Kenyan Author Idza Luhumyo's Short Story Wins Ksh1.4M in London

Kenyan Author Idza luhumyo who won the AKO Caine Prize
Kenyan Author Idza luhumyo who won the AKO Caine Prize

Kenyan author, Idza Luhumyo, beat over 260 entries to emerge the winner in the annual AKO Caine Prize in a special ceremony hosted at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.

With the award, the African author becomes just the fifth Kenyan to win the writing prize behind Binyavanga Wainaina (2002), Yvonne Owuor (2003), Okwiri Oduor (2014) and Makena Onjerika (2018).

The author was awarded a prize of Ksh1.4 million (£10,000) for the short story she submitted titled 'Five Years Next Sunday' during the event hosted on Monday, July 18.

The story, which won the 2021 Short Story Day Africa Prize, is scheduled to be published in the 2022 AKO Caine Prize anthology later on in 2022 by Cassava Republic Press.

The AKO Caine Prize award for African Writing
The AKO Caine Prize award for African Writing.
Caine Prize

The story gravitates around a young woman who possesses the power to summon rain by her hair and commands respect from it.

She had her fortunes upended after an encounter with a foreigner but has to be careful regarding the power her hair commands.

While making the announcement, one of the judges, Okey Ndibe, noted that the judging panel was swayed by the protagonist's mystic as well as her power determining the fate of her community using her hair.

“What we liked about the story was the mystical office of the protagonist, who is both ostracised and yet holds the fate of her community in her hair.

“She is stripped of agency by her immediate family, as well as the Europeans who give the impression of placing her on a pedestal, yet within that seeming absence of agency, and oppressive world, is her stubborn reclamation of herself. The dramatic tension in the story is so powerful and palpable that it’s like something you could cut with a knife," stated Odibe.

Luhumyo defeated over 260 other entries for the award. Other shortlisted finalists were Nigerian writer Joshua Chizoma, Ghana’s Nana-Ama Danquah, Ethiopian writer Hannah Giorgis and Billie McTernan from Ghana.

The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing is an annual short story award. The Prize is awarded for a short story by an African writer published in English, whether they reside in Africa or elsewhere.

The winner receives Ksh1.4 million while the other finalists walk away with roughly Ksh70,000 (£500).

Inside London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.
Inside London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.