The 2021 K & L Prize for African Literature has been awarded to Mustapha Enesi, a young Nigerian university graduate currently completing his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation program. His short story, “Kesandu,” beat other entries from Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, South Africa, and the Gambia. The theme for this year’s prize was “Madness.”
The $1,000 K &L Prize seeks the best unpublished short story by a writer resident in Africa and between the ages of 18 and 25. The stories, between 1,000 and 2,000 words, are written on a chosen theme.
The other shortlisted writers were Inimfon Inyang, Ntui Vincent Mbey, Chikondi Tembo, Joseph Olamide Babalola, and Chinecherem Udo. The judges were Su’ur Agema, Sisca Julius, and novelist Myles Idoko Ojabo, who launched the award in 2018 and funds it.
All the longlisted stories will appear in Fullmoon, the prize anthology forthcoming in 2022 from Griots Lounge.
In a comment to Open Country Mag, Enesi thanked Ojabo “for sustaining this prize for young writers who are pretty much still struggling to find their feet in the writing community.” Winning, he said, is “an exhilarating experience.”
Ojabo, who has a master’s and a Ph.D. in Creative Writing, is based in New Zealand. “On reflecting on my journey as a writer, I decided to establish something I thought I would have enjoyed as an 18 or 25-year-old living in Nigeria,” he said. It is “a platform to fill that gap I missed between my late teenage years and my early twenties.”
Fellow judge Sisca Julius was the inaugural winner. Last year’s recipient, Kanyinsola Olorunnisola, is now an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama.
For Enesi, who studied Agriculture at the University of Ilorin, winning feels surreal. “I won an African Prize for literature. It is a huge win. It is the highest form of validation I could ask for,” he said. “It is pushing me to do more, to write more, to want to apply for an MFA. It made my whole year.”
He continued, “When I say this, I hope I speak for every struggling young writer out there. Writing is difficult, the rewards are fulfilling; we all need validation for our writing, an eye that sees us, and the K & L Prize saw me. I hope it keeps seeing others like me.”