Uganda’s Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi has won the 2013 Kwani? Manuscript Project, a new literary prize for unpublished fiction by African writers, for her novel The Kintu Saga. Liberia’s Saah Millimono came second for One Day I Will Write About This War with Kenya’s Timothy Kiprop Kimutai in third place for The Water Spirits.
Award-winning Sudanese novelist Jamala Mahjoub, who chaired the panel of judges said, “All three titles chosen by the judges display an urge to engage with the complexities of modern day Africa. They tackle issues such as civil war, the struggle against poverty, and the continent’s historical heritage, among other themes. As a manuscript award this prize naturally seeks to focus less on finding a perfect finished product than work which shows literary promise as well as a breadth and depth of vision. The winner and two runners up all reflect these values.
Makumbi’s ‘The Kintu Saga’ is an ambitious attempt to bring the history of Uganda into the present lives of the novel’s protagonists. Through successive generations, the author sketches out the continued relevance of the past in the present.
Makumbi will walk away with $3,500 in prize money and the opportunity to have her book published. Kwani Trust plans to publish the winners, as well as additional manuscripts from across the shortlist and the longlist , with the first titles planned for publication in April 2014. The Trust will also be partnering with regional and global agents and publishing houses to secure high profile international co-publication opportunities.
The Kwani? Manuscript Project was launched in April 2012 and called for the submission of unpublished novel manuscripts from African writers across the continent and in the diaspora. The prize received over 280 qualifying submissions from 19 African countries.
Kwani Trust’s Managing Editor, Billy Kahora said, “In reviewing the shortlisted stories, I’m blown away by the potential these manuscripts hold, the different styles, concerns and voices that they bring to new contemporary African literature, and further add to Kwani’s fiction list. We can’t wait to bring them out as novels in the region and partner with publishing houses across the continent to make them available across Africa.”