Nigerian writer Lesley Nneka Arimah has won the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing – often described as Africa’s leading literary award, for her short story entitled “Skinned”.
‘Skinned’ envisions a society in which young girls are ceremonially ‘uncovered’ and must marry in order to regain the right to be clothed.
It tells the story of Ejem, a young woman uncovered at the age of fifteen yet ‘unclaimed’ in adulthood, and her attempts to negotiate a rigidly stratified society following the breakdown of a protective friendship with the married Chidinma.
With a wit, prescience, and a wicked imagination, ‘Skinned’ is a bold and unsettling tale of bodily autonomy and womanhood, and the fault lines along which solidarities are formed and broken.
Announcing the award, Peter Kimani said: “The winner of this year’s Caine Prize for African Writing is a unique retake of women’s struggle for inclusion in a society regulated by rituals.
Lesley Nneka Arimah’s Skinned defamiliarises the familiar to topple social hierarchies, challenge traditions and envision new possibilities for women of the world.
Using a sprightly diction, she invents a dystopian universe inhabited by unforgettable characters where friendship is tested, innocence is lost, and readers gain a new understanding of life.”
Skinned, is published inMcSweeney’s Quarterly Concern (Issue 53) 2018.
An excerpt from Skinned can be read here