Senegalese writing duo Mame Bougouma Diene and Woppa Diallo have won this year’s prestigious Caine Prize for African writing, making it the first time a pair has won the award.
Their story A Soul of Small Places is inspired by Diallo’s experience of gender-based violence in Senegal.
Her story weaves through themes of violence, revenge, love and loss.
“The story is simply my life. It’s the struggles I’ve been through that have inspired me,” Diallo said in an interview.
It was praised for its deep storytelling and ability to celebrate love while also addressing pressing global issues.
They couple met when Diene was visiting a shelter in northern Senegal where Woppa was speaking about her advocacy against gender-based violence.
“The co-authoring comes from the fact that the story could not have been written if I hadn’t met Woppa and if I hadn’t heard Woppa speak,” he says.
He added that while it was an honour to win the award, it means so much more to win as a family, along with their daughter.
“You win this prize then you’re back at the hotel changing diapers and prepare baby bottles – it’s a great reality check. It keeps you humble.”
The couple says they hope their daughter grows up knowing that what matters in life is passion.
“I hope she grows up as strong-willed, passionate and engaged in life and with issues as her mother,” Diene said.
The Caine Prize winners receive a cash gift of £10,000 ($12,000), as well as featuring their work in the 2023 Caine Prize anthology.
The award for a short story by an African writer published in English had a record-breaking 297 entries from 28 different countries this year.
Previous winners include Zimbabwe’s NoViolet Bulawayo and Kenya’s Binyavanga Wainaina.