Mabati-Cornell Prize for African Literature 2017 winners Dotto Rangimotto and Ali Hilal Ali were the centre of attention of a cheque handing out ceremony at the Kenya National Theatre on February 13, 2018.
The Kenya National Theatre was the scene for the third prize giving ceremony of the Mabati-Cornell Prize for African Literature. The prize was founded by Dr Lizzy Attree and Dr Mukoma Wa Ngugi (Cornell University) to recognise writing in African languages and encouraging translation from, between and into African languages. The project is supported by Mabati Rolling Mills, Cornell University, East African Educational Publishers, Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, and The Africa Poetry Fund. The previous winners of the prize which hands out US$15,000 in prize money were Idrissa Haji Abdalla, Hussein Wamaywa, and Ahmed Hussein Ahmed in 2016 and Anna Samwel Manyanza, Mohammed K. Ghassani, Enock Maregesi, and Christopher Bundala Budebah in 2015.
For the 2017 edition of the prize, we were already familiar with the winners as Ali Hilal Ali and Dotto Rangimoto were announced winners by the board chairman Abdilatif Abdalla on January 17. The ceremony we would be witnessing would be the cheque handing over ceremonies.
The afternoon emceed by TV newscaster Nimrod Taabu included poetry performances from both Mabati Rolling Mills staffer Isaac and legendary poet Nuhu Bakari which were both effusive in their praise of the title sponsors of the event. The Mabati CEO Andrew Heycott was on hand to give his company’s support to the prize and even perhaps other literary initiatives in the community.
Also giving remarks were previous judge Prof Mohamed Bakari and current team represented by Ken Walibora. Bakari was keen on talking up the need to expand the work being read and submitted while Walibora focused on their own work selecting this year’s prize.
Prize co-founder Mukoma Wa Ngugi gave brief remarks about the reason they started the prize for a language of between 130-250 users which had no literary infrastructure. Also giving a speech was Mabati board chairman Abdilatif Abdalla who also reiterated why the prize was there as he urged more women to enter future editions of the prize.
The keynote address would be given by former chief justice Dr Willy Mutunga who lauded the Mabati for their support of social activities like this one.
After the speeches, the two writers were given their huge dummy cheques and they went home with their US$5,000 (Kshs500,000). You can follow the proceedings from the following videos. The first is a professional video and tells the tale of the afternoon. Friendly warning, you need to understand Kiswahili to really understand what is happening.
You can also follow from the raw videos from my dodgy camera below.