Commonwealth short story was founded in 2012. The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of newly written unpublished short fiction. It is open to Commonwealth citizens aged 18 and above in five regions of the world: Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, Caribbean and the Pacific.
At the end of submission and scrutiny, five best will be declared, each from the five regions represented and overall best will be chosen. The prize awarded to the five regional winners is £2,500 (approximately N1.2 million) each and a publication with Granta as well. The global winner gets an additional £5,000 (approximately N2.4 million).
In 2012, when the competition first started, Jekwu Anyaegbun won with the entry ‘Morrison Okoli’ in 2012; Lesley Armah won with ‘Light’ in 2016; Akwaeke Emezi won with ‘Who is like God’ in 2017 and Efua Traoré, with ‘True Happiness’ in 2018.
In 2020, amongst other short story writers that dared to participate, Innocent Ilo’s piece has caught the eye of the judges and he has been named 2020 overall winner. The fictional story was about the bond between a woman and her mother in the face of a sexist tradition.
The chair and regional representative of the panel of judges applauded the write-up for its explicitness and uniqueness.
This pronouncement will make Innocent the youngest writer to be awarded the Africa region prize since its establishment in 2012.
He expressed so much excitement at the news. In his words, “I still can’t wrap my head around it. You know you always dream of this moment, how you’ll scream from the rooftops and rent your clothes. Then it comes by sudden and the only thing you can do is call your mother and cry over the phone about how proud your father would have been if he was alive. This means so much to me. I feel grateful, honoured, proud and humbled at the same time. This is one of those moments that make me look back at all the late nights and piles of rejection emails and say, ‘Maybe, just maybe, this writing thing is worth it.” He said.
Innocent has been a finalist for the Gerald Kraak Award and Short Story Day Africa Prize. He has had his works featured in Fireside Magazine—Overland, Strange Horizons, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores and Cast of Wonders. He has also won the Africa YMCA and Oxford Festival of the Arts short story contests.
The other regional winners are: “The Great Indian Tee and Snakes” by Kritika Pandey (Asia Region), “Wherever Mister Jensen Went” by Reyah Martin (Canada and Europe Region), “Mafootoo” by Brian S. Heap (Caribbean Region) and “The Art of Waving” by Andrea E. Macleod (Pacific Region).
We celebrate Innocent!