Words on… Revisiting the Afritondo Short Story Prize – #PastAndPresent

A #PnP through which we look back to our 2022 archives, focusing on the short story prize and prizing African writing.

We take the leading footprints of Davina Kawuma‘s writer-reader, reader-writer review of Afritondo’s inaugural short story prize anthology, Yellow Means Stay: an Anthology of Love Stories from Africa (2020), to guide the pathway to a Q&A with Afritondo co-founder, Allwell Uwazuruike; to re-read a review of Joshua Chizoma’s ‘Collector of Memories’ by Innocent Akili Ngulube, and the accompanying Q&A with Chizoma; and for a welcome revisit to the insights offered by those working with the AKO Caine Prize – 2022 edition – judges, publishers, writers, and readers…

With this Saturday, March 11th, comes the announcement of the shortlist for the 2023 Afritondo Short Story Prize…

AiW note: Afritondo is a media and publishing platform which aims to improve diversity in publishing by offering African and Black minority writers a platform on which to tell their stories. Afritondo publishes stories, essays, commentaries, and poems by established, budding, and aspiring writers, as well as books and anthologies. 

Afritondo also runs a short story prize, which is now in its fourth year. The 2023 edition, judged by Doreeen Baingana, Ayesha Harruna Attah, and Efemia Chela, is on the theme ‘aliens’. The Prize anthology, collecting stories that explore “unfamiliar things, unfamiliar people, how they are received and lived with or rejected”, all as agents of change, is due out later in the year….

The announcement, along with news of the highly anticipated launch of The Institute for Creative Dying (Feb 1st), the debut novel by the inaugural Afritondo Short Story Prize winner, Jarred Thompson…

… means we figured it’s as good a time as any to revisit some of our (2022) Afritondo posts archives. Taken together, they may offer insights into the Afritondo Short Story Prize, and from a few, maybe lesser-heard, angles….

One such perspective – a kind of no-holds-barred one – is a writer’s.

Having entered that inaugural competition alongside Thompson, Davina Philomena Kawuma, also a contributing editor with us here at AiW, gives us a reading of the very first of the Afritondo Prize anthologies, Yellow Means Stay: An Anthology of Love Stories from Africa (2020, edited by Allwell Uwazuruike, Confidence Uwazuruike, and Munachim Amah), a reading which extends way beyond her own vertiginous experience of the story she entered to the Prize, ‘Touch Me Not’, being published in it…

“… I excitedly collect [my copy of Yellow Means Stay] from the post office as soon as I’m notified via text message that I’ve received a package.

I’m ALWAYS nervous about seeing the printed versions of my stories because I ALWAYS catch things that I miss in the Word document versions, while they marinate in folders on my desktop. As I scan the contents page, I’m overcome with dread. What if I realize that I should have used a comma, instead of an em dash, in paragraph X? Or, horror of horrors, what if I used an en dash instead of an em dash?!”

… then taking us seamlessly to a series of different kinds of readings that move through an in-depth appreciation of the joy, skill, innovations and mobilisation of craft that her fellow collected writers offer her, as she reads the collection for the first of many times.

Davina’s meditation on her journeying and re-tracings through the 2020 Prize and its anthology as a writer is followed up by a second part to the piece, which leans in to a position as a reader, albeit a particular kind of attentive one.

Listicle style, each of the stories are summed in their strengths — narratively, figuratively, and in terms of their contribution to the Prize’s thematic of love — and generously linking out to more info on each of the 20 anthologised writers in Yellow Means Stay … including, of course, of the winning story, by Jarred Thompson, ‘Good Help Is Hard to Find’:

“…[interrogating] notions of privilege, especially white privilege, and class difference while also exploring the ways in which people from different backgrounds and different classes still depend on each other,” as [Thompson] expressed in an interview on winning the Prize:
“I’m drawn to narrating queer lives in all forms and expressions. I’m also drawn to exploring the everyday. By this I mean speaking about those overlooked moments in our daily lives that really are beautiful if you look at them with fresh eyes…”

We think the two paired parts of this creative-critical, critical-creative review piece, entitled “What of this fire? What of butterflies?”, finding “love, loveliness” in the book’s “several takeaways about lessons in writing”, give us, its readers, new possibilities of passageways through; to crosscheck, re-find, pick a course and navigate to re-navigate the textures of the love stories of Yellow Means Stay, in all their glorious dynamism and multiciplicity.

(Biased? Us? – C’mon… But really, it’s a lovely take on a book review, that really pulls through all the threads that collections on a theme can reveal and put forward into our hands as readers. Ed.) Check it out in its fullness here.

