South African Writer On Mental Illness Wins Major Literary Prize

Lidudumalingani at award ceremony
Lidudumalingani at award ceremony

July 5, 2016(GIN) – This year’s prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing for a short story has been awarded to South African writer, photographer and filmmaker Lidudumalingani for his story “Memories We Lost.”

Set in the Eastern Cape, the story explores how traditional beliefs are used to tackle schizophrenia.

“This is a troubling piece, depicting the great love between two young siblings in a beautifully drawn Eastern Cape,” said prize chair Delia Jarrett-Macauley. “Multi-layered, and gracefully narrated, this short story leaves the reader full of sympathy and wonder at the plight of its protagonists.”

Lidudumalingani will receive $13,152 and a month at Georgetown University as a writer-in-residence. In addition, he’ll be invited to speak at the Library of Congress and receive invitations to take part in Cape Town’s Open Book Festival, Nairobi’s Storymoja and Nigeria’s Ake Festival.

“Memories We Lost,” explores mental health through the relationship of two sisters in a South African village, writes Alyssa Klein in the website OkayAfrica. One is schizophrenic and the other her protector. The sister’s situation deteriorates as her care is entrusted to Nkunzi, a local man who employs traditional techniques to rid people of their demons.

In a conversation with The Daily Vox, Lidudumalingani described the inspiration for the story. “The first might have been mental illness, or at least the way in which villagers speak and deal with it. Then there were conversations with friends, texts and visuals that suddenly were on my radar, memories of extended family members who struggled with mental illness – many of them on and off and at varying degrees.”

The Caine Prize maps new directions in contemporary African writing. This year’s shortlisted writers included Abdul Adan, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Tope Folarin, Bongani Kona and Lidudumalingani. Readings from the winning story and those of runner-ups can be heard on the Caine Prize website – and on the website

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