Kenya’s Okwiri Oduor (pictured) has won the 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story entitled “My Father’s Head.”
Described as “an uplifting story about mourning,” “My Father’s Head” explores the narrator’s difficulty in dealing with the loss of her father and looks at the themes of memory, loss, and loneliness. The narrator works in an old people’s home and comes in to contact with a priest, giving her the courage to recall buried memories of her father.
The Chair of Judges, Jackie Kay MBE, announced Okwiri Oduor as the winner of the £10,000 prize at a dinner held on Monday, 14 July, at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
Scottish writer and Chief Jackie Kay praised the story, saying, “Okwiri Oduor is a writer we are all really excited to have discovered. ‘My Father’s Head’ is an uplifting story about mourning – Joycean in its reach. She exercises an extraordinary amount of control and yet the story is subtle, tender and moving. It is a story you want to return to the minute you finish it.”
Oduor, who is now working on her first novel, had been shortlisted with South Africa’s Diane Awerbuck for her short story “Phosphorescence,” Ghana and Zambia’s Efemia Chela for “Chicken,” Zimbabwe’s Tendai Huchu for “The Intervention,” and Kenya’s Billy Kahora for “The Gorilla’s Apprentice.”
Each will take home £500 prize money.
Oduor will be able to take up a month’s residence at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and will be invited to appear at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town in September, the Storymoja Hay Festival in Nairobi, and the Ake Festival in Nigeria.
Okwiri Oduor directed the inaugural Writivism Literary Festival in Kampala, Uganda, in August 2013. Her novella “The Dream Chasers” was highly commended in the Commonwealth Book Prize, 2012. She is a 2014 MacDowell Colony fellow and is currently at work on her debut novel.
The Caine Prize is named after the late-Sir Michael Caine, former chairman of the Booker Prize management committee.
Now in its fifteenth year, the annual £10,000 award celebrates short stories written by African authors published in English.