Nigerian wins top Commonwealth Africa prize for short stories

Nigerian author Innocent Chizaram Ilo, 23, won the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize (Africa), the Commonwealth Foundation announced on June 1.

Mr Ilo won the coveted regional prize with his short story When a Woman Renounces Motherhood, that revolves around a woman and her mother bond in the face of a sexist tradition.

“I still can’t wrap my head around it. You always dream of this moment, how you’ll scream from the rooftops and rent your clothes. Then it comes suddenly 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 Ilo, said on receiving the news of winning.

“This means so much to me. I feel grateful, honoured, proud and humbled. This is one of those moments I look back at all those late nights and piles of rejection emails and say, “Maybe, just maybe, this writing thing is worth it,” he added.


Mr Ilo’s works interrogate gender, class, memory, and sexuality and have been published in several literary magazines.

This year’s edition attracted over 5,000 entries across the Commonwealth.

The Chair of the judges, Ghanaian writer and editor Nii Ayikwei Parkes, said: “I don’t believe there is a perfect story. There are great stories, but no perfect stories. What is amazing is what happens when a story encounters a ready reader or listener. That moment is magical. That connection is never the same for any two people or for any two moments and that is why I love judging competitions for I get to talk about stories since the outcome is so unpredictable.”

The five regional winners’ stories will be published online by Granta, the literary magazine of new writing, in the run-up to the announcement of the overall winner on June 30. The 2020 overall winner will be announced during a special award ceremony to be broadcast online on June 30.

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