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African Literature: Literary Prizes

Tope Folarin, Winner Of 2013 Caine Prize For African Literature

Caine Prize for African Literature is awarded to the best short story written by an African writer or writer whose parents are African. Tope Folarin, the 2013 winner who is American with Nigerian parents, is interviewed by Fungai Maboreke of Sahara TV.

African Nobel Laureates in Literature: Soyinka (1986)

Wole Soyinka reads his poem, "Lost Poems," at Harvard University in 2013.

Nadine Gordimer (1991)

Nadine Gordimer reads her short story, "Loot," at Harvard University in April 2005. Gordimer died in 2014.

J.M. Coetzee (2003)

J.M. Coetzee reads from his memoir, Boyhood: Scenes from a Provincial Life, in 2001.

African-Related Literary Prizes

African Literary Awards Database  (Indiana University).

A directory of awards for books about Africa, includes general awards such as the Booker Award, Commonwealth Writers Prize, Nobel, UNESCO Children's Book Prize, etc. Lists the Africa-related award winners and finalists for each award. Site hosted by the Indiana University (Bloomington) Libraries. Each year dozens of works written by African writers and works about Africa win prestigous international and national literary and scholarly prizes. This database is the first attempt to gather a comprehensive list of African literary awards and their laureates. It is constantly being expanded by the addition of recent prize-winners and historical literary awards. Initial focus is on Sub-Saharan Africa.

Selected Prizes

Following is a selected list of prominent literary awards related to Africa. For a fuller list of awards use the following lists from African Literary Awards Database  (Indiana University):


Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century

Organized by the Zimbabwe International Book Fair in collaboration with several partners, book nominations were sought throughout the African continent and internationally. A jury made selections from short lists, and the final list of "Africa's 100 Best Books" was announced on February 18, 2002.

Caine Prize for African Writing

Established in 2000, the Caine Prize is awarded to a work (a short story) by an African writer published in English, whether in Africa or elsewhere. The finalists for the 2013 prize are collected in: A memory this size and other stories. Auckland Park, South Africa : Jacana Media ; Oxford : New Internationalist 2013 PR9348 .M46 2013 . Search discoverE for "Caine Prize" to find other collections.


Commonwealth Writers' Prize

"The Commonwealth Foundation established the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 1987 to encourage and reward the upsurge of new Commonwealth fiction and ensure that works of merit reach a wider audience outside their country of origin."African Region. Also awards for poetry and short stories. Note: The book prize ceased with 2013. Future awards will focus on short stories.


  Conover-Porter Award

The biennial Conover-Porter Award is presented to the author(s) of the most outstanding achievement in African bibliography and reference works published during the previous two years. The award has been administered by the Africana Librarians Council since 1980.


Melville J. Herskovits Award

The Herskovits Award, sponsored since 1965 by the African Studies Association, is presented annually for the best scholarly work on Africa published in English in the previous year and distributed in the US.


Nobel Prize: Literature (Official Site)

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2007 :Doris Lessing (Lessing lived in Southern Rhodesia for twenty-five years.)

"that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny"

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2003: John M. Coetzee (South Africa)

"who in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider"

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1991: Nadine Gordimer (South Africa)

"who through her magnificent epic writing has - in the words of Alfred Nobel - been of very great benefit to humanity"

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1986: Wole Soyinka (Nigeria)

"who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence"

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature, also spent part of his youth in Nigeria where his father was a doctor. His 2004 work L'Africain is a tribute to his father.



Noma Award for Publishing in Africa

"Established in 1979, the Noma Award is open to African writers and scholars whose work is published in Africa. The US$10,000 prize is given annually for an outstanding new book in any of these three categories: (i) scholarly or academic, (ii) books for children, and (iii) literature and creative writing."



Penguin Prize for African Writing

First awarded September 2010 for a fiction and non-fiction book.


In 2013 a new prize, the Etisalat Prize for Literature, the first ever pan-African prize celebrating first time writers of published fiction books, will be awarded.


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