This season is one of accolades for some of Africa’s outstanding artists. Judges for the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing this week named Sudanese author Bushra al-Fadil the winner of this year’s coveted prize for “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away.”
Also this month, South African musical icon Hugh Masekela was conferred with an honorary doctorate in music by the University of Witwatersarand. The doctorate follows a similar prize from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Al-Fadil’s work was first published as part of a collection of short stories in “The Book of Khartoum—A City in Short Fiction,” a book that explores the lives of women in Sudan and the violence and harassment they face.
The Caine Prize for African Writing is regarded as Africa’s leading literary award. It was started in 2000 and takes place annually to recognize Africa’s best creative writers.
Al-Fadil, 63, who resides in Saudi Arabia, was a university professor before he was expelled from Sudan in the early 1990s for protesting against a military coup led by the current President Omar al-Bashir.
Judge Nii Ayikwei Parkes remarked, “Bushra al-Fadil’s short story is a modern exploration of how, assaulted from all sides and unsupported by those we turn to for solace, we can became mentally exiled in our own lands, edging into a fantasy existence where we cling to a sort of freedom until ultimately we slip into physical exile.”
Speaking at the award ceremony in London earlier this week, al-Fadil said, “This is important for me as I think countries in Africa, particularly my own country of Sudan, need to do more to promote culture, literature and the arts.”
Writer al-Fadil will receive $9,000, and Max Shmookkler who translated the book from Arabic will receive $4,000.
He will now be given an opportunity to take up residence at Georgetown University at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. The winner will also be invited to speak at the Library of Congress.
Masekela will turn 78 in a few months.
Caine Prize Judge Nii Ayikwei Parkes declared, “Although they range in tone from the satirical to the surreal, all five stories on this year’s shortlist are unrelentingly haunting.”