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The Results Are In: Makena Onjerika Wins 2018 Caine Prize

Kenyan author Makena Onjerika just won the Caine prize for her story "Fanta Blackcurrant."

Yesterday, Makena Onjerika tweeted that she was looking forward to wine, food, and some nice air conditioning at the Caine Prize dinner, she got that and the £10,000 prize.

Though the Caine prize has been critiqued by many writers, it is still one of the most acclaimed awards for African writers. This year's prize went to Kenyan writer Onjekira for her story "Fanta Blackcurrant" which was first published in Wasafiri in 2017. Onjerika is the fourth Kenyan writer to win this award alongside Okwiri Oduor (2013), Yvonne Owuor (2003), and Binyavanga Wainaina (2002).


The story explores the life of a street child named Meri who is trying to use her "intelligence and charisma" to make a living. Summarizing the shortlisted story for OkayAfrica, Sabo Kpade wrote, "Fanta Blackcurrant" is the soft drink brand Makena Onjerika (Kenya) would seem to offer as a magic object in her story of the same title, but the real interest is that of Meri, a young girl who becomes the focus of her friend's attention in a Nairobi slum. It is a moralising story without a conclusive moral of its own."

In his remarks, one of the judges for this year's prize Dinaw Mengestu said, "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."

Following her win, Onjerika told BBC that she will donate half her prize money to helping street children. With the rest of the money she said, "I'll buy a car or maybe a motorcycle to get through traffic jams in Nairobi."

You can read the winning story here, or listen to it here.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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