Ntsika Kota becomes the first writer from Eswatini, Africa to win the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2022

Ntsika Kota has become the first writer from Eswatini, Africa to win the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2022, one of the world’s most sought-after literary prizes, for his story and the earth drank deeply.

“There aren’t many literature prizes more global or inclusive than the Commonwealth Short Story Prize…I was aware of the caliber of writing and judging, so I had no illusions about my chances” , Kota said.

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A chemist by training, Kota’s victory was announced at an online ceremony hosted today by spoken word poet Mr Gee, which featured the judges’ chairman, Guyanese writer Fred D’ Aguiar. Also in attendance were last year’s winner Kanya D’Almeida and this year’s regional winners (the competition is divided into five regions: Asia, Africa, Pacific, Caribbean and Canada and Europe ).

“[Kota’s story] crosses cultures and generations. A story that uses the African folktale in a way that stays true to its form but is also accessible,” said Louise Umutoni-Bower, judge for the Africa region. “The writer’s willingness to expose ‘evil’ without questioning or judgment was praised.”

“Ntsika’s wonderful success reminds us of what makes the Prize unique. This is an opportunity for writers across the Commonwealth to express themselves, regardless of where they live or their previous writing experience,” said Dr Anne T. Gallagher AO, Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Foundation . “How fitting that Ntsika – a self-taught writer, hailing from one of the smaller eligible states – triumphs.”

Kota won the overall award after becoming the regional winner for Africa on May 23. Winners from other regions were: Sofiah Mariah Ma for The Last Diver on Earth (Singapore, Asia), Diana Mccaulay for Bridge over the Yallahs River (Jamaica, Caribbean), Mary Rokunadravu for The Nightwatch (Fiji, Pacific) and Cecil Browne for A Hat for Lemer (UK/Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Canada and Europe).

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded to writers aged 18 and over from Commonwealth countries. Kritika Pandey, a Pushcart-nominated writer from Jharkhand, was the first Indian to win the award in 2020 for her story The Great Indian Tee and Snakes. Besides Pandey, five Indians have been shortlisted for the award since its inception in 2012. A previous version of the competition existed from 1996 to 2011 in which four Indians won.

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