Kenyan writer Makena Onjerika has won the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing with her story “Fanta Blackcurrant”.
Five writers short stories had been shortlisted for the big prize this year: Nonyelum Ekwempu (Nigeria), Olufunke Ogundimu (Nigeria) and Wole Talabi (Nigeria) Stacy Hardy (South Africa) and Makena Onjerika (Kenya).
First published in Wasafiri in 2017, the story explores the life of a street child named Meri who is trying to use her “intelligence and charisma” to make a living. “Meri’s one dream is to have “a big Fanta Blackcurrant for her to drink every day and it never finish”. “She later becomes a sex worker and gets pregnant. After developing a talent for stealing from successful businesswomen, she is violently beaten by local criminals which she survives, later crossing a river – the story ending with the words “and then we do not know where she went”.
Onjerika told BBC she was surprised to win and had in fact betted against herself being awarded the prize:
The Caine Prize for African Writing
“The Caine Prize for African Writing is a literature prize awarded to an African writer of a short story published in English. The prize was launched in 2000 to encourage and highlight the richness and diversity of African writing by bringing it to a wider audience internationally. The focus on the short story reflects the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition.”
Onjerika is the fourth Kenyan writer to win this award alongside Okwiri Oduor (2013), Yvonne Owuor (2003), and Binyavanga Wainaina (2002). She told the BBC she will donate half of her £10,000 ($13,000) winnings to help rehabilitate street children.