After several days and nights in conversation with the winners of the 2021 inaugural Kendeka Prize for African Literature, I have grown to truly appreciate the power of short stories and platforms that celebrate African Literature. These stories explore various topics that are close to our hearts, while sadly not being considered worthy of public speech and attention.
My first conversation was with Jenny Robson from Botswana, who I discovered has been writing for over 30 years, having started at the age of 38. Her winning story, “Water for Wine”, is an exploration of social hierarchy and the different ways social status influences how people treat each other.
Then I spoke to the second place winner, Fatima Okhuosami from Nigeria on “The Women of Atinga House”, a captivating story of women that have found themselves in a tough situation because of life’s blows.
In third place is Okpanachi Irene Ojochegbe from Nigeria, whose story, “Au Pair”, follows the journey of a young woman from Africa to France in search for a better life and with the hopes of breaking her family’s chain of poverty. It is a lucid interpretation of tags, identity and belonging.
It was my honour to talk to these writers, unpack their stories, connect to their personal lives, and bring them to you so you too can experience the power of their words and the goodness of their work.
The conversations with the winners will be shared here, at Africa in Dialogue, a day at a time, from the 16th to the 18th of November 2021.
Below are links to the stories, the names of the writers, and their nationalities:
“Water for Wine” – Jenny Robson (Botswana)
“The Women of Atinga House” – Fatima Okhuosami (Nigeria)
“Au Pair” – Okpanachi Irene Ojochegbe (Nigeria)
More information about the Kendeka Prize for African Literature and the shortlisted writers can be found here.
Warm appreciation to Nkateko Masinga for continuously holding my hand and in this particular series, for swiftly connecting me to Andrew Maina, the founder of the Kendeka Prize, who helped me to reach the writers.
Charity Ngabirano is a Ugandan lawyer and short story writer. She worked with the Centre for African Cultural Excellence as the project coordinator for Writivism in its inaugural year, 2013. Her work has appeared in The Kampala Sun, Afreecan Read Magazine and is forthcoming in Sahifa magazine. She lives in Kampala with her husband and their two beautiful daughters as a full-time mother.