Mary Ononokpono is the winner of this year’s edition of the “The Short Story is Dead, Long Live the Short Story!” Prize 2017. Osemegbe Aito and Tina Chiwashira take second and third place respectively.
The Short Story is Dead, Long Live the Short Story! has in the last few years given voice to new writers whose work might otherwise have ended up languishing in the cacophony of online publications. The competition and anthology, brought by South Africa based Black Letter Media, has featured Lauri Kubuitsile (Botswana), Chiaka Obasi (Nigeria), Tebogo Ndlovu (Zimbabwe), Emmanuel Ogukwe (Nigeria), Sitawa Namwalie (Kenya), and Obinna Udenwe (Nigeria).
This year the competition kicked off earlier in the year with a call out before a longlist was announced in August featuring 19 of some of the best talent coming out of the continent right now. That followed the shortlist in October which had on writing talent from East, West and South Africa. On the list were Eliza Mabungu (South Africa), Michel Tumuhimbise (Uganda), Tina Chiwashira (Zimbabwe), Osemegbe Aito (Nigeria), Mary Ononokpono (Nigeria), and Mwikali Mutune (Kenya).
The winner of the award has been announced and it goes this year to Mary Ononokpono for her story, Firewater. This isn’t the first time this writer has been featured on this blog. Ononokpono first emerged on the African literary scene when she was one of the winners of the Golden Baobab Prize in 2014. The year after that she popped up on the shortlist of the Mile Morland Scholarship 2015 although she did not get it. Two years later, we saw her short story talent shining when she was longlisted for the Short Story Day Africa Prize 2016.
Speaking about the prize winning story the judges said, “with the opening line – “I was born beneath the ocean waves, or so that’s what they tell me” – Mary Ononokpono’s Firewater draws us into a world where the line between real and ethereal is immaterial. And in this enchanting old world, there are many lines blurring in this world as the community tries to protect itself from the outside world not realising that change can sneak in even when you try to keep it out. The author succeeds in painting a world so wondrous that we get lost in it following this girl who has no name, is drawn to the waters and will be outside of the fold.”
Mary Ononokpono will receive R5 000 while the other winners Osemegbe Aito receives R1 500 while third prize for Tina Chiwashira gets R500.