2021 Toyin Falola Prize


It is a joyous thing to encounter a work that sways in gentle but firm ways. But for a work to haunt at the same time reflects ingenuity. Following the unveiling at the just concluded Ake Arts and Book Festival, LUNARIS is proud to announce that the winner of the 2021 edition of the Toyin Falola Prize is the South African Tshepiso Mabula, for her deeply moving story, “Iphupho Le Vezandlebe”, that cuts right through tissues and bones into the soul. The story’s simultaneously a scenic and an absorbing narration of what is both a uniquely (South) African affair, which reminds us of how far the continent has come, and the indubitably dogged spirit that drives its peoples through decades of sacrificial living and hopeful moments toward a future sometimes quixotic, sometimes not.

It has been an extended journey we must say. But we are grateful for the partnerships that have brought us this far. Our gratitude goes to our institutional and media partners, Ake Arts and Book Festival, Pan-African University Press, Praxis Magazine, James Murua’s Literary Blog, Toyin Falola Center for the Study of Africa, BIGSAS Festival of African and African-Diasporic Literature, and Babcock University.

We would also like to thank our diligent readers for always sparing the time to do what is largely volunteer work in contributing to the growth of literature on the continent. Our immense gratitude goes to this year’s judges, Akwasi Aidoo and Nerine Dorman. Brilliant and assiduous judges you are!

We are happy that this year we were able to extend prize gifts to the shortlisted writers as well as increase the winner’s prize. This is a result of the generous bump we received in prize money from our sponsor. We hope to make more strides in this regard and are open to collaborations on how to contribute to this continent that we love so much.

While we await the publication of In the Sands of Time, the anthology from last year’s prize edition, join us in wishing Tsepiso Mabula sincere congratulations!



From the longlist of 11 entries to a strong shortlist of 6 stories.

Following the feedback of our judges and readers on the longlist, we do not doubt any of the stories making the shortlist, and this particularly emphasizes the quality of stories we received as well as that of those that have made it this far. Thus, we acknowledge the assiduousness of our judges in making this list possible. Also, we consider ourselves fortunate to be witnessing this period in African history and literature, and to be positioned as bearers of these tremendous reads to the world!

Mentioned in no order of importance:

  1. “Superposition” – Justin Clement 
  2. “Iphopho Le Vezandlebe” – Tshepiso Mabula 
  3. “Sinmot” – Blessing Nwodo 
  4. “Should have Listened to Mother” – Mandisi Nkomo 
  5. “Hunger for Crystals” – Ernestine-Vera Kabushemeye 
  6. “Eavesdroppers” – Mary-Ann Egbudom

Our judges have praised “Iphopho Le Vezandlebe” for its excellent narrative and intriguing weaving of time that allowed the story to move several bodies and minds effortlessly through loops of time. Justin Clement’s story, “Superposition,” received effusive mentions for its character-development strategies and the way it deftly shifts scenes in the mind of the readers. “Sinmot” by Blessing Nwodo also stood out for the vivid world it builds, a world crafted not only to upend familiar understanding of power dynamics but provoke readers into reconsidering popular understanding of the present. “Should have Listened to Mother” by Mandisi Nkomo packs a lot into making highly remarkable characters around whom the plot pivots, “Hunger for Crystals” by Ernestine-Vera Kabushemeye wields a story whose own materials penetrate the characters, and “Eavesdroppers” develops a main character whose presence fills up the plot without consuming it.

Once again, we are happy about this shortlist, and we hope that the coming weeks will yield a worthy winner from this already excellent pool. Given the strength of the stories in this shortlist and the Prize’s vision to support literature on and outside the continent, not only will each shortlisted story receive $200; the strongest entries from the submissions received by the Prize will be published in an edited volume by 2022.

To the shortlisted writers, cheers!


It is exciting to note that the Toyin Falola Prize, now in its second year, continues to pace itself in its goal as a driver of creativity. While we announced earlier that the following long-listed entries are selected from 495 eligible submissions received, what we’ve not added is that the number of ineligible submissions is overwhelming. The decision to be particularly stringent regarding the submission guidelines wasn’t an easy one, since we had to let go of many entries, but was of uttermost importance if we are to maintain the integrity and vision of the Prize, as well as to ensure it is deservedly awarded.

Listed (only numerically) below are the 11 stories that have made the long list:

  1. “Hold Day” – Nana Adwoa Tweneboah Amponsah-Mensah 
  2. “Iphopho Le Vezandlebe” – Tshepiso Mabula 
  3. “Scars Without a Wound” – David Okigbo 
  4. “Breaking the System” – Adewunmi Aboyade 
  5. “Sinmot” – Blessing Nwodo 
  6. “Inside the Eye” – Racquel Anyango 
  7. “Eavesdroppers” – Mary-Ann Egbudom 
  8. “Should have Listened to Mother” – Mandisi Nkomo 
  9. “Lotanna Rising” – Michael Nwanolue 
  10. “Hunger for Crystal” – Ernestine-Vera Kabushemeye 
  11. “Superposition” – Justin Clement 

It is refreshing to note that majority of the stories from the pool where this longlist has emerged performed beyond expectations when the call was made for creative writers to speculate narratives that creatively envision Africanfutures. From the position of our judges, we know that these stories have not only alerted us to the immeasurably talented cohort of writers working within and outside of the continent but have also acquainted us with the ways they are pushing the boundaries of how to imaginatively conceive a future for the continent.

To say this is exciting is to understate the importance of these stories and their writers, in this present moment and for the continent. As noted by the judges, Nerine Dorman and Akwasi Aidoo, the diverse submissions are between strong and excellent in their use of dialogues, imagination, and writing, all of which have culminated in enthralling reads.

We, at LUNARIS, are excited to share this longlist with you and to assure you about the prospects of the Toyin Falola Prize in promoting through curatorial initiatives and narratives that redefine Africa against divisive moulds. While we all anticipate other subsequent announcements, congratulations to the long-listed writers.