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Lesley Nneka Arimah, a Nigerian writer has emerged winner of the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing. Arimah defeated authors from Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Kenya to clinch the prize with her short story titled “Skinned”.

Lesley Nneka Arimah

‘Skinned’ envisions a society in which young girls are ceremonially ‘uncovered’ and must marry in order to regain the right to be clothed. It tells the story of Ejem, a young woman uncovered at the age of fifteen yet ‘unclaimed’ in adulthood, and her attempts to negotiate a rigidly stratified society following the breakdown of a protective friendship with the married Chidinma. With a wit, prescience, and wicked imagination, ‘Skinned’ is a bold and unsettling tale of bodily autonomy and womanhood, and the fault lines along which solidarities are formed and broken.

The category of Caine Prize won by Arimah is often described as Africa’s leading literary award.

According to caineprize.com, Dr Peter Kimani, Chair of Judges announced Lesley as the winner of the £10,000 prize at a recent award dinner.

Announcing the award, Kimani said: “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.”

Arimah is a 2019 United States Artists Fellow in Writing and she lives in Las Vegas, United States of America.

Those shortlisted writers for the 2019 Caine Prize alongside Arimah includes: ‘The Wall’ by Ethiopian author, Meron Hadero; ‘Sew My Mouth’ by Kenyan Author, Cherrie Kandie; ‘It Takes A Village Some Say’ by Cameroonian author, Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti; ‘All Our Lives’ by Nigerian author, Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor.

By Damilola Faustino

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