Kenyan writer Makena Onjerika has been named the recipient of the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing for a short story called “Fanta Blackcurrant.” She accepted the £10,000 prize during an award dinner held Monday evening in London.
The story of Meri, a street child in Onjerika’s home city of Nairobi, follows the child’s challenging life journey while shaped by her all-encompassing passion for the beverage that is the story’s name.
“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,” said Dinaw Mengestu, the Ethiopian-American writer serving as chairman of the judging panel. “Makena Onjerika’s ‘Fanta Blackcurrant’ presides over a grammar and architecture of its own making, one that eschews any trace of sentimentality in favor of a narrative that is haunting in its humor, sorrow and intimacy.”
Makena is a graduate of the MFA Creative Writing program at New York University, and has been published in outlets including Wasafiri, which carried “Fanta Blackcurrant” last year. “Wonderful news and a great story,” the magazine said. “We are so proud to have published it.”
Other writers making this year’s short list included Nigerians Nonyelum Ekwempu, Olufunke Ogundimu and Wole Talabi. Stacy Hardy of South Africa also was considered.
Onjerika was quick to thank those congratulating her in an outpouring of support on social media, and urged emerging writers to pursue the craft until “you turn inside out.”
Image: Caine Prize