Nigeria’s Lesley Arimah wins 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing


Nigerian writer Lesley Nneka Arimah, has won the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing.

Arimah’s short story titled “Skinned” won her the prize.

‘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 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.

The category of Caine Prize won by Arimah is often described as Africa’s leading literary award.

According to, Dr Peter Kimani, Chair of Judges announced Lesley as the winner of the £10,000 prize at an award dinner on Monday 8 July.

She defeated authors from Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Kenya to clinch the prize.

Announcing the award, 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 defamiliarizes 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.”

The short story was published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern (Issue 53) 2018.

Arimah is a 2019 United States Artists Fellow in Writing and she lives in Las Vegas, United States of America.

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