Ethiopian-American writer Meron Hadero has been awarded the 2021 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story ‘The Street Sweep’, published in ZYZZYVA (2018). This is the first time an Ethiopian writer has won the Prize since its inception in 2000.
The Chair of the AKO Caine Prize Judging Panel, Goretti Kyomuhendo, Founder and Director of the African Writers Trust, announced the winner of the £10,000 prize.
Announcing the winner via a film curated for the award’s announcement, Kyomuhendo said: “The genius of this story lies in Hadero’s ability to turn the lens on the clichéd, NGO story in Africa to ‘do good and do it well’. It takes us away from the external organisation coming to Ethiopia to help the poor, and focuses the narrative on Getu, an eighteen-year old street sweeper, figuring out ways to navigate the nuances of the rich and poor. Utterly without self-pity, it is Getu’s naivety that endears us to him.
“The Street Sweep is superbly crafted, the language fluid, and weighted with colour and memorable symbolism. Optimism, trust and betrayal ride side by side; but ultimately, this is a story about the redeeming power of hope: “Hope is the greatest asset a man can have.”
“What stood out for the judges was the story’s subtle, but powerful ending, and how everything comes brilliantly together in a clever twist, that sees Getu transform; and the reader pushed to question the thin line between ‘making it’, and the necessary subjugation of the soul.”
Meron Hadero is an Ethiopian-American writer who was born in Addis Ababa and went to the US via Germany as a young child. She is the winner of the 2020 Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. In 2019, Meron Hadero was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for her story ‘The Wall’.
The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing, awarded annually for African creative writing, is named after the late Sir Michael Caine, former Chairman of Booker plc and Chairman of the Booker Prize management committee for nearly 25 years. Its main sponsor is the AKO Foundation, whose primary focus is the making of grants to projects which promote the arts and improve education.
The 22 countries represented in the 2021 submissions are: Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Congo; Cote d’Ivoire; Egypt; Ethiopia; Ghana; Kenya; Mauritius; Morocco; Namibia; Nigeria; Senegal; South Africa; Sudan; Tanzania; Tunisia; Uganda; Zambia; Zimbabwe.
The Prize is awarded for a short story by an African writer published in English (indicative length 3,000 to 10,000 words). An African writer is taken to mean someone who was born in Africa, or who is a national of an African country, or who has a parent who is African by birth or nationality. Works translated into English from other languages are not excluded, provided they have been published in translation, and should such a work win, a proportion of the prize would be awarded to the translator.
Previous winners are Sudan’s Leila Aboulela (2000), Nigerian Helon Habila (2001), Kenyan Binyavanga Wainaina (2002), Kenyan Yvonne Owuor (2003), Zimbabwean Brian Chikwava (2004), Nigerian Segun Afolabi (2005), South African Mary Watson (2006), Ugandan Monica Arac de Nyeko (2007), South African Henrietta Rose-Innes (2008), Nigerian EC Osondu (2009), Sierra Leonean Olufemi Terry (2010), Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo (2011), Nigerian Rotimi Babatunde (2012), Nigerian Tope Folarin (2013), Kenyan Okwiri Oduor (2014), Zambian Namwali Serpell (2015), South African Lidudumalingani (2016), Sudanese writer, Bushra al-Fadil (2017), Kenyan Makena Onjerika (2018); Nigerian Lesley Nneka Arimah (2019) and Nigerian-British Irenosen Okojie (2020).
More about the AKO Caine Prize at: http://www.caineprize.com/