Jamaican Author Brian S. Heap has just won the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize (Caribbean region) for his story “Mafootoo.” The winning story straddles the Atlantic and “challenges assumptions about old age and ideal marriages.” The overall winner will be announced on June 30, at 1:00pm BST. Read more information and list of regional winners below:
The Commonwealth Foundation today announces the regional winners of the world’s most global literary prize. Jamaican author Brian Heap has won the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story competition (Caribbean) for his story ‘Mafootoo’.
The 70-year-old Jamaican author, who has worked in drama and education in Jamaica for 40 years, beat off competition from a strong field of shortlisted entrants including fellow Jamaican Sharma Taylor and Brandon McIvor from Trinidad and Tobago to become the Caribbean winner. He will go through to the final round of judging and the overall winner will be announced on 30 June.
In Heap’s story, a Jamaican woman living in London confronts a crisis late in her life. She uses the experience to reflect upon her life and her marriage.
Regional judge Trinidadian scholar and writer Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw says ‘”Mafootoo” acts as a camouflage, it is a game of hide and seek, revealing and covering truths as it goes along. With a light, swift hand we are given the history of fifty years of marriage, of Jamaican history, of displacement, belonging and straddling the Atlantic. We may think we know these characters, or even these familiar themes, but up close they are not what they seem. This is a writer who knows how to lead us through a tale, filling his readers with both laughter and despair. “Mafootoo” creates a new landscape, carefully disguised and worthy of discovery.’
Heap, who drew inspiration for the story from his own experience of having been brought up in the UK, and many visits there, says, ‘the story that I submitted had been in the back of my head for almost five years, but this competition finally provided me with the opportunity, motivation and all important deadline to complete the work. Being selected as one of the twenty shortlisted writers was amazing enough, but I am truly honoured and elated to have been selected as one of the five Regional winners. This competition does so much to promote writing from so many countries and cultures worldwide and in so many different languages. Long may it continue!’
The story was selected from a shortlist of 20 by the international judging panel, chaired by Ghanaian writer Nii Ayikwei Parkes. The other panellists are: South African writer and musician Mohale Mashigo, Executive Director of the Singapore Books Council William Phuan, Canadian author Heather O’Neill, Trinidadian scholar and writer Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw and Australian writer and arts organiser Nic Low, who was himself shortlisted for the 2012 Commonwealth Short Story Prize earlier in his career.
Parkes praised, ‘a beautifully paced story’. He comments, ‘Quietly defiant and subversive, Mafootoo is a story that had me checking my assumptions about old age and ideal marriages at every turn.’
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth. It is the only prize in the world where entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, English, French, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil, and Turkish.
Brian S. Heap is the retired Senior Lecturer, Staff Tutor in Drama and Head of the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. He has worked in Drama and Education in Jamaica for over forty years. With Pamela Bowell he co-authored Planning Process Drama: Enriching Teaching and Learning (2001, 2013) and Putting Process Drama into Action (2017) as well as several conference papers and articles for refereed journals. He served as Conference Director and Convener of the Fifth International Drama in Education Research Institute (2006) in Kingston, Jamaica. He was honoured with the Silver Musgrave Medal by the Institute of Jamaica in 2002.
The full list of regional winners are as follows:
- Africa – ‘When a Woman Renounces Motherhood’ by Innocent Chizaram Ilo (Nigeria)
- Asia – ‘The Great Indian Tee and Snakes’ by Kritika Pandey (India)
- Canada and Europe – Wherever Mister Jensen Went’ by Reyah Martin (United Kingdom)
- Caribbean – ‘Mafootoo’ by Brian S. Heap (Jamaica)
- Pacific ‘The Art of Waving’ by Andrea E. Macleod (Australia)
The five regional winners’ stories will be published online by the literary magazine Granta in the run-up to the announcement of the overall winner.
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is administered by the Commonwealth Foundation, through its cultural initiative Commonwealth Writers.
The 2020 overall winner will be announced during a special award ceremony which will be broadcast online at 1pm BST on 30 June 2020.
Sign-up to our newsletter to receive a link to the broadcast nearer the time at commonwealthwriters.org/signup or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram @cwwriters to find out more. The event will provide everyone with a chance to hear excerpts from the stories, to meet the regional winners and to find out, first-hand, who has been selected as the overall winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2020.
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About the Commonwealth Short Story Prize: The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is administered by the Commonwealth Foundation, through its cultural initiative Commonwealth Writers. The prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2000-5000 words). Regional winners receive £2,500 GBP and the overall winner receives £5,000 GBP. Short stories translated into English from other languages are also eligible. See more at http://www.commonwealthfoundation.com