Mabati – Cornell Kiswahili prize for African literature

Mabati – Cornell winners of the Kiswahili Prize for African Literature to be awarded today at the Kenya National Theatre

Winners 2015

Mabati – Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature winners will receive their awards today, 13th February 2018, at 2.30pm. The 2017 winners were shortlisted from 30 entries which were read by 3 judges: Ken Walibora Waliaula who is the chair judge, Daulat Abdalla Said, Assistant Lecturer at the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA), and Ali Attas, Kiswahili and English teacher at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan.

Winners 2016

The Kiswahili Prize for African Literature was created by Dr Lizzy Attree, who is the Director of the Caine Prize for African writing, and Prof. Mukoma wa Ngugi of Cornell University in 2014. The prize was created for the express purpose of recognizing writing in African languages and encouraging translation from, between and into African languages. It is sponsored by Mabati Rolling Mills Ltd which is a part of the Safal Group, Africa’s largest roofing company, the Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs at Cornell University and the Africana Studies Center at Cornell University.

The winners of the 2017 competition were announced on 15th January 2018 by the chair of the board of Trustees, Abdilatif Abdalla. The winners are Dotto Rangimoto from Tanzania who submitted Mwanangu Rudi Nyumbani (Poetry) and Ali Hilala Ali, another Tanzanian, who submitted Mmeza Fupa (Fiction).

Award Ceremony 2016

The judges’ submitted the following comments about the winners’ manuscripts according to the Cornell University website:

“In Mwanangu Rudi Nyumbani one encounters seductive metaphors and imagery, effectively and successfully used in diverse Kiswahili poetic forms and styles while articulating concerns that have a direct bearing on the human condition. Dotto discusses weighty and serious matters but in a manner that doesn’t burden the reader. Instead, he encourages one to keep on reading. He is a master of the craft. The volume is a great contribution to contemporary Kiswahili poetry.”

“Rarely does one encounter a Kiswahili novel whose writer has exhibited the nuanced mastery of artistic language which naturally flows and without traces of artificiality. In Mmeza Fupa the various characters – main and otherwise – convey and represent the different social strata, with their attendant historical, political, psychological, cultural, rural and urban environments and concomitant contradictions. Although set on an imaginary island, the political novel is clearly speaking to what ails the African continent. Mmeza Fupa has opened a new door in this particular genre in Kiswahili Literature.”

Dr Manu Chandaria, Founding chair of MRM, speaking at the 2016 award ceremony

The other works shortlisted include:

  1. Mbaruk Ally – Hali Halisi (Poetry)
  2. Hassan Omar Mambosasa – Nsungi (Fiction)
  3. Mwendas Mbatiah – Kibweta cha Almasi (Fiction)
  4. Richard Atuti Nyabuya – Umalenga wa Nyanda za Juu (Poetry)

The winners of the prize will each take home a cash prize of $5000.


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