LOCAL author Rémy Ngamije joins the ranks of Africa’s literary finest as his short story ‘The Neighbourhood Watch’ vies for the prestigious AKO Caine Prize for African Writing.
This year the award celebrates 20 years of highlighting the abundance and diversity of African literature and received a record 222 submissions from 28 countries across the continent.
Shortlisted for the eminent award alongside Erica Sugo Anyadike (Tanzania), Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigeria, UK), Jowhor Ile (Nigeria) and Irenosen Okojie (Nigeria, UK), the author underscores a flourishing literary career steadily putting Namibian fiction on the map.
Ngamije is a regular contributor to The Namibian’s Weekender supplement.
Ngamije’s debut novel ‘The Eternal Audience of One’ was published by BlackBird Books last year and his seemingly endless collection of short stories have been published in literary journals in the US, the UK, Kenya, South Africa and Egypt, with more forthcoming in various international magazines and anthologies.
“This justifies all the hard choices I have made thus far in my young life to be a writer. It is never easy to commit to a career in the arts, especially in Namibia,” he says.
I have had to give up many securities other career paths offer – this is not something that was or is easily appreciated.”
‘The Neighbourhood Watch’, which was first published in The Johannesburg Review of Books (February 2019), follows a group of homeless people trying to survive on Windhoek’s streets.
Kenneth Tharp, AKO Caine Prize chair of judges and director of the Africa Centre, said each of the shortlisted stories speak eloquently to the human condition, and to what it is to be an African.
Blazing a trail for local writers through his own work as well as via the founding of Doek!, an independent Namibian literary magazine currently nurturing and publishing local literature, Ngamije offers some financial and creative advice.
“Anyone who plans on walking the writer’s road should have some way of providing for themselves. It reduces the pressure of having to live off your craft – something which may take a while to achieve, if ever. Even the most accomplished writers of our time have day jobs,” he says.
Currently working on what he calls “a literary mix tape” comprising a collection of short stories with a particular twist, Ngamije reflects on his shortlisting a few days after the announcement with much hope for the future.
“My hope, really, is that the shortlisting draws attention to local writing, that it shows the need for literary arts to be funded – libraries, publishers, residencies, workshops and awards,” he says.
The author will be hosting Afrolit Sans Frontières Instagram Live talks with some of Africa’s best writers from 25 May.