Ntsika Kota has emerged as the overall winner of the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for his short story, And the Earth Drank Deep.
He was named overall winner at an online ceremony that featured him and other regional winners reading excerpts from their stories. He is set to receive a £5,000 cash award.
This year, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize saw a record number of 6,730 entries. He was up against fellow regional winners: Asia winner Sofia Mariah Ma (Singapore); Canada and Europe winner Cecil Browne (the United Kingdom/St Vincent and the Grenadines); Caribbean winner Diana McCaulay (Jamaica); and Pacific winner Mary Rokonadravu (Fiji).
This makes Ntsika Kota the second African to clinch this prestigious prize after over a decade (the first being Kintu author, Jennifer Makumbi)
Kota’s winning story is a folkloric narrative set in a hunter-gatherer community that centers around a group of villagers as they confront threats from wild animals, possible disease, and unexpected death. Rwandan publisher Louise Umutoni-Bower, who was the judge representing the Africa region, praised it as ‘ a story that uses African folktale in a way that remains true to form but is also accessible.’
The Chair of the Judges, Guyanese writer FD’Aguiaruiar called the story ‘an instant classic.’ He was equally full of praise for the author’s simple, cleverly-restrained and allegorical style.
In his acceptance speech, Ntsika Kota expressed a delighted shock over his win…
“There are not many literature prizes more global in scale or inclusive in scope than the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. I submitted my story more out of pride than expectation. I was aware of the caliber of writing and adjudication so I was under no illusions about my chances. However, against all odds, my story was shortlisted. It was just the endorsement I had hoped for. It meant that the pride I felt in what I had put to page was justified. It was everything I had hoped for. I expected no more. Although, that being said. I could not help but daydream about winning the Prize. I never let myself actually hope to win, though, let alone expect to. After all, that would be ridiculous! A rank amateur? In such a distinguished company? Fantasize if you will, I told myself, but for goodness sake, be realistic. Imagine my surprise, then, when I got that call”.
Previous winners have gone a long way to set out defining careers. Last year’s winner, Kanya D’Almeida signed with an agent, has almost completed her debut short story collection, and won the ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award 2022 this year.
After winning the prize in 2020, Kritika Pandey signed with an agent, is currently working on the final edits of her first novel, has had short-form works come out in the Kenyon Review and on BBC Radio 4 as well as teaching creative writing workshops with the Himalayan Writing Retreat and Writing Workshops Dallas.
After receiving multiple literary agency offers, 2018 winner Kevin Jared Hosein signed with Aitken Alexander Associates and his new novel is a major lead title to be released in 2023 under the title Adoration in UK/Commonwealth (Bloomsbury), and Hungry Ghosts in North America (Ecco).
Congratulations Ntsika Kota!