The winners of the Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature 2017 are Tanzanians Ali Hilal Ali and Dotto Rangimoto.
The Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature is a prize is awarded to the best unpublished manuscripts, or books published within two years of the award year, across the categories of fiction, poetry and memoir, and graphic novels.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 winning entries are published in Kiswahili by East African Educational Publishers (EAEP) and Mkuki na Nyota Publishers. The best poetry book is also published but this one in English translation is done by the Africa Poetry Book Fund.
The prize worth was founded in 2014 by Dr Lizzy Attree and Prof Mukoma Wa Ngugi (Cornell University). Previous winners of the prize are Anna Samwel Manyanza (fiction), Mohammed K. Ghassani (poetry) in 2015 and Idrissa Haji Abdalla and Hussein Wamaywa (fiction) and Ahmed Hussein Ahmed (poetry) in 2016.
The 2017 edition had Ken Walibora Waliaula, scholar and writer, Daulat Abdalla Said, Assistant Lecturer at the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA), and Ali Attas, Kiswahili and English teacher at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan as judges. Ken Walibora Waliaula was the chief judge in this cycle. From the 30 entries that had been submitted, the shortlists of were announced in December and they featured some of the best writing in Kiswahili coming out of the continent today.
The winners of the 2017 edition were announced on 15 January, 2018 by chair of the Board of Trustees, Abdilatif Abdalla and they are Poetry Dotto Rangimoto (Tanzania) for Mwanangu Rudi Nyumbani and in fiction the prize went to Ali Hilal Ali (Tanzania) for Mmeza Fupa.
Speaking the two entries, the judges said;
“In Mwanangu Rudi Nyumbani one encounters seductive metaphors and imagery, effectively and successfully used in diverse Kiswahili poetic forms and styles while articulating concerns that have direct bearing to the human condition. Dotto discusses weighty and serious matters but in a manner that doesn’t burden the reader. Instead he encourages one to keep on reading. He is a master of the craft. The volume is a great contribution to contemporary Kiswahili poetry.”
On Mmeza Fupa they said;
“Rarely does one encounter a Kiswahili novel whose writer has exhibited the nuanced mastery of artistic language which naturally flows and without traces of artificiality. In Mmeza Fupa the various characters – main and otherwise – convey and represent the different social strata, with their attendant historical, political, psychological, cultural, rural and urban environments and concomitant contradictions.” “Although set on an imaginary island, the political novel is clearly speaking to what ails the African continent. Mmeza Fupa has opened a new door in this particular genre in Kiswahili Literature.”
The award ceremony where the two winners get US$5,000 will be held at an as yet announced venue in Nairobi, in February 2018.