South African writer wins Caine prize

Lidudumalingani's story tackled the difficult subject of mental illness in a rural community.

A South African writer and filmmaker, Lidudumalingani has won the prestigious Caine Prize for his short story, “Memories We Lost.”

The prize, launched in 2000, is awarded annually to an African writer of a short story published in English.

The winning story, set in the Eastern Cape, explores how traditional beliefs are used to tackle schizophrenia.

The judges said it was a “gracefully narrated” tale that left the reader full of sympathy and wonder.”

The story depicts the love between two young sisters and their efforts to persuade their mother and the local community to view mental illness in a different light.

The chairman of the Caine judges, Delia Jarrett-Macauley said it was a troubling piece on a difficult subject.

“Multi-layered and gracefully narrated, this short story leaves the reader full of sympathy and wonder at the plight of its protagonists,” she said.

Doing better
Lidudumalingani wins £10,000 ($13,152) and a month at Georgetown University in the US as a writer-in-residence.

After receiving the award, he said “I have been struggling with my writing but now feel excited and feed with new energy to create.”

He said the prize also gave him the opportunity to meet other writers and creative artists, which “inspires me to stop being a lazy bum and do better.”

Asked how he had approached his story, Lidudumalingani said he wanted to show empathy for his protagonists but also “not try to lie to ourselves.”

“Some of the ways in which villages operate are problematic and I wanted to put that across, but I also wanted to put that across in a respectful manner and not look down on people’s views,” he said.

The other Caine shortlisted writers are: Abdul Adan, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Tope Folarin and Bongani Kona.