Botswana’s Keabetswe Molotsi wins Kendeka Prize for African Literature

Keabetswe Molotsi, hailing from Botswana, emerged as the victor of the coveted 2023 Kendeka Prize for African Literature during a dazzling award ceremony held on the 7th of October, 2023. The prestigious literary accolade, which seeks to inspire Africans to both write and read more, acknowledges the finest unpublished short stories encompassing both fiction and creative non-fiction genres.

According to a statement by Andrew Maina, the founder, Kendeka Prize for African Literature, Molotsi clinched the grand prize with her captivating story titled “Matlhalerwa,” which enchanted the esteemed panel of judges chaired by Natasha Omokhodion-Kalulu Banda from Zambia. Additionally, Hussani Abdulrahim from Nigeria earned the honour of being the first runner-up for his enthralling narrative “We Came for Mangoes,” while Shedrack Opeyemi Akanbi, also from Nigeria, claimed the second runner-up spot for his compelling tale, “The Lance Corporal’s Door.”

The selection process was an arduous one, with a total of six shortlisted stories meticulously evaluated by the esteemed panel of judges, which included Richard Ali from Nigeria and Pasomi Mucha from Kenya.

This year’s edition of the Kendeka Prize attracted submissions from a staggering 25 African nations, reaffirming the prize’s role in fostering a rich tapestry of African literary expression.

The glittering award ceremony took place at the picturesque Fourteen Falls Leisure Lodge in Thika, Kenya, and was graced by literary enthusiasts and luminaries from across the continent. The winners were not only bestowed with accolades but were also rewarded with significant cash prizes. Keabetswe Molotsi, the triumphant wordsmith, received the first prize of Kshs 100,000, while the second and third prizes amounted to Kshs 50,000 and Kshs 25,000, respectively.

Furthermore, the event unveiled an anthology featuring the longlisted stories from the 2022 Kendeka Prize. These 13 carefully selected narratives will be compiled into a forthcoming anthology slated for release in 2024.

The profiles of the laureates are accompanied by captivating photographs in a separate attachment, underscoring the diverse backgrounds and talents celebrated by the Kendeka Prize.

The 2023 panel of judges, led by Natasha Omokhodion-Kalulu Banda, Chair of the judging panel, boasts a wealth of literary accomplishments. Natasha, a Zambian of Nigerian and Jamaican heritage, has contributed her short stories to various publications, including ‘Short Story Day Africa 2018’ and Harper Via’s anthology ‘Reflections.’ She also serves as a Board Member of Alliance Française of Lusaka.

Richard Ali, a Nigerian lawyer, novelist, and poet, currently manages the Engaging Borders Africa project, focusing on preventing and countering violent extremism. Meanwhile, Pasomi Mucha, with a background in English and Literature, has been an educator and author of storybooks and short story anthologies in Kenya.

The Kendeka Prize has consistently recognized outstanding literary voices from Africa, with the 2022 prize won by Scholastica Moraa from Kenya, and the 2021 edition honouring Jenny Robson from Botswana. The Prize’s founder, Andrew Maina, and the Advisory Board, chaired by Prof Kamau Goro, have played an instrumental role in nurturing and promoting African literary excellence.

As the literary world celebrates Keabetswe Molotsi and her fellow laureates, the Kendeka Prize continues to stand as a beacon of creativity and innovation in African literature, propelling the continent’s storytellers to new heights of recognition and acclaim.

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