By Kylie Kiunguyu
Mbozi Haimbe has won the Africa Region 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her short story “Madam’s Sister.” She is the second Zambian to receive a Commonwealth Prize, after Ellen Banda-Aaku in 2007 for “Sozi’s Box” in the now defunct Commonwealth Short Story Competition.
Zambia’s Mbozi Haimbe has been awarded this year’s Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa Region, for her short story “Madam’s Sister.” A brief of the story summarises it thus: “The arrival of madam’s sister from London causes upheaval within the household, but has an unexpected bonus for the guard, Cephas.”
Speaking on her win, Haimbe told Brittle Paper, “I am absolutely thrilled to have been selected as the regional winner, and feel privileged to contribute to Africa’s literary landscape.”
“Although a social worker by profession, I have always considered myself a writer. Winning the regional prize validates my aspiration. I thank the judges, and give acknowledgement to Zambia, which remains deeply influential to my writing.” she concluded.
Haimbe was born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia. She completed an MSt in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge in 2018, and is currently working on a collection of African inspired short stories.
Previous winners of the Africa regional prize are Jekwu Anyaegbuna (2012), Julian Jackson (2013), Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (2014), Lesley Nneka Arimah (2015), Faraaz Mahomed (2016), Akwaeke Emezi (2017), and Efua Traoré (2018). Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is the only African to win the global prize for her “Let’s Tell This Story Properly.”
Each regional winner will each receive £2,500 while the overall winner will receive £5,000.
Jurors for the 2019 competition included Caryl Phillips, UK novelist and playwright, who in a statement said, “The vitality and importance of the short story form is abundantly clear in this impressive shortlist of stories from around the world. These authors have dared to imagine … the lives of an amazingly wide range of characters and their stories explore situations that are both regional and universal.”
Background of Commonwealth Short Story Prize
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is an annual award for unpublished short fiction between 2,000 and 5,000 words long, from the British Commonwealth. The now eight year old program is run by Commonwealth Writers, a program of the Commonwealth Foundation, which describes itself as “the Commonwealth’s agency for civil society” which “seeks to ensure that policy and government institutions are more effective contributors to development through the influence of civic voices.”
Entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, English, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil, and Turkish. Short stories translated into English from other languages are also eligible.
Sixteen of the British Commonwealth’s 53 nations were represented in this year’s shortlist for the regionally defined Commonwealth Short Story Prize, with 15 women and six men named from 16 countries. Nations represented for the first time in the eighth year of the annual literary event are Tanzania, Zambia, Malaysia, Cyprus, and Barbados.
The African Region writers and titles that made it into the shortlist are: “The Bride,” by Adorah Nworah (Nigeria), “Extinction” by Alex Latimer (South Africa), “The Blessing of Kali” Irene Muchemi-Ndiritu (Kenya), “How to Marry an African President” by Erica Sugo Anyadike (Tanzania) and “Madam”s Sister” by Mbozi Haimbe (Zambia).