Fiji writer, Mary Rokonadravu has won the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize (Pacific) for her story, The Nightwatch. Rokonadravu described the win as affirming. “Stories are bridges to connect us with each other, especially when we disagree or are different – stories allow us to walk in each other’s complexities and gain understanding of the familiar. Facts don’t do that.”
She adds, “I don’t have to leave the islands of the Pacific in order to be heard. I chose to remain in Fiji, to remain in the Pacific, and to tell stories from here. It was a difficult choice early on because there is no literary and publishing infrastructure in Fiji and this win is reaffirming.”
The Nightwatch is a story about the plight of ordinary people within the machinations of capitalism and Christian fundamentalism, the effect these influences have on indigenous peoples and their responses to national and global events—and a story about unlikely sources of compassion. It tells the tale of a group of unrelated individuals drawn together through a series of events involving mining, marginal employment, sex work, and the baking of bread against the backdrop of a coup and the rise of a Christian prophetess.