The Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize was founded in 2014 by Mukoma Wa Ngugi, English Professor at Cornell University, and Lizzy Attree, director of the Caine Prize, to promote writing in African languages and encourage translation from, between and into African languages.
The winners were selected from 65 manuscripts, which were read by six judges. For fiction, Farouk Topan, Sheila Ryanga and Mohamed Bakari; and for poetry, Rukiya Harith Swaleh, Clara Momanyi and Alamin Mazrui.
2015 Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize winners:
- 1st Fiction Prize (5 000 US dollars): Anna Samwel Manyanza for Penzi la Damu
- 1st Poetry Prize (5 000 US dollars): Mohammed K Ghassani for N’na Kwetu
- 2nd Prize (3 000 US dollars) in any genre: Enock Maregesi for Kolonia Santita (fiction)
- 3rd prize (2 000 US dollars) in any genre: Christopher Bundala Budebah for Kifaurongo (poetry)
The judges said: “Using captivating, measured, flowing and sometimes humorous poetic language the winners address issues facing East African societies such as drugs and the harm and violence they unleash globally, gender relations – the agency of women and their rights, and political corruption. This is African neorealism in an African language at its best.”
Wa Ngugi says the prize’s reception has been very promising. “The amount of support we have received shows that there is hunger and room for writing in African languages, that the African literary tradition can flourish in African languages and that is possible to fund the growth of African languages through African led philanthropy,” he says.
Attree says: “We would like to thank all those who entered their manuscripts and hope that this year’s award will encourage more writers to enter next year’s prize.”
The prizes will be awarded at the Kwani? Litfest on 3 December, 2015, at the Capital Club in Nairobi, Kenya.
Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize information
1) Award Criteria: The prize will be awarded to the best unpublished manuscript or book published within two years of the award year across the categories of fiction, poetry and memoir, and graphic novels. The total proposed awards of 15,000 US dollars will be divided as follows:
1st Fiction/Non-Fiction Prize 5 000 US dollars; 1st Poetry Prize, 5 000 US dollars
2nd Prize 3 000 US dollars in any genre
3rd prize 2 000 US dollars in any genre
2) The winning entry will be published in Kiswahili by East African Educational Publishers (EAEP). The best poetry book will be translated and published by the Africa Poetry Book Fund.
3) An award ceremony will be held in Kenya with the four prize winning writers in attendance. The writers will be invited to a residence at Cornell University for one week after which they will then be in residence for an additional week at a partner institution (in the USA or in Africa) in 2016.
Submissions for 2016: Please send unpublished manuscripts or books (fiction, poetry and memoir, or graphic novels) published in Kiswahili within two years of the award year to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 31st 2016. Manuscripts should not be less than 50 000 words for fiction and 60 pages for poetry.
Judges will rotate each year and will be selected by the prize’s Trustees (TBA).
The deadline for submissions is 31 March, 2016. The shortlist will be announced in July and the winner announced in October 2016.