South African writer Lidudumalingani laughed when he was asked if he was going to share his £10,000 prize money with his shortlisted Caine Prize authors, like previous winner did. He replied: “I wish I could do that. But journalists and writers in Africa work hard to cover stories with very little resources. There is no money in it, because no one pays you until you win some kind of prize.” The 31y old writer won the 17h annual Caine Prize for African Writing for his work “Memories We Lost”. It’s a story about the effect of mental illness on a family in South Africa.
This prestigious prize for African artists writing in English always backs up the shortlisted authors in the international publishing scene. “Memories We Lost” is second published work of Lidudumalingani. His debut appearance was in new literary magazine “Incredible Journey”. This magazine aslo presented the first fiction piece, made by Bognani Kona, Zimbabwean journalist and writer, who was also on a shortlist for this year’s prize.
Lidudumalingani explains that African publishers are very short on money and they mostly rely on publishing school books in order to survive. That’s the reason why it is so hard for young writers to show their fresh work to the public, to the continent. He said: “The idea that a few publishers promote African literature as gatekeepers should be dispelled. There are a lot more readers than there are publishers and we should be able to define our own literature and read it whenever we want.
Being aware of the situation, a number of non-profit trusts and literary journals jumped in to help and boost that new creative energy, such as Jalada in Kenya, Saraba in Nigeria and Short Story Day Africa. Dami Ayaji in collaboration with two medical students, Ile-Ife and Emmanuel Iduma, started Saraba in 2009. At first it was concentrated on works from Nigerian writers such as Elnathan John, Chika Unigwe and Kenyan poets Clifton Gachagua and Keguro Macharia, among others. Since the beginning, Saraba published 18 issues.
Moses Kilolo, Jalada’s managing editor, says that the collective was formed as you authors were extremly unhappy by the lack of opportunities on offer via traditional publishing houses. That’s the point when they decided to do something about it. Since lanching it, more than six of Jalada’s writers and poets won prestigious literary prizes, including Okwiri Oduor and Ndinda Kilonzo, who won the 2014 Caine Prize and Moorland Writing Scholarship respectively. Kilolo explains: “We wanted to break the stereotypes of conventional themes and stretch our reach in creative writing, but with no resources the only way to go was publishing online.”
Lidudumalingani concluded: “We wanted to break the stereotypes of conventional themes and stretch our reach in creative writing, but with no resources the only way to go was publishing online. I feel that as a writer I have a responsibility to write the world the way I see it. As African writers, we have to be persistent even with little resources because there are so many stories to tell and no one else to tell them.”