Here at Zeda, we love seeing women win. This time it’s Makena Onjerika, a Kenyan author who’s bagged the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing for her story Fanta Blackcurrant. She was among 4 other shortlisted writers: Nonyelum Ekwempu (Nigeria), Stacy Hardy (South Africa), Olufunke Ogundimu (Nigeria) and Wole Talabi (Nigeria).

Fanta Blackcurrant chronicles the life of a street child named Meri who tries to use her “intelligence and charisma” to make a living. But all she wants at the end of each day is ‘a big Fanta Blackcurrant for her to drink every day and it never finish”. Following a series of events in her involvement in the sex trade, she gets pregnant. She cunningly steals from business women until criminals catch up with her, beat and leave her for dead. Meri manages to recover after a long time, then she ‘crossed the river and then we do not know where she went’.

After the announcement of her win, Makena tweeted: #CainePrize2018 to be announced at around 9:45pm. Some of us are looking forward to the wine. Some of us to the food. None of us knows what we’ll say for three hours at dinner. All of us hope the air-con will be just right.

The Chair of the judging panel, Dinaw Mengestu had this to say about the winning story: “The winner of this year’s Caine Prize is as fierce as they come—a narrative forged but not defined by the streets of Nairobi, a story that stands as more than just witness. Makena Onjerika’s ‘Fanta Blackcurrant’ presides over a grammar and architecture of its own making, one that eschews any trace of sentimentality in favour of a narrative that is haunting in its humour, sorrow and intimacy.”

Fanta Blackcurrant was first published in Wasafiri in 2017. Onjerika joins other Kenyan writers to win this award alongside Binyavanga Wainaina (2002), Okwiri Oduor (2013) and Yvonne Owuor (2003).

The prize comes with a monetary reward of £10,000.  Makena told BBC that she will donate half her prize money to helping street children, and use the rest to “buy a car or maybe a motorcycle to get through traffic jams in Nairobi.”

Congratulations Makena!


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