Rose Okeke Wins 2022 James Currey Prize For African Literature

Recently updated on October 9th, 2022 at 10:09 pm

Rose Okeke has won the 2022 James Currey Prize for African Literature for her manuscript, “Child of the Corn” and receives £1,000.

The winner was announced at a prize ceremony hosted by OneWorld Publications publisher, Juliet Mabey on 3 September 2022, marking the end of the 3-day James Currey Literary Festival, which held at the University of Oxford between 1 and 3 September 2022.

The James Currey Prize for African Literature is an annual award for the best-unpublished work of fiction written in English by any writer, set in Africa or on Africans in Africa or in the Diaspora.

It was established in 2020 by Nigerian writer, filmmaker and publisher Onyeka Nwelue, in honour of James Currey, a publisher of academic books on Africa. The first winner of the prize was Ani Kayode Somtochukwu.

The jury for 2022, chaired by Ever Obi, included Indian author and scholar, Dr. Suraj Yengde, Teri Sillo (United Kingdom), Thomas Dukelabik Amanquandor (Ghana), Peace Anyiam-Osigwe (Nigeria), Olukorede S. Yishau (Nigeria), and Charmaine R. Mujeri (Zimbabwe).

The longlist for the awards was announced on June 1 before the shortlist was revealed on July 1st.

The shortlisted writers were:

  • Rose Okeke (Nigeria), Child of the Corn
  • Buntu Siwisa (South Africa), Paperless
  • Esomnofu Ebelenna Tobenna (Nigeria), Madness
  • Abenea Ndago (Kenya), Lord Kitchener
  • Mohammed Hammie (Tanzania), Mandiga’s Well

The James Currey Literature Festival is supported by British Council, British Airways, Daniel Ford International, Bodleian Libraries, African Studies Centre, University of Oxford, Pitanga, Heat African, OneWorld Publications, Abibiman Publishing, Hattus Books, FTWeekend Oxford Literary Festival, La Cave Musik, Punch, World Arts Agency, Y!Naija, Open Country Magazine, Sally Dunsmore, BellaNaija, NaijaTimes, ThisisLagos and James Murua.

In an interview with Fehintola Adewale of the Guardian Nigeria, Rose Okeke shares her experiences and insights.

Tell us about yourself as an artist

Rose Okeke: Rose Okeke is a writer, an actor and a filmmaker. I do so much more but I like to name those three because they are all-encompassing. Basically, I am a creator and a talented one at that. I spent most of my childhood in the United States where I grew up. During this time, I was an active child. I was in drama clubs and took part in my school’s theater productions. Yes, I was a theater kid. It is weird because I had crippling anxiety and stage fright. But I loved the stage. So, I stayed there and dealt with it. I took singing lessons and choir for many years. I even played the flute at some point and hated it. I danced too, a bit. I knew at my young age what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to be an actress. Then, I returned to Nigeria at the age of 13, where I completed secondary school and university. I was pushed by my parents to be more science-inclined because of my advanced academic prowess stemming from early childhood. I didn’t hate it but it definitely dulled my drive for academics. I wanted to study theater arts and become a proper thespian. I am definitely making up for it now, though.

About the James Currey prize

Rose Okeke: I recently became the recipient of the 2022 James Currey Prize for African Literature, a literary prize in cooperation with the African Studies Centre at the University of Oxford. It is currently a fantastic moment in my life because writing is something I have been doing since I was a child. So, to be recognized by an international body and a prestigious one at that, sent me over the moon. It felt great to have my writing validated. A group of distinguished judges deliberated and chose my work for the win. That alone is an amazing feeling. In addition to the prize money, the award also came with a Fellowship at the African Studies Center at the University of Oxford. So, I am very excited to be an Oxford Fellow. I can tell you with confidence that it is the first of many wins for me.

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