Three win Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prizes

December 19, 2016

The 2016 winners of the Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature have been announced by Abdilatif Abdalla, chair of the prize’s board of trustees.

Fiction category winners are Tanzanian authors Idrissa Haji Abdalla for “Kilio cha Mwanamke” and Hussein Wamaywa for “Moyo Wangu Unaungua.” Ahmed Hussein Ahmed, from Kenya, received the poetry prize for “Haile Ngoma ya Wana.”

Abdalla and Ahmed both will receive a $5,000 award, while Wamaywa will receive $3,000. The prizes will be awarded in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on Jan. 16, 2017.

The Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize was founded in 2014 by Lizzy Attree, Caine Prize director, and Mukoma Wa Ngugi, assistant professor of English at Cornell, to recognize writing in African languages and encourage translation from, between and into African languages.

The annual prize is awarded to the best unpublished manuscripts or books published within two years of the award year across the categories of fiction, poetry, memoir and graphic novels. The winning entries are published in Kiswahili by East African Educational Publishers and the poetry winning entry in English translation by Africa Poetry Book Fund.

The other fiction works shortlisted for the 2016 prize were “Mmeza Fupa” by Ally Hilal and “Mkakati wa Kuelekea Ikulu” by Hussein Wamaywa, both from Tanzania; the poetry work “Umalenga wa Nyanda za Juu”byRichard Atuti Nyabuya, from Kenya, was also shortlisted.

The judges, in recognizing the long Kiswahili literary tradition, said that in Abdalla’s novel, “women’s issues are discussed in great depth. The imagery of woman is depicted clearly in her various roles and capacities. Oppressive traditions and patriarchy are shown to be the greatest obstacles to her progress. She fights and emerges the winner in the end.”

The prize is supported by Mabati Rolling Mills Limited of Kenya and ALAF Limited of Tanzania in addition to Cornell’s Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs and the Africana Studies and Research Center.

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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