Her short story 'Skinned' took home the prize at the 20th edition of the literature award.
The Caine Prize for African Writing, which was launched back in 2000, is perhaps one of the most prestigious literature awards there is for African writers. This year's theme saw writers from across the continent tackling "the ordinary in an extraordinary manner and celebrating the diversity of the African short-story writing tradition for the twentieth edition of the Prize".
After shortlisting five writers from Cameroon, Ethiopia Kenya and Nigeria, Nigeria's Lesley Nneka Arimah's Skinned was crowned the winning short story.
Arimah's Skinned creates an alternate world where young girls who are "ceremonially uncovered" at a certain age must then marry in order to be allowed to be clothed again. Ejem, the main character of the story, is uncovered at the age of 15 but remains "unclaimed" for marriage in her adulthood. The powerful story explores womanhood and bodily autonomy in a refreshing and perhaps even unsettling way.
In her acceptance speech, Arimah urged African writers to continuously center the African gaze. She continued saying:
"When I think of what literature can do, and I think of the ways that literature has changed minds and opened imaginations, I want to say that we African writers must center the African gaze. We must center the Nigerian gaze, the Cameroonian gaze, the Ethiopian gaze, the Kenyan gaze. We need to be writing to and for each other, and we also need to play."
You can read Skinned here.