish, Skinned passes for a bold and unsettling tale of bodily autonomy and womanhood, and the fault lines along which solidarity are formed and broken.
According to Peter Kimani, the chair of judges, for winning the prize, Lesley Arimah will get £10,000 (an equivalent of over N4.4m) prize at an award dinner on Monday, July 8 2019. Also, the prestige that comes with the award is no small one as the category of Caine Prize won by Arimah is often described as Africa’s leading literary award.
Kimani who announced the winner had this to say:
“The winner of this year’s Caine Prize for African Writing is a unique retake of women’s struggle for inclusion in a society regulated by rituals. Lesley Nneka Arimah’s Skinned defamiliarizes the familiar to topple social hierarchies, challenge traditions and envision new possibilities for women of the world. Using a sprightly diction, she invents a dystopian universe inhabited by unforgettable characters where friendship is tested, innocence is lost, and readers gain a new understanding of life.”
On who Arimah is;
She is a Nigerian writer, and winner of the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa and been twice, she has been shortlisted for the Caine Prize. She has been described as “a skillful storyteller who can render entire relationships with just a few lines of dialogue” and “a new voice with certain staying power.
Her work has appeared in Harper’s Per Contra, The New Yorker, and other publications.
In September 2017, she was named as one of the fiction writers honored by the National Book Foundation, called “Five Under 35”.
From all of us here at Naijazzy, we say a big congratulations to the amazing writer.