Mohammed Khelef Ghassani
Mohammed Khelef Ghassani

We have a winner for the Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature which recognises writing in African languages and encouraging translation from, between and into African languages ladies and gentlemen.

They were selected from 65 manuscripts in the fiction and poetry categories of the Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature. The six judges who had to go through the task of selecting the inaugural winners of this prize were Dr Farouk Topan, Prof Sheila Ryanga and Prof Mohamed Bakari for fiction and Rukiya Harith Swaleh, Prof Clara Momanyi and Prof Alamin Mazrui for poetry.

The Winners of the new prize 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)

Enock Maregesi
Enock Maregesi

Apart from the cash, the fiction winner gets published by East African Educational Publishers (EAEP). And the best poetry book will be translated and published by the Africa Poetry Book Fund. They will be invited to a residency 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. All these prizes will be awarded in December 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya.

So what do the judges ask about the entries they encountered? They 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.”

Mabati who are the major sponsors had their say too. 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.”