South African wins Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa

6 May 2016

South African writer Faraaz Mahomed has been selected the Africa Regional winner for his short story The Pigeon for the 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

“I am an unseasoned writer, who continues to struggle with the insecurities and anxieties of inexperience,” said Mahomed. “Winning the Commonwealth Prize for the African region is more than an accolade, it’s a prompting to continue down this path.”

Based on Johannesburg, Mahomed is a clinical psychologist and human rights researcher. His previous writing has been largely academic, reads the Commonwealth Writers website. Mahomed has published articles in journals relating to issues of human rights.

He also has fellowships from the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Johannesburg; and is a former Fulbright scholar. Mahomed would like to write a novel and obtain a PhD on mental health and human rights.

“The Africa region included stories on almost every conceivable theme, accentuating the endless complexity and beauty of the continent; a testament to the inexhaustible talent that abounds there,” said Africa region judge Helon Habila.

The Pigeon is a carefully and patiently woven tale about love, lust, guilt, and escape. It illustrates just how, as humans, we will always come short of our ideals, and we must learn to live with that.”

The other winners include:

  • Pacific Regional Winner: Tina Makereti for Black Milk from New Zealand
  • Asia Regional Winner: Parashar Kulkarni for Cow and Company from India
  • Canada and Europe Regional Winner: Stefanie Seddon for Eel from the UK
  • Caribbean Regional Winner: Lance Dowrich for Ethelbert and the Free Cheese from Trinidad and Tobago

Chair of judges, South African novelist and playwright Gillian Slovo, said the winners were all worthy of their award and they “show how well the short story is flourishing in the Commonwealth”.

Read short excerpt from The Pigeon:

Each morning, for about four months now, I am woken by the same foul, fat pigeon. I am certain that he’s the same one, even though I have no means to prove it. In truth, I have no way to be sure he is a he either. It used to occur to me that maybe he had left something at the window, or inside and was hoping that being here to retrieve it would allow him some release. On most Saturdays, I leave the window open. It makes me feel kind, because I am easing his spirit into the next phase or something of that nature.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize aims to “bring stories from new and emerging voices, often from countries with little or no publishing infrastructure, to the attention of an international audience”.

The five winners selected each win £2 500 (about R53 000) each. The overall winner will be announced at the Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica on 5 June, and will walk away with £5 000 (about R106 000) in prize money.

Source: Commonwealth Writers