We are looking for Commonwealth citizens to share their views ahead of the 2024 Heads of Government Meeting. Sign up to take part

2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Eswatini chemist and writer Ntsika Kota has won the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

The Commonwealth Foundation announced Ntsika Kota’s win in an online award ceremony on 21 June, hosted by spoken word poet Mr Gee and featuring 2022 Chair of the judges Guyanese writer Fred D’Aguiar, this year’s international judging panel, the five regional winners, and 2021 #CWprize winner Kanya D’Almeida. Music for the ceremony was provided by Zambian musician and activist pilAto.

Ntsika, from Mbabane, Eswatini, was announced as the winner by Mr Gee in the online ceremony, and he is the first person from Eswatini to take the prize.

 

‘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 calibre 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 couldn’t 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 distinguished company? Fantasise if you will, I told myself, but for goodness sake, be realistic. Imagine my surprise, then, when I got that call.’
Ntsika Kota

Ntsika Kota’s winning story, ‘and the earth drank deep’, is a tale from the distant past of our species; of a day when cold blood flowed for the first time, and the earth drank deep. Louise Umutoni-Bower, judge for the Africa region, found ‘and the earth drank deep’ to be ‘a universal story. One that reaches across cultures and generations. A story that uses African folktale in a way that remains true to form but is also accessible. It is a reminder of a time when storytelling had a prized place in social gatherings. I was personally transported back to the floor by my mother’s feet where I quietly listened to tales of Rwandan folk heroes and villains. The judges felt that in this story we could see ourselves; what it means to be human. The willingness of the writer to put ‘evil’ on display without interrogation or judgement was commended.’

You can hear Ntsika read an extract from his story in the ceremony, and you can read ‘and the earth drank deep’ now on Granta.

The moment Ntsika Kota finds out that he is the overall winner of the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Chair of the judges, Guyanese writer Fred D’Aguiar, said the following:

‘This year’s winner is an instant classic: a linear narrative in the tradition of the realist short story. The events unfold around a central ethical conceit with tension that accumulates, and a surprise ending leaves the reader with many questions and in a state of provocation. The deceitfully simple and straightforward style rubs against an artful orchestration of tension. The writer controls elements of character and plot to captivate the most sceptical of readers. The reader inherits a host of hot topics for discussion at the end of the story all of which shine back at the reader’s world. Like the best parables the result is an interplay between story and reality, invention and the quotidian, the writer’s imagination and the world of the reader.’
Fred D’Aguiar

Born in Mbabane, Eswatini, Ntsika Kota is a chemist by training. A self-taught writer, he was originally inspired by a high school writing assignment. Ntsika’s work is a reflection of his thoughts and feelings, and he enjoys creating that reflection.

‘Ntsika’s wonderful success is a reminder of what makes the Prize unique. It is an opportunity for writers from across the Commonwealth to express themselves, regardless of where they live or their previous writing experience. How fitting that Ntsika – a self-taught writer, hailing from one of the smaller eligible states – should triumph. His success is a reminder of the universality of writing and storytelling. We all have that special power for storytelling within us, if we can only find a platform to unleash it. The Prize also has an uncanny ability to unearth new talent that then takes the world by storm. After reading ‘and the earth drank deep’, I am sure that trend will continue.’
Dr Anne T. Gallagher AO, Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation

The 2022 regional winners are:

Ntsika Kota (Eswatini) for Africa, Sofia Mariah Ma (Singapore) for Asia, Cecil Browne (UK/St Vincent and the Grenadines) for Canada and Europe, Diana McCaulay (Jamaica) for the Caribbean, and Mary Rokonadravu (Fiji) for the Pacific. Overall, there were 6730 entries from 52 Commonwealth countries this year, with 26 stories shortlisted. Find out more about the regional winners and their stories here, and this year’s 26 shortlisted writers from across the Commonwealth here. The shortlisted stories will be published on adda later in the year.

This year’s judging panel was chaired by Guyanese writer Fred D’Aguiar. On the panel were Rwandan publisher Louise Umutoni-Bower; Indian writer Jahnavi Barua; Cypriot-born poet and translator Stephanos Stephanides; award-winning writer Kevin Jared Hosein from Trinidad and Tobago; and Wiradjuri writer, poet and academic from Australia, Jeanine Leane.

In partnership with Commonwealth Writers, the literary magazine Granta has published all of the regional winning stories of the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, including ‘and the earth drank deep’.

All five regional winning stories will also be available in a special print collection from Paper + Ink. Please visit their website for further details.

 

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2,000–5,000 words). Regional winners each receive £2,500 and the opportunity to be published online by Granta magazine, and the overall winner receives £5,000. As well as English, stories are accepted in the Bengali, Chinese, Creole, French, Greek, Kiswahili, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Tamil and Turkish languages. Translated entries from any language into English are also eligible. If the winning story is a translation, the translator receives additional prize money.

The competition is free to enter and open to any citizen of a Commonwealth country who is aged 18 and over.

The 2023 Prize will open for submissions from 1 September 2022. Submissions should be made via the online entry form which will be available on our website between 1 September 2022 and 1 November 2022.