The Afritondo Short Story Prize Anthologies to date…

And so, on we move through our archives – from a writer-reader to an editor-publisher perspective…

Reaching a little further back than Davina’s piece, then, we travel on to a July Q&A from Afritondo co-founder, Allwell Uwazuruike.

This step back to Allwell’s discussion – of the processes of publishing an Afritondo anthologised story, the broader aims of Afritondo’s work with African literature, of heartlifting practices in the industry and advice on navigating through it – comes out of a series of our posts in mid-July last year, recalling that writers of the 21 stories included in Afritondo’s inaugural collection Yellow Means Stay have gone on to feature in other prominent awards in African literature, some of which Davina lists, prefacing Part II of her writer-reader review.

“Ifeoma Nwosu’s manuscript, ‘Solace,’ was longlisted for the 2019 Quramo Writers Prize, and Noel Cheruto won silver in the 2018 Short Story Day Africa competition. Phillippa Yaa de Villiers was a judge for the 2021 Luschei Prize for African Poetry. Rémy Ngamije was shortlisted for the 2021 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing and was the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize Africa Regional Winner. Ani Kayode Somtochukwu won the inaugural 2021 James Currey Prize for African Literature and is longlisted for the 2022 Toyin Fálọlá Prize. Jarred Thompson is also longlisted for the 2022 Toyin Fálọlá Prize. Joshua Chizoma was shortlisted for the 2022 AKO Caine Prize.”

… And one of whom, Joshua Chizoma, a writer – whose story in Yellow Means Stay, ‘Of dead things that come alive’ is an epistolary that uses that ages-old form in the freshest of ways to make its comment on romantic love in perhaps more than one sense of the “epistle” – we had the joy of featuring on the site last year because of the tight craft of his ‘Collector of Memories’, a story published in Afritondo’s 2021 Prize Anthology, The Hope, The Prayer, The Anthem, and shortlisted for last year’s AKO Caine Prize.

We covered ‘Collector of Memories’ as part of our now annual critical spotlight on the AKO Caine shorlisted stories and writers, with our story reviews and more recently, our author Q&As. Our review of Chizoma’s 2022 AKO Caine shortlisted story is entitled ‘Sacks tied around our necks’, sticking close to the inspiration of the story. It teases at the story’s revolving around the revelation of secrets, as its “withholding… informs the two conflicts at the centre of the story, where we also become subject to the effects of erasure and redaction in the act of storytelling.” Written for us by lecturer and postgraduate coordinator in the English Department at the University of Malawi, Innocent Akili Ngulube (which includes links to read the story in full via the AKO Caine Prize website), it can be found here.

In the accompanying shortlisted author Q&A, Chizoma discusses the pre-lives of ‘The Collector of Memories’, but more than this, there is writing and craft, real-life inspirations, uplifts, and the soft underbelly that is procrastination, plus his books life as a reader and his own (outrageous) reading, as well as the mix of law studies with creative and other freelance work…

These archives open up Afritondo from different sides of its aim. The pathway through, for which Davina’s piece sets the initial footstep prints, also points us to a different route into the literary prizing of African short story writing and into the reviews of each of the shortlisted AKO Caine Prize stories, written for us by an all new set of AiW Guest reviewers, as well as the writer Q&As.

In 2022, along with shifts in the AKO Caine Prize and the establishment of literary practitioner and African literature centralising powerhouse, Sarah Ozo-Irabor (of the a.maze.ing Books & Rhymes podcast) as the Prize’s Director, we saw a grateful widening up of our Caine Q&As: as well as to each of the shortlisted writers, we put our questions to the judges, a practice we began the year previously, when we turned to those involved in working with the Prize, in less visible ways than those across the media, socials, and awards.

… But, and, also, too (this was exciting enough for triple/quadruple positives), for the first time — something of a special interest for us — we were able to put our Qs to the publishers of the stories — those that put the work forward for consideration by the judges — to A. for us from their side of things.

These industry perspectives – with publishers and judges – were “twinned” with the shortlisted writer Q&As, all in the aim of casting a critical eye over some of the different kinds of labour involved in the making of a literary prize, and to further open up some of the routes by which we as readers and audiences receive that work, the work of African writing.

There are literally too many highlights and fresh intellectual fire for us to single out in this series of Q&As… (but it may be of interest, in prize retrospect terms, to look at the twinned publisher/writer Q&As of Rachel Zadok, of Short Story Day Africa, who published the winning story, ‘Five Years Next Sunday’ by Idza Luhumyo, in the SSDA anthology Disruption: New Short Fiction from Africa (SSDA / Catalyst Press, 2021) – none of us knew it was the winner at the time…).

