A 23-year-old Nigerian writer, Innocent Ilo, has been named the regional winner for Africa of the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for his story, “When a Woman Renounces Motherhood.”
Founded in 2012, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction. It is open to Commonwealth citizens aged 18 and older in five regions: Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, Caribbean and the Pacific.
The prize is awarded to the five regional winners with each receiving £2,500 (approximately N1.2 million) and a publication with Granta, The global winner gets an additional £5,000 (approximately N2.4 million).
23-year-old Mr Ilo is the youngest writer to be awarded the Africa region prize since its establishment in 2012.
Mr Ilo’s award-winning story is about the bond between a woman and her mother in the face of a sexist tradition.
The chair of the judging panel, Ghanaian writer Nii Parkes, praised the story for its “particularly striking confidence switching between languages and Mr Ilo’s unapologetic use of interspersed, un-italicized Igbo and pidgin.”
“I still can’t wrap my head around it. You know you always dream of this moment, how you’ll scream from the rooftops and rent your clothes. Then it comes by sudden and the only thing you can do is call your mother and cry over the phone about how proud your father would have been if he was alive.” – Mr Innocent Ilo.
“This means so much to me. I feel grateful, honored, proud and humbled at the same time. This is one of those moments that make me look back at all the late nights and piles of rejection emails and say, ‘Maybe, just maybe, this writing thing is worth it’,” he said.
Asides from the £2,500 cash prize, each winner will have a publication in Granta, a renowned literary journal.
The other regional winners are: “The Great Indian Tee and Snakes” by Kritika Pandey (Asia Region), “Wherever Mister Jensen Went” by Reyah Martin (Canada and Europe Region), “Mafootoo” by Brian S. Heap (Caribbean Region) and “The Art of Waving” by Andrea E. Macleod (Pacific Region).
The overall winner will be announced during a special online award ceremony at 1 p.m BST on Junemployment 30.