Efemia Chela was born in Chikankata, Zambia, but grew up in England, Ghana, Botswana and South Africa. She graduated with a BA in French, Politics and Classical Civilizations from Rhodes University. Chicken was her first published story and it won third place in the Short Story Day Africa 2013 competition, “Feast, Famine and Potluck”. She discusses her reaction to the Caine Prize shortlist, her influences and social media.
Congratulations on being shortlisted for the Caine Prize. How did you feel when you found out you’ve been shortlisted and what does it mean to you?
I was in complete shock. I hadn’t thought my writing to be the same calibre of past and current Caine Prize nominees. I didn’t expect Chicken to be so well received. It means the world to me.
I’ve had a difficult year and Caine affords me an amazing opportunity to write, talk about writing and engage with other writers which I love doing.
You are half Ghanian, half Zambian, and per your bio, grew up in both countries as well as England, Botswana and South Africa. How has that influenced your writing, if any?
I think my travels have completely shaped me. I have a very strange way of viewing the world now. I’ve been exposed to a lot of different cultures, literary traditions, people and situations, which I think benefits me as a writer. I think travel is a theme I address in my writing often. That is, travel emotionally and physically, displacement of the body and mind as well as what effect the African diaspora has on an individual.
Tell us about your short story Chicken and the inspiration behind it?
I don’t want to spoil Chicken for anyone who hasn’t read it yet so I won’t go into too much detail but it’s a short story about the blur between girl and woman. It’s a story about modern cities and old traditions. It’s a story about coming from-s and going to-s. It’s a story about feminism in the 21st century and young Africans. You should definitely read it. It’s available here as a free pdf www.caineprize.org.
Who are some of your literary influences?
I have a lot of literary influences. I didn’t have that many friends in high school so I did a lot of reading. I admire the wit and turn of phrase of Dorothy Parker and Stephen Fry. The politics inherent in the works of Frantz Fanon and Chinua Achebe informs my writing. Some of my favourite writers are Margaret Atwood, Martin Amis, Haruki Murakami, Chuck Palahnuik, J.G. Ballard, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Douglas Coupland, Toni Morrison, Ovid, Georges Perec, T.S. Eliot and Slyvia Plath. So I suppose they all influence me in some way. I also draw a lot of inspiration from art and music.
What can we expect from you next?
Hahaha. Expect nothing. No really, I would like to push myself more as a writer and see where my imagination takes me and which formats suit it best. I’m focusing on a lot of free writing and experimentation. I would love to release a graphic novel but that’s a long work in progress. We’ll see I suppose.
Bonus Question: I love all your tweets on Twitter and the interesting pics on Fb. Any thoughts on social media
Social media is great as long as you don’t get too caught up in it. It’s a new way of engaging with the world. I use my twitter account (@efemiachela) to complain, pick up ideas, learn about the world, record links and thoughts and explore other people. I love how much following the right people on Twitter like you, @shortstorydayAFR, @rachelhamada, @DynamicAfrica keep me up to date with what’s going on with African literature and activity on the continent.