Author Idza Luhumyo, who has just won the Caine Prize for African writing, has said that she and her fellow Kenyans “are very good at storytelling [and] we have very expressive cultures”.
In an interview with the BBC’s Newsday programme, she suggested that this might be the reason why she is now the fifth Kenyan to have won the prestigious literary award, which was announced on Monday evening.
Her short story, Five Years Next Sunday, opens with a beautiful description of hair:
My locs are just shy of five years. They flow, like water. They are fluffy and black. They are dark. I forbid anyone to touch them. I use a black scarf to cover them. And how they coil, and how heavy they are, weighing me down with the expectations of my quarter.”
Pili, the main character, has the power to call the rain through her hair and the story focuses on the choices she has to make because of that.
“What we liked about the story was the mystical office of the protagonist, who is both ostracised and yet holds the fate of her community in her hair,” judging panel chair Nigerian novelist Okey Ndibe said.
Luhumyo told the BBC that she was “thrilled” to have won the Caine Prize and saw it as evidence that her story “resonates” with the audience.
As for her next move, she said she now plans to write a novel.
“Hopefully you’ll be hearing from me in a couple of years,” she said, “but for now I’m just enjoying the moment.”