Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature 2021 judges unveiled.

The judges for the Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature 2021, unveiled on August 2, are Prof. Aldin K. Mutembei, Dr. Salma Omar and Dr. Joseph Nyehita Maitaria. Prof. Rocha Chimerah and Dr. Hamisi Babusa will judge The Nyabola Prize, a special 2021 award for youth writing science fiction and speculative fiction in Kiswahili, for writers aged between 18 and 35.

The Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature recognises writing in poetry and prose in African languages and encourages translation from, between and into African languages. The award, founded by Dr Mukoma Wa Ngugi (Cornell University) and Dr Lizzy Attree, has been conferred to Lello Mmassy and Mohamed Songoro (2019), Zainab Alwi Baharoon and Jacob Ngumbau (2018), Ali Hilal Ali and Dotto Rangimoto (2017) and Idrissa Haji Abdalla and Hussein Wamaywa and Ahmed Hussein Ahmed (2016). In 2020, the prize took a hiatus.

The prize this year is sponsored by Mabati Rolling Mills Kenya, ALAF Limited Tanzania (part of Safal Mauritius Limited), Cornell University and the Ngugi wa Thiong’o Foundation. They have announced the judging panel for both the Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature and the Nyabola Prize for this year.

The Chair of the Board of Trustees, Abdilatif Abdalla, said, “It makes my heart dance with joy to see how increasingly responsive the participants are and the higher quality of entries submitted as the Prize gets more widely known and becomes more inclusive. It is my earnest hope that this competition will ultimately assist in realizing the Pan-African dream which we have been yearning for all these years. I also would like to urge female writers to participate more in order to bridge the gender gap which currently exists.”

“The Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature has seen an unprecedent increase in the number of entries, from 96 in 2019 to 256 in 2021. This year, the entries also came from 13 countries across the world, including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Uganda, Egypt, Nigeria, and the African diaspora in the USA, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Finland and the Netherlands. “It is very encouraging to see that the Prize is not only truly pan-African, but also extends beyond the continental borders,” said Munyao Kilolo, the Prize Administrator.

Here are the judges profiles;

Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature

Prof Aldin K. Mutembei (BA Ed.; MA Ling (Dar); MA (Lit); PhD (Leiden), holds a Chair as the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Professor in Kiswahili at the University of Dar es Salaam. He is a former Director of the Institute of Kiswahili Studies; and the current Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Dar es Salaam. He teaches Kiswahili/African Literature, Communication, Literary Theories and Orature and Kiswahili language to speakers of other languages. He has published four literary works, among which is a novel, Kisiki Kikavu. (E & D Limited, 2005), and a literary theory book, Korasi Katika Fasihi: Nadharia Mpya ya Uhakiki (Institute of Kiswahili Studies, University of Dar es Salaam, 2012).

Dr. Salma Omar Hamad was born in Pemba, Zanzibar. She is currently a Lecturer of Kiswahili Literature and Linguistics at The Open University of Tanzania. She did her BA in Education (Hons) at State University of Zanzibar (SUZA); majoring in Kiswahili; MA in Linguistics at the University of  Dar es Salaam, specializing in Kiswahili; and a PhD in Kiswahili from SUZA. She is the author of several short stories awaiting publication and has also contributed to short story anthologies, such as her story “Shibe Inatumaliza” in a collection entitled Tumbo Lisiloshiba na Hadithi Nyingine (Longhorn Publishers, 2016). 

Dr. Joseph Nyehita Maitaria is a Senior Lecturer and the Chairperson of the Department of Humanities and Languages in the School of Education and Social Sciences (SESS), Karatina University, Kenya. He holds a BA (Education) in Kiswahili and Christian Religious Education (Kenyatta University); MA in Kiswahili (Kenyatta University) and PhD in Kiswahili Literary Genres and Kiswahili Poetry (Kenyatta University). He is a committee member of various Kiswahili associations and is presently the Secretary of the East Africa Kiswahili Association (CHAKAMA) and Kiswahili Scholars Association of Kenya (CHAKITA). An author of Kiswahili books, he has also published widely in academic journals in the area of Kiswahili Poetry.

Nyabola Prize

Dr. Hamisi Babusa is a Lecturer of Kiswahili and Language Education at Kenyatta University. He has also taught in other universities, among them St. Lawrence University, in Canton, NY, USA. Among his publications are Kamusi Teule, a dictionary of Kiswahili proverbs with their equivalents in English, several short stories and poems in various anthologies. Dr. Babusa has also written children novellas like Binti Kitabu  and also Makumba, science fiction series, for which in 2018 he was recognized as one of the top twenty scientists in Kenya.

Prof. Rocha Chimerah received his B. Ed and M. Ed degrees from the University of Nairobi and his PhD in Linguistics and Language Education from Ohio University in the USA. A professor of Kiswahili Linguistics, Language and Literature at Pwani University, Kilifi, Coastal Kenya, Chimerah joined the University when it was still a university college campus of Kenyatta University in 2009. Before that, he taught in different universities, worked as Country Director of Population Media Center, an NGO, and was Chair of the Department of Languages and Linguistics, Egerton University. The author of several works of fiction in Kiswahili, including the acclaimed Siri Sirini series (2013/2014), had his first novel published in 1995 (Nyongo Mkalia Ini). His play, Mnara Wawaka Moto, was published in 1989. Kiswahili: Past, Present and Future Horizons, a celebration of Kiswahili language and literature, hit bookshelves in 1998.  In 1999, Chimerah co-authored Ufundishaji wa Fasihi, Nadharia na Mbinu (a book on literary theory and criticism including the teaching of Swahili literature), with Kimani Njogu, with whom he shared the prestigious Noma Award for writing and publishing in Africa in 2000. The recipient of several other awards has many articles in referred Journals on the subjects of Kiswahili Linguistics, Language and Literature in both Kiswahili and English languages. The judges will work together to select a shortlist that will be announced in November 2021. The winning entries in each category will be announced at an awards ceremony in mid- December in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.