At the 2015 ceremony of the Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize. Credit: The Star.

The Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature has announced its 2019 shortlists in fiction and poetry. Founded in 2014 by Dr. Lizzy Attree, long-time Caine Prize administrator and now Short Story Day Africa board member, and Dr. Mukoma wa Ngugi, Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies at Cornell, the prize “has the express goal of recognizing writing in African languages and encouraging translation from, between and into African languages.

Here are the shortlists:


Ziaka Imetoboka, Theuri Maina (Kenya)

Mimi na Rais, Lello Mmassy (Tanzania)

Safari ya Matumaini, Wanyonyi John Wanyama (Kenya)


Nusu ya Moyo, Moh’d Khamis Songoro (Tanzania)

Mji wa Kambare! Diwani ya Mnenaji!, Arshad Ali (Tanzania)

Mama Usihuzunike, Nassor Hilal Kharusi (Zanzibar/Tanzania)

The press release to Brittle Paper, from Moses Kilolo, states that the judging panel evaluated 96 submissions. The panel comprises: Professor Clara Momanyi, the Kenyan academic and Kiswahili Literature scholar; Ahmed Rajab, the Zanzibari-born international journalist and columnist for the Tanzanian weekly Raia Mwema; and Dr. Amiri Swaleh, Head of Kiswahili Literature Department at the University of Nairobi.

The Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature Board of Trustees includes Abdilatif Abdalla as Chair, Mukoma wa Ngugi, Lizzy Attree, Happiness Bulugu, Walter Bgoya, Henry Chakava, Chege Githiora, Abdulrazak Gurnah, 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, a subsidiary of the Safal Group; The Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs at Cornell University; The Africana Studies Center at Cornell University; and the Ngugi wa Thiong’o Foundation, created to “raise the visibility of African languages as vehicles for performance, creativity, innovations, and scholarship. . . the new intellectual frontier in everything from culture, biological sciences, technology and medicine.” Literary partners include the African Poetry Book Fund (APBF), and the publishing presses Mkuki na Nyota Publishers and East African Educational Publishers.

Follow the prize on Twitter, at @KiswahiliPrize, and on Facebook.

For more information, contact Professor Mukoma wa Ngugi on [email protected], Dr. Lizzy Attree on [email protected], or Moses Kilolo at [email protected].

Brittle Paper congratulates the six finalists.