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 awards, for his story and the earth drank deep.
“There are not many literature prizes more global in scale or inclusive in scope than the Commonwealth Short Story Prize… I was aware of the calibre of writing and adjudication, so I was under no illusions about my chances,” said Kota.
A chemist by training, Kota’s win was announced in an online ceremony today hosted by spoken word poet Mr Gee that featured the Chair of the judges 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, the Pacific, the Caribbean and Canada and Europe).
“[Kota’s story] reaches across cultures and generations. A story that uses African folktale in a way that remains true to form but is also accessible,” said Louise Umutoni-Bower, judge for the Africa region. “The willingness of the writer to put ‘evil’ on display without interrogation or judgement was commended.”
“Ntsika’s wonderful success is a reminder of what makes the Prize unique. It is an opportunity for writers from across the Commonwealth to express themselves, regardless of where they live or their previous writing experience,” said Dr Anne T. Gallagher AO, Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation. “How fitting that Ntsika – a self-taught writer, hailing from one of the smaller eligible states – should triumph.”
Kota won the overall prize after becoming the regional winner for Africa on May 23. The winners of the 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/St Vincent & The Grenadines, Canada and Europe).
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded to writers aged 18 and above from the Commonwealth nations. Kritika Pandey, a Pushcart-nominated writer from Jharkhand, was the first Indian to win the prize in 2020 for her story The Great Indian Tee and Snakes. Apart from Pandey, five Indians have been shortlisted for the prize since its inception in 2012. A previous version of the competition existed from 1996 to 2011 in which four Indians won.