Hekaya Arts Initiative Kiswahili Writing Competition Winners announced.

Florence Chanya Mwaita, Omar Kibulanga, and Elias B. Shelukindo are the winners of the Hekaya Arts Initiative Kiswahili Writing Competition, supported by Common Voice. The announcement was made on May 19, 2022.

Hekaya Arts Initiative is a Mombasa, Kenya-based arts organisation that seeks to elevate literature from the Indian Ocean coast. Their most famous initiative is the Swahili Literary Festival which brings together those in the literary communities on the coast to celebrate, discuss and enjoy their work.

At the 2022 edition of the festival, now in its fourth year, Hekaya introduced a new competition seeking to recognize and support the literary works of budding Kiswahili writers. The project, done in conjunction with the Mozilla Foundation’s Common Voice, asked Kiswahili literature lovers to write essays inspired by culture, heritage, and social justice themes. Thirty-three entries of creative writing pieces in both fiction and non-fiction categories in Tanzania, Kenya, and Burundi were submitted. From these, three won the competition’s three top slots. They are;  

Florence Chanya Mwaita (Kenya) | Mdudu Mbaya Zaidi (The worst insect). (US$400)

Florence Chanya Mwaita
Florence Chanya Mwaita

The winning essay: Mdudu Mbaya Zaidi, cleverly weaves and lures readers into the brutal predatory tactics of a Tarantula Hawk wasp. An insect that stings and paralyzes its prey – a Tarantula spider, uses the decaying body to lay eggs, which then the growing larva feeds on. Florence uses this analogy to explore the topics of greed, corruption, and predatory governance systems. A relevant and timely essay, ahead of the upcoming Kenyan elections.

Florence is a communications specialist and alumni of Daystar University, Kenya. She’s a writer, a poet, and a Kiswahili writer, published in newspapers such as Taifa Leo, (Nation Daily) – Kenya’s mainstream newspaper in Kiswahili, among other publications. She was also the former chief editor of Daystar University’s The Involvement newspaper.

Omar Kibulanga (Kenya) | Mapend’i T’ungu-nzima (Lots of love). (US$250)

Omar Kibulanga
Omar Kibulanga

Omar’s work, Mapend’i T’ungu-nzima, features an attractive writing style through the use of Kiamu – a Kiswahili dialect spoken in Lamu, Kenya’s coastal region. The choice to write in the dialect offers readers a refreshing and diverse taste of the language – greatly appreciated by the judging panel in honoring the heritage of various Kiswahili dialects. The essay’s content is a revealing mystery tale of who killed the King? Through different characters in the story, the writer piques readers’ curiosity, providing room for various interpretations. Most importantly, Omar also uses the character of a woman to embody wisdom and knowledge.

Omar is a creative writer, voice artist, content producer, and English- Kiswahili translator. His work and contributions have been featured in various pan-African and international media outlets such as MNET, Supersport, and BBC, among others.

Elias B. Shelukindo (Tanzania)| Barua kutoka Mtaani (A letter from the street). (US$100)

Elias B. Shelukindo
Elias B. Shelukindo

The essay, Barua kutoka Mtaani, looks into the lives and exploitation of street children. Elias directly addresses the reader and this gripping approach forces readers to think of the neglect and unjust living conditions destitute children are exposed to.

Elias is a budding writer and a student of commerce at the University of Dodoma, Tanzania.

Read more about the entries by clicking here. Please note that that blog is in Kiswahili.