FabAfriq Magazine

2019 Caine Prize Winner Is Nigeria‘s Lesley Nneka Arimah

For 2019, the winner is Lesley Nneka Arimah with her extraordinarily penned story “Skinned”, which was published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern (Issue 53) 2018. Kenyan author Dr. Peter Kimani, Chair of Judges, announced Lesley as the winner of the £10,000 prize at an award dinner on the evening of Monday 8 July 2019.

The plotline

“Skinned” as a short story focuses on a young woman called Ejem. It tells the story of a parallel universe where single women go to until they are married.It's about a world - a place where girls, when they reach a certain age, have to take off all their clothes. They will thus continue to live and are “ceremoniously uncovered” with no clothes till they get married and this marriage is what provides some sort of clothing or covering for them. “Skinned” tells the story of Ejem who was uncovered at the age of 15 but stays “unclaimed” well into adulthood. She has to fight against a very rigid society which is stratified along lines of “claimed” and “unclaimed” girls, and in addition battle to save her friendship with the very married Chidinma.

What sets “Skinned” apart

The judges said it was "unique retake of women's struggle for inclusion". While announcing the award and why this specific choice was made, the board chair stated that; “The winner of this year’s Caine Prize for African Writing is a unique retake of women’s struggle for inclusion in a society regulated by rituals. Lesley Nneka Arimah’s Skinned defamiliarizes the familiar to topple social hierarchies, challenge traditions and envision new possibilities for women of the world. Using a sprightly diction, she invents a dystopian universe inhabited by unforgettable characters where friendship is tested, innocence is lost, and readers gain a new understanding of life.”

In an interview with the BBC, Arimah said that underlying objective of this story is to depict the differences in the treatment of married and unmarried women in Nigeria.

What the future holds for Arimah.

Lesley N. Arimah is not at her first attempt at writing nor her first win here. In fact, she has already been widely published. Her work can be seen in the New Yorker and a number of other places. She has won the African Commonwealth Prize. She even wrote one of the most anticipated books in 2017- “What Happens When a Man Falls from the Sky”

Presently, Arimah lives inLas Vegas USA and is a 2019 United States Artists Fellow in Writing. She is currently working on another novel.

Congratulations Arimah!


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