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Bristol graduate wins 'African Booker'

24 July 2006

South African writer and Bristolgraduate Mary Watson (MA 2003) has won the Caine prize for African writing, beating authors from across the continent to the £10,000 award.

South African writer and Bristol graduate Mary Watson (MA 2003) has won the Caine prize for African writing, beating authors from across the continent to the £10,000 award.

Mary was awarded the prize this July at a celebratory dinner in the Bodleian Library in Oxford for her short story Jungfrau, which portrays a child's attempts to understand the tensions in her family.

'It is a powerfully written narrative that works skilfully through a child's imagination to suggest a world of insights about familial and social relationships in the new South Africa', said Dr Nana Wilson-Tagoe, the chair of judges.

Mary was born and lives in Cape Town. She studied film and television production at Bristol and now lectures in film studies at the University of Cape Town, where she received a Meritorious Publication Award for Moss, the collection of stories in which Jungfrau was first published. She is currently working on her first novel, as well as on a collaborative novel with a group of other South African writers.

Known as the ‘African Booker’, the prize is awarded to a short story published in English by an African writer whose work reflects African sensibilities. The prize has been steadily growing in visibility since its introduction in 2000, with this year seeing the highest-yet number of entries: 110 from 21 African countries.

Previous winners of the prize include Brian Chikwava fromZimbabwe, Kenyan writer and journalist Binyavanga Wainaina, and Commonwealth Writers prize-winner Helon Habila. The four African winners of the Nobel prize for literature – Wole Soyinka, Nadine Gordimer, Naguib Mahfouz and JM Coetzee – are patrons of the prize.