A South African Writer, Lidudumalingani Wins Top Literary Prize

South African writer, Lidudumalingani has won the 2016 Caine Prize for African writing. The prize is one of the most prestigious prizes for African authors.

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Lidudumalingani won it for his short story, Memories We Lost. The story documents the journey of siblings coping with schizophrenia, a fact which is in keeping with his statement,

‘I am fascinated by mental illnesses, and having seen my own extended relatives deal with it – a sort of ongoing journey – I was trying to find ways or invent ways that could help me write about how one family is dealing with it.’


A writer, filmmaker and photographer from the village of Zikhovane in the Transkei, Lidudumalingani actually grew up herding cattle and moulding goats from clay, growing fond of words and images in his later life.

He writes about art, culture, music and film for the Mail & Guardian and Africa Is A Country, and has been published in the literary journals Chimurenga Chronic and Prufrock, and the second Short.Sharp.Stories collection Adults Only (writing as Dudumalingani Mqombothi). He lives in Cape Town.

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As a part of the prize, Lidudumalingani was awarded $15,000 (£10,000) and a writer’s residency at Georgetown University in Washington. Here is an excerpt of the prize-winning short story;

“There was never a forewarning that this thing was coming. It came out of nowhere, as ghosts do, and it would disappear as it had come. Every time it left, I stretched my arms out in all directions, mumbled two short prayers, one to God and another to the ancestors, and then waited on my terrified sister to embrace me. The embraces, I remember, were always tight and long, as if she hoped the moment would last forever.

Every time this thing took her, she returned altered, unrecognisable, as if two people were trapped inside her, both fighting to get out, but not before tearing each other into pieces. The first thing that this thing took from her, from us, was speech, and then it took our memories. She began speaking in a language that was unfamiliar, her words trembling as if trying to relay unthinkable revelations from the gods. The memories faded one after the other until our past was a blur.

Some of the memories that have remained with me are of her screaming and running away from home. I remember when she ran out to the fields in the middle of the night, screaming, first waking my mother and me and then abducting the entire village from their sleep. Men and boys emerged from their houses carrying their knobkerries as if out to hunt an animal.

Women and children stayed behind, frightened children clutching their mother’s nightgowns. The men and boys, disorientated and peeved, shuffled in the dark and split into small groups as instructed by a man who at the absence of a clear plan crowned himself a leader.

Those with torches flicked them on and pushed back the darkness. Some took candles; they squeezed their bodies close and wrapped blankets around themselves in an attempt to block the wind, but all their matches extinguished before they could light a single candle.”

You can read the full story here.