The AKO Caine Prize has recently announced that British-Nigerian writer, Irenosen Okojie, is this year’s winner. Arguably one of the foremost honours to be awarded in the African Literature space, Okojie’s short story Grace Jones has received all-round praise from the judges. The recent announcement comes just after the shortlist of five writers was released earlier this year in May.
Grace Jones is a riveting piece that tells the story of Sidra, a Grace Jones impersonator, after the legendary 70s through 80s musician. However, Sidra has a few dark secrets she’s eager to keep hidden away from the rest of the world. Both Jones’s music and aesthetic in addition to her perpetual challenging of gender norms, are what inspired Okojie to write the story.
The Chair of the AKO Caine Prize judging panel and Director of The Africa Centre, Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp CBE, has described Grace Jones as a “radical story that plays with logic, time and place” and one that also “defies convention, as it unfolds a narrative that is multi-layered and multi-dimensional”.
In a recent press statement, Tharp continues by saying:
“In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has prompted deeply powerful questions about race, justice and equality in the world today – this story offers a salient exploration of what it can mean to embody and perform Blackness in the world. This is a story of tremendously delicate power and beauty, and one in which we recognise the tradition of African storytelling and imagination at its finest.”
In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and various preventive measures, the AKO Caine Prize has reportedly commissioned British-Nigerian filmmaker Joseph A. Adesunloye to direct and produce a documentary film to celebrate the shortlist and announce the winner. A well-deserved win indeed to Okojie.