Which brings us back to our #PastAndPresent of today – Afritondo – to shortlists (and longer ones), to writers steeling their craft through the compacted unfolding of the short story form, to the literary prize and the prizing, to publishing, editing, anthologising, to independents of all kinds and to expanding these conversations, to reading and re-reading, new finds and revisits…

https://www.afritondo.com/ | instagram @afritondo | twitter @afritondo

AiW #P&P posts revisited today:

Review: “What of This Fire, What of Butterflies?” – Yellow Means Stay, the 2020 Afritondo Prize Anthology

Books and reading to be had…

‘This is everything that a great and impactful debut novel should be – brilliant, daring and ambitious.’
Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu, award-winning author

See the Afritondo site for updates on the prize and links to buy their books wherever they are published:

And for more AiW content from contributing editor Davina Philomena Kawuma, click through to her author tag here on the site.

Find more on Afritondo and the publisher’s perspective on what makes a shortlist-able short story for their prize through our 2022 AKO Caine Prize coverage…

AiW note: as part of what has become our annual AKO Caine Prize for African Writing coverage, this year we have published AiW Guest reviews of each of the 5 stories shortlisted for the 2022 award. Leading up to the winner announcement on Monday 18 July, we are also sharing a new set of Q&As – hearing from the writers on the shortlist but also from the publishers of their stories, as well as judges who have determined the shortlist this year.

Q&As: Allwell Uwazuruike from Afritondo – Publisher, AKO Caine Prize shortlist 2022

…AiW: Many thanks, Allwell, for agreeing to speak with us and open up these often less visible roles in the outcomes of a literary prize. This is the first time in all our years covering the Caine Prize that we have been able to offer the experiences of publishers and we are really grateful to be able to do so.

As its publisher, could you tell us about your journey of/with “Collector of Memories” by Joshua Chizoma, the 2022 AKO Caine Prize shortlisted story? Your story of the story, so to speak. How did it come to you? What made you “see” it, and as a Caine Prize story? Why this story, why now?

Allwell Uwazuruike: First, thanks for this opportunity. We are more than happy to share our experiences and interactions with talented writers from across Africa and beyond.

Joshua’s “Collector of Memories” was submitted for the Afritondo Short Story Prize 2021 and made it all the way to the shortlist. I will explain the various stages it takes for a story to get to the shortlist, but before I do that, I’ll like to say that… [see what Allwell did say here…]

Q&As: Joshua Chizoma – AKO Caine Prize shortlist 2022

Joshua Chizoma is a Nigerian writer. His works have been published or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Lolwe, AFREADA, Entropy Magazine, Anathema Magazine, Agbowo Magazine, and Prachya Review. His story, ‘A House Called Joy’ won the 2018 Kreative Diadem Prize in the flash fiction category. He won the 2020 Awele Creative Trust Short Story Prize with his short story “Their Boy” and was shortlisted for the 2021 Afritondo Short Story Prize. He is an alumnus of the 2019 Purple Hibiscus Creative Writing Workshop taught by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Joshua’s short story, “Collector of Memories”, has been shortlisted for the 2022 AKO Caine Prize. Read “Collector of Memories” here.

For our AiW Guest review of Joshua’s story, by Innocent Akili Ngulube, a lecturer and postgraduate coordinator in the English Department at the University of Malawi, “Sacks Tied Around Our Necks”, please click through direct here.

Our accompanying AKO Caine Prize Q&A today is with Allwell Uwazuruike from Afritondo, the publisher of Joshua’s story.

You can browse through our full series of “twinned” Q&As published this week – with the shortlisted writers and their publishers, as well as the judges of the Prize this year – where the aim is to open up some of the less visible labour and work involved in the literary prize and demonstrate some of the contemporary routes by which we receive the work of African writing.

And you can follow this link to read our other reviews of the 2022 shortlist, our related Q&As, and with coverage going (way) back to 2013…

https://www.afritondo.com/ | instagram @afritondo | twitter @afritondo

Categories: AiW Featured - archive highlights, Conversations with - interview, dialogue, Q&A, Reviews & Spotlights on..., Words from the team

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2 replies


  1. Words on… Revisiting the Afritondo Short Story Prize – #PastAndPresent – Literary Spaces
  2. ≫ Profesora Nadia Nurhussein: una conversación en la serie Literaturas del Cuerno de África

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