Zainab Alwi Baharoon. Photo credit: Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature.  

The 2018 winners of the Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature winners will be honoured at the University of Dar es Salaam on February 15, at a ceremony organized by ALAF Ltd. The prize winners are the Tanzanian Zainab Alwi Baharoon, for her novel Mungu Hakopeshwi, and the Kenyan Jacob Ngumbau Julius, for his poetry collection Moto wa Kifuu. Both writers will receive $5,000 each.

Founded in 2014 by Dr Lizzy Attree, former director of the Caine Prize and now board member of Short Story Day Africa, and novelist and poet Mukoma wa Ngugi, Professor of English at Cornell University, the $15,000 Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature “has the express goal of recognizing writing in African languages and encouraging translation from, between and into African languages.” It is “awarded to the best unpublished manuscripts, or books published within two years of the award year, across the categories of fiction, poetry and memoir, and graphic novels.” The winner of the poetry category is published in English translation by the Africa Poetry Book Fund (APBF). Winners in other categories are published in Kiswahili by Mkuki na Nyota Publishers and East African Educational Publishers (EAEP). For 2018, only two first prize winners were selected in each category.

Jacob Ngumbau Julius. Photo credit: Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature.  

The other works shortlisted were:

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For poetry:

  • Wino wa Dhahabu by Bashiru Abdallah (Tanzania)
  • Sauti Yangu by Mohamed Idrisa Haji (Tanzania)

For fiction:

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  • Kilinge cha Hukumu ya Dhambi by Yasini Hamisi Shekibulah (Tanzania)
  • Makovu ya Uhai by Shisia Wasilwa (Kenya)

The six finalists were chosen from 116 entries. The judges are: Ahmad Kipacha, a Lecturer of Research Communication with the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Tanzania; fiction writer Natalie Arnold Koenings, a Swahili and English literary translator and anthropologist at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, USA; and literary critic and novelist Rocha Chimerah, Professor of Kiswahili Linguistics at Pwani University, Kilifi, Kenya.

The Prize’s Board of Trustees includes Abdilatif Abdalla as Chair, Mukoma wa Ngugi, Lizzy Attree, Happiness Bulugu, Walter Bgoya, Henry Chakava, Chege Githiora, Carole Boyce Davies, Rajeev Shah, and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.

The Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature is primarily supported by Mabati Rolling Mills of Kenya, a subsidiary of the Safal Group, and Cornell University’s Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs and Africana Studies Center.

For more information, please visit the Prize’s website.