Caine Prize 2014 is here. The short listed authors have been announced. One of them is a 21-year old Efemia Chela whose story is titled, "Chicken".
"Chicken" is an emotional story of a young educated woman by the name of Kaba, daughter of a wealthy African family. Kaba’s got quality academic degree for which the African employment market is not ready for. Her parents insist she go back to campus for what they consider a better degree, in Law, especially since she is still young. She is not ready and takes up a job as an intern in a global firm, hoping to use it as a springboard to a paid job. All she comes up with is a business card, stolen from the pocket of a superior, made lame by drug addiction.
Life becomes extremely tough since her parents have become increasing unsupportive in terms of the stipend they have provided to help her pay rent and take care of other recurrent demands. The parents are using this as a weapon to get her to cave in to their demand that she have a professional switch. Eventually, the hard knock life pushes her to prostitution. But seeing that prostitution isn’t going to make things easier, she remembers the stolen business card and where it points to: an agency accepting the donation of female sex cells which are made available to needy couples.
In the end a baby results from her donation. Her experience teaches her that for every individual, life presents a spectrum of options: benign and otherwise. She is not mothering the result of her ovum donation but prays, so deeply, that life sways the destiny of the baby in a direction entirely opposite to her own bitter experiences.
Efemia writes with an extremely covert chic, demanding that one reads with highly concentrated mental energy. The theme of her writing is, definitely, creative, demonstrating that besides those issues of poverty, corruption, war and crime that has preoccupied the minds of most African writers, there are other issues that have been little explored or never at all. Thus her story features the issue of same-sex relationships which Efemia appears to favor. She calls attention to the kaleidoscope, there is in African cuisines and not forgetting to cause a splurge on the struggle for the possession of the minds of Africans, between Africa and the West.
Young Efemia, in her writing also showed how permissive she can be when she writes: “it (the wind) pranked me in public, lifting my skirt. I got used to a flash of my thigh and untrimmed hedge creeping just past my briefs. I wasn’t having enough sex to be greatly concerned with my appearance down there.”
There is a little of that collision that plays up the fiction that the story is. Such wealthy parents, especially in Africa, would hardly allow their children to go through such ordeals. They haven’t got that guts; they love the child plus they would not be able to shoulder the reputation crash that comes with such abandonment.