Miss Habiba Bekinwari Dokubo-Asari, a 500-level student of the Department of Pharmacy, University of Lagos has made the list of the 2023 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.
The creative pharmacist is the only Nigerian shortlisted for the prize out of twenty-eight (28) writers from across nineteen (19) countries and this is her first time being selected. Her short story that got her this prestigious nomination is titled ‘Arboretum’. It interrogates both collective and personal grief, and asks, “How do we pick ourselves up and keep going in the face of overwhelming tragedy?”
In the African regional prize category, Miss Habiba is shortlisted along with two Kenyan writers and three from South Africa. Other regions in the competition are Asia, Canada & Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. Regional winners will be announced on Wednesday, May 17, 2023 while the overall prize will be announced on Tuesday, June 27, 2023.
Of the shortlisted writers, there are 10 men and 18 women, all of whom are between the ages of 20 and 74 years. Their entries tackle subjects from illness, human trafficking and decay, to relationships and hope – as well as family secrets, growing up gay in a hostile world, generation gaps, bittersweet friendships, and making one’s way in the world of work.
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is an annual award presented by Commonwealth Writers. It celebrates the best unpublished short fiction between 2,000 to 5,000 words. The prize is open to citizens of member states of the Commonwealth of Nations, aged 18 and above.
Commonwealth Writers was established in 2011 as a cultural initiative of the Commonwealth Foundation. It aims to inspire, develop and connect writers across the Commonwealth.
Five judges, each representing the five regions of the Commonwealth, will join the Chair Bilal Tanweer on the 2023 judging panel. They are: Rwandan-born writer, photographer and editor, Rémy Ngamije (Africa); Sri Lankan author and publisher Ameena Hussein (Asia); British-Canadian author Katrina Best (Canada and Europe); Saint Lucian poet and novelist Mac Donald Dixon (Caribbean); and New Zealand’s former Poet Laureate, Dr. Selina Tusitala Marsh (Pacific).
Winning or being shortlisted for the prize opens a wealth of opportunities for the selected writers, propelling them further in their writing careers.
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Folasade T. Ogunsola, FAS, on behalf of the University of Lagos community, heartily congratulates Miss Habiba Bekinwari Dokubo-Asari on achieving this great feat and wishes her tremendous success in the winner selection process.