South African writer, Lidudumalingani, is this year’s winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story, “Memories We Lost”, published in Incredible Journey: Stories That Move You (Burnet Media, South Africa, 2015).
“Memories We Lost” tells the emotionally charged story of a girl who acts as protector for her sister, whose serious mental-health problems cause distress in their South African village. Her situation deteriorates as her care is entrusted to Nkunzi, a local man who employs traditional techniques to rid people of their demons.
In a conversation with The Daily Vox, Lidudumalingani touched on the inspiration for the story. “The first might have been mental illness, or at least the way in which villagers speak and deal with it. Then there were conversations with friends, texts and visuals that suddenly were on my radar, memories of extended family members who struggled with mental illness – many of them on and off and at varying degrees.”
The prize, described as Africa’s leading literary award, was announced at a dinner held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. As a Caine Prize winner, Lidudumalingani will be given the opportunity to take up a month’s residence at Georgetown University as a Writer-in-Residence at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice, as well as receive £10,000 prize.
In addition to this, he’ll also be invited to speak at the Library of Congress and receive invitations to take part in Cape Town’s Open Book Festival, Nairobi’s Storymoja and Nigeria’s Ake Festival.
At the announcement, prize-chair Jarrett-Macauley praised the story, saying, “The winning story explores a difficult subject – how traditional beliefs in a rural community are used to tackle schizophrenia. this is a troubling piece, depicting the great love between two young siblings in a beautifully drawn Eastern Cape. Multi-layered, and gracefully narrated, this short story leaves the reader full of sympathy and wonder at the plight of its protagonists.”