A new literature prize has been announced that recognizes excellent writing in the African language of Kiswahili. The Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature will be presented to the best unpublished manuscripts in the Kiswahili language in four categories: fiction, poetry, memoir, and graphic novels. The winning entries will be published by East African Educational Publishers and the authors will receive a $5,000 cash prize.
About 140 million people speak Kiswahili in eastern and southern Africa. The prize is supported by Mabati Rolling Mills, a Kenyan-based manufacturer of metals products, as well as the Africana Studies Center and the Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
Mukoma Wa Ngugi, prize co-founder and an assistant professor of English at Cornell University, said the prize recognizes that all languages are created equal and no one language should thrive at the expense of others. “But beyond that recognition, the Prize sets a historical precedent for African philanthropy by Africans and shows that African philanthropy can and should be at the center of African cultural production.”
Dr. Ngugi is a native of Kenya. He is a graduate of Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania. Dr. Ngugi earned a master’s degree at Boston University and a second master’s degree and a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition to his scholarly work, he is the author of the crime novels Nairobi Heat and Black Star Nairobi.