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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, Dr. Lizzy Attree on, or Moses Kilolo at

Brittle Paper congratulates the six finalists.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, journalist, & Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. The recipient of the inaugural The Future Awards Prize for Literature in 2019, he is a judge for The Gerald Kraak Prize and was a judge for The Morland Writing Scholarship in 2019. He is Nonfiction Editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is Curator at The Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His work in queer equality advocacy in literature has been profiled in Literary Hub. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He has an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies/English & Literary Studies, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English in a private Nigerian university. Find him at, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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