Winners Announcement for the Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature


aquotesThe Winners of the new Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature were announced today (17 NOVEMBER 2015).  The prize has the express goal of recognizing writing in African languages and encouraging translation from, between and into African languages.  The inaugural Winners are:

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)


Selected from 65 entries the manuscripts were read by 6 judges: Fiction: Dr Farouk Topan, Prof Sheila Ryanga, Prof Mohamed Bakari. Poetry: Ms Rukiya Harith Swaleh, Prof Clara Momanyi, Prof Alamin Mazrui.

The judges said that “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 neo-realism in an African language at its best.”

The Prizes will be awarded at the Kwani? Lit Fest on 3rd December 2015 at the Capital Club in Nairobi, Kenya.

Sarit Shah, Director of Mabati Rolling Mills, Kenya:  “The increasing use of Kiswahili as the major language of communication in Eastern Africa cannot be ignored. We believe that people’s expression in language and culture enables better relationships in both their business and personal interactions. We at Safal and especially at Mabati, are proud to be part of this growing community.”

Abdilatif Abdalla, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said, “It is encouraging that so many entries were of such high
quality. But we can only award four participants with prizes. It is my hope that the other competitors will not be discouraged, but will participate in future competitions; and that some of them will find consolation by having their works published as well. They deserve it.”

Mukoma Wa Ngugi, the co-founder said that the “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.”

Lizzy Attree, the other co-founder of the new Prize said “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.”

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).  And 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 4 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 by March 31st 2016.  Manuscripts should not be less than 50,000 words for fiction and 60 pages for poetry.

Judges:  Judges will rotate each year and will be selected by the prize’s Trustees (TBA).

Dates for the Diary

The deadline for submissions is 31 March 2016. The shortlist will be announced in July and the winner announced in October 2016.

Notes to Editors

The Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African literature was founded by Prof. Mukoma Wa Ngugi and Dr. Lizzy Attree in 2014 to promote writing in African languages and encourage translation from, between and into African languages.

The Prize is primarily supported by Mabati Rolling Mills of Kenya (a subsidiary of the Safal Group), The Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs at Cornell University and the Africana Studies Center at Cornell University.

Mabati Rolling Mills is part of the Safal Group, the largest producer of steel roof sheeting on the continent, with operations in 11 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.

The Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs at Cornell University provides leadership on and helps oversee internationalization efforts at Cornell. Its goal is to work with schools, colleges, and centers to develop, support and implement plans pertaining to the university’s international dimension. The Office will provide support for the new Internationalization Council, chaired by the vice provost.

The Africana Studies and Research Center enriches the academic, cultural, and social environments on the Cornell University Ithaca campus.

East African Educational Publishers is one of Africa’s leading publishers.  EAEP strives to juggle the seemingly contradicting values of publishing works of enduring value cutting across the social, cultural, political and economic spectrum of society and at the same time excelling as a viable business that is ready to face the realities and vagaries of the technology age.

The Africa Poetry Fund Promotes and advances the development and publication of the poetic arts through its book series, contests, workshops, and seminars and through its collaborations with publishers, festivals, booking agents, colleges, universities, conferences and all other entities that share an interest in the poetic arts of Africa.

Board of Trustees: Abdilatif Abdalla (Chair), Mukoma wa Ngugi, Lizzy Attree, Happiness Bulugu, Walter Bgoya, Henry Chakava, Chege Githiora, Carole Boyce Davies, Rajeev Shah, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o – others TBA.




Contact information:

Prof. Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Cornell University,

Dr Lizzy Attree,

Categories: Announcements, News, & Upcoming

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