Writing

Zambia's Namwali Serpell Wins The 2015 Caine Prize For African Writing

Zambian writer Namwali Serpell has been announced as the winner of the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing.


Photo Credit: Peg Skorpinski (via The Caine Prize)

Zambian writer Namwali Serpell has been announced as the 2015 winner of  The Caine Prize For African Writing. Serpell received the honor and accompanying £10,000 cash prize for her short story, The Sack, during an awards ceremony held at Oxford University's Bodleian Libraries yesterday. Serpell, who is the first Zambian winner of the prize, was first shortlisted for the prestigious award in 2010 for her short story Muzungu.

The Sack, which was first published as part of the Africa39 anthology New Writing From Africa South of The Sahara, is a strange and dark tale dealing with loss, liberation, unrequited love and the bitter relationship between two old friends. Serpell was one of five African writers shortlisted for the award alongside Elnathan John, F.T Kola, Masande Ntashanga and the 2005 Caine Prize winner Segun Afolabi.

In the spirit of "mutiny," the UC Berkeley English professor announced that she will be splitting the cash winnings with her fellow nominees. "It is very awkward to be placed into this position of competition with other writers that you respect immensely," she told BBC Newsday. "You feel yourself put into a sort of American Idol or race-horse situation when actually, you all want to support each other."

Past winners of The Caine Prize include Leila Aboulela, Tope Folarin, Okwiri Oduor, NoViolet Bulawayo, and Binyavanga Wainaina. Read Serpell's award-winning story here.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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