What has your favourite drink won you? All my life, I thought Coca-Cola was the drink for champions. Little did I know, that her cousin, the melanin-rich Fanta Blackcurrant was actually the one. Now I wish Makena Onjerika had shared the secret with Nigerians, maybe the Super Eagles would have gone farther in the World Cup since Coca-Cola and Pepsi didn’t really work like that like that. I mean, Makena just became £10,000 richer! #MakenaAllTheWay #MakenaIssaGoal
By now, you must be wondering who Makena Onjerika is. She is a Nairobi-based Kenyan writer and graduate of the MFA Creative Writing Programme at New York University. Just last night, Makena was announced as the 2018 Winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story, Fanta Blackcurrant which was published in Wasafiri, a quarterly British literary magazine covering international contemporary writing.
Fanta Blackcurrant is set in the streets of Nairobi and is a story of Meri, a child survives off her high level of street credibility. As reward for her charisma and natural intelligence, Meri wants only a big bottle of Fanta Blackcurrant every day. Unfortunately, her street credibility is not enough, as she eventually lands herself into trouble with a Nairobi’s madams who in turn, send their boys after her. In a way, Meri reminds me of the character, Night in Queen of Katwe (which was also set in Kenya)young, wild yet lovable, stubborn and fierce.
Speaking of fierceness, Dinaw Mengetsu, chair of this year’s Caine Prize judge described Makena Onjerika’s story as fierce. Here’s what he had 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’.
Makena’s story emerged out of five finalists including three Nigerians to become the nineteenth winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, a literary prize awarded to an African writer of a short story published in English. The prize aims at highlighting and encouraging the diversity and grandeur of African writing, by bringing it to global acclaim.
Congratulations, Makena! One day, I will write about Coca-Cola and who knows, win something for it.