Caine prize goes to ‘incandescent’ short story by Idza Luhumyo

Kenyan writer Idza Luhumyo has won the 2022 AKO Caine prize for African writing, with a short story judges described as “incandescent”.

Five Years Next Sunday, first published in the book Disruption: New Short Fiction from Africa, is about a young woman with the unique power to call the rain in her hair. Feared by her family and community, a chance encounter with a foreigner changes her fortunes, but there are duplicitous designs upon her most prized and vulnerable possession.

The prize, which had 267 entries this year, is awarded for a short story by an African writer published in English.

Okey Ndibe, chair of the 2022 AKO Caine prize judging panel, said Five Years Next Sunday was an “incandescent story”, which used “exquisite language” to tell the story of a protagonist “who is both ostracised and yet holds the fate of her community in her hair”.

Ndibe, who announced Luhumyo as the winner at an event at the V&A in London on Monday night, was joined on the judging panel by academic and author Elisa Diallo; Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane, co-founder and co-host of The Cheeky Natives, a literary platform that focuses on archiving and curatorship of Black artistic expressions; visual artist Ade ‘Àsìkò’ Okelarin; and Angela Wachuka, founder and managing trustee at Book Bunk, a firm driving the restoration of some of Nairobi’s most iconic public libraries.

Luhumyo’s work has been published in Jalada Africa, The Writivism Anthology, the New Internationalist and more, and was shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship and the Gerald Kraak award. She is the inaugural winner of the Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa award and winner of the Short Story Day Africa prize.

She becomes the fifth Kenyan writer to win the Caine prize, after Binyavanga Wainaina (2002), Yvonne Owuor (2003), Okwiri Oduor (2014) and Makena Onjerika (2018). She wins a prize of £10,000, and her story will be published in the 2022 AKO Caine prize anthology later this year by Cassava Republic Press.

The other shortlisted authors this year were Joshua Chizoma for Collector of Memories, Nana-Ama Danquah for When a Man Loves a Woman, Hannah Giorgis for A Double-Edged Inheritance, and Billie McTernan for The Labadi Sunshine Bar.

Each shortlisted writer receives £500 and will also be published in the 2022 AKO Caine prize anthology.