Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature: 2019 Shortlist announcement

The shortlist for Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature was announced today December 15, 2019 by the board chair, Abdilatif Abdalla.

The prize, founded in 2014 by Dr. Lizzy Attree and Dr. Mukoma Wa Ngugi (Cornell University), has the express goal of recognizing writing in African languages and encouraging translation from, between and into African languages. The shortlisted works and authors are:


  • Ziaka Imetoboka Theuri Maina – Kenya
  • Mimi na Rais Lello Mmassy – Tanzania
  • Safari ya Matumaini Wanyonyi John Wanyama – Kenya


  • Nusu ya Moyo Moh’d Khamis Songoro – Tanzania
  • Mji wa Kambare! Diwani ya Mnenaji– Arshad Ali – Tanzania
  • Mama Usihuzunike – Nassor Hilal Kharusi – Zanzibar/Tanzania

Selected from 96 entries the manuscripts were read by 3 judges: Prof. Clara Momanyi a Kenyan scholar who has been teaching Kiswahili Literature in Kenyan universities for more than 20 years; Ahmed Rajab a Zanzibari-born international journalist, political analyst, essayist and a columnist for Tanzania’s premier weekly Raia Mwema; and Dr. Amiri Swaleh a Senior Lecturer in the Kiswahili Department, University of Nairobi,who has been teaching Kiswahili Literature and Socio-Linguistics for the last 27 years and is currently the Head of Kiswahili Literature.

Notes to Editors

The Prize is primarily supported by Mabati Rolling Mills of Kenya (a subsidiary of the Safal Group), The Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs at Cornell University, the Africana Studies Center at Cornell University and the Ngugi wa Thiong’o Foundation.

Safal Investments Mauritius Ltd. and its subsidiaries (which include Mabati Rolling Mills Ltd of Kenya and ALAF Limited in Tanzania) are collectively known as The Safal Group.

The Safal Group is the largest producer of Steel Roofing on the African continent with 36 operations in 12 countries.

Mabati Rolling Mills Ltd (MRM) is the largest producer of steel roofing in Kenya. Established more than 50 years ago, the company is a leading innovator in its field. MRM led Africa in the manufacture of coated steel using the most advanced corrosion protection technology available worldwide, and its roofing brands are household names which are known and trusted by millions of consumers.

The Safal MRM Foundation, based in Kenya, is a philanthropic enterprise of Mabati Rolling Mills and the Safal Group. It founded, and continues to fully manage, both the Mabati Technical Training Institute, and the Mabati Medical Centre, both in Mariakani, Kenya.

ALAF Limited (ALAF) is Tanzania’s leading steel roofing manufacturer. Established in 1960, ALAF has always, and continues to be, a key player in the development of the country’s construction sector. ALAF is a fully integrated operation, not only making steel roofing, but also producing the metal coated coils used by these roofing operations. ALAF manufactures metal tubing and piping for various applications.

The Africana Studies and Research Center enriches the academic, cultural, and social environments on the Cornell University Ithaca campus. Website:

Mkuki na Nyota Publishers is an independent, vibrant Tanzanian imprint publishing relevant, progressive, liberating, affordable and entertaining content. Established in 1991, Mkuki na Nyota Publishers emerged in response to the general absence of high quality, independent publishing in Tanzania. Its mission statement is to publish, “Relevant Books, Affordable Books, and Beautiful Books.” They have successfully published 2017 poetry winner Dotto Rangimoto’s Mwanangu Rudi Nyumbani (December 2018) and will publish Ali Halal Ali`s novel Mmeza Fupa (January 2019).

East African Educational Publishers is one of Africa’s leading publishers. EAEP strives to juggle the seemingly contradicting values of publishing works of enduring value cutting across the social, cultural, political and economic spectrum of society and at the same time excelling as a viable business that is ready to face the realities and vagaries of the technology age. They published 2015 winners A.S. Manyanza and Enock Maregesi’s novels Penzi la Damu and Kolonia Santita in 2016.

The Africa Poetry Fund promotes and advances the development and publication of the poetic arts through its book series, contests, workshops, and seminars and through its collaborations with publishers, festivals, booking agents, colleges, universities, conferences and all other entities that share an interest in the poetic arts of Africa. Website:

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o Foundation is powered by the interest and passion to raise the visibility of African Languages in Kenya, Africa and the world, as vehicles for performance, creativity, innovations, and scholarship. It sees African languages as the new intellectual frontier in everything from culture, biological sciences, technology and medicine.

Board of Trustees: Abdilatif Abdalla (Chair), Mukoma wa Ngugi, Lizzy Attree, Happiness Bulugu, Walter Bgoya, Henry Chakava, Chege Githiora, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Carole Boyce Davies, Rajeev Shah, and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.

Judges 2019

Prof. Clara Momanyi is a Kenyan who has been teaching Kiswahili Literature in Kenyan universities for more than 20 years. Her Master’s dissertation was on Kiswahili Literature and Gender Issues. She is also a novelist, and writes short stories and poetry. Her book, Ushindi wa Nakate (Nakate`s Victory), won the 2015 Jomo Kenyatta-Textbook Centre Prize for Literature,in the category of Children`s Literature. Her other books include Tumaini and Pendo Katiia Shari.

Her academic papers have been published in various recognized journals. She currently concentrates on research in Kiswahili Literature as well as translating national and international documents into Kiswahili from English.

In 2015 Prof. Momanyi was one of the judges of the inaugural edition of the Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature. She has also adjudicated in other Literature Prizes, such as the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature, Kenya, both in Kiswahili and English.

Ahmed Rajab is a Zanzibari-born international journalist, political analyst, essayist and a columnist for Tanzania’s premier weekly Raia Mwema. A philosophy graduate (University of London), he also holds a post-graduate diploma in Urbanisation in Developing Countries (University College, London), and a Master’s degree in Modern African Literature (Sussex University). His dissertation was on the Négritude poet David Diop.

Ahmed has worked for the BBC World Service, Index-on-Censorship (he was its first Africa and Middle East researcher-cum-editor), Africa Events, Africa Analysis, as well as Unesco and the UNDP. From 2006-2009 he was based in Dubai where he was Head of Newsroom (Middle East/Asia Bureau) for IRIN, the then UN humanitarian news agency and he later spent another three years in Nairobi as Managing Director of Universal TV. He now works as a consultant and is affiliated to the Kaduna-based Gusau Institute. Ahmed’s poems are included in the anthology African New Voices (Longman, 1997). He has translated into Swahili two children books which were recently published by Salaam Publishing in London. Ahmed Rajab was one of the judges for the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing.

Dr. Amiri Swaleh is a Senior Lecturer in the Kiswahili Department, University of Nairobi. He has been teaching Kiswahili Literature and Socio-Linguistics for the last 27 years and is currently the Head of Kiswahili Literature. Besides his academic papers published in various journals,he is also a writer of short stories,which have been included in collections such as Kosa la Nani? na Hadithi Nyingine (2018). His main interests include research and criticism of Kiswahili Literature, especially in areas of gender, old Kiswahili Poetry, history of Kiswahili, language and the development of society, and political systems.

The website is:

Twitter handle: @KiswahiliPrize

Facebook Page: Literature/1534905843433822

Contact information: Prof. Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Cornell University, Dr Lizzy Attree,, Moses Kilolo

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