Fatuma Salim and Philipo Oyaro were announced winners of the Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature in Nairobi on Friday, February 9, 2024.
The Safal Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature celebrates writing in poetry and prose in the Kiswahili language. It is supported by Safal Group, through its subsidiaries Mabati Rolling Mills of Kenya and ALAF Tanzania, as well as the Cornell University Africana Studies Center, and the Ngugi wa Thiong’o Foundation. Founded by Dr Mukoma Wa Ngugi and Dr Lizzy Attree, it has been conferred to Dotto Daudi Rangimoto and Salum Makamba in 2022, Halfani Sudy, Moh’d Omar Juma, and Mbwana Kidato (2021), 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 jury for 2023 comprised Prof Kyallo W. Wamitila (University of Nairobi) who chairs alongside Dr. Zuhura Badru (University of Dodoma) and Bwana Ali Mwalim Rashid (State University of Zanzibar). The shortlisted manuscripts in the different categories were revealed to the public on Monday, January 15, 20204.
The winners of the awards were celebrated at a glamorous event attended by the team at Safal Group led by Anders Lindgren the CEO as well as a delegation from Cornell that included Prof Carol Boyce Davies and prize founder Mukoma Wa Ngugi on Friday. Also, at the event at the Movenpick Residencies were the chief guest Dr Caroline Asiimwe the Executive Secretary of the East African Kiswahili Commission (EAKC), award co-founder Lizzy Attree, and many in the Kiswahili writing community.
Jury chair Prof Kyallo Wamitila while announcing the winners commended the 2023 entrants for the high quality of their writing, saying that it made it very difficult for the judges to pick out the first-place winners. “This is sufficient evidence that we have a great treasure of creativity, especially among young people, that transcends the boundaries of each country, and which if sprinkled with the basics of writing and publishing literary works will greatly strengthen Kiswahili literature,” added Prof Wamatila.
The winners and runners-up are;
- Philipo Oyaro, Dunia Duara (Tanzania) – US$5,000
- Ahmad Simba, Safari Ya Maisha (Tanzania) – US$2,500
- Fatuma Salim, Changa La Macho (Tanzania) – US$5,000
- Lenard Mtesigwa, Ndani Ya Subira Kichwangomba (Tanzania) – US$2,500
Safal Group CEO Anders Lindgren also spoke at the ceremony and highlighted the importance of the Kiswahili language in the development of the East African region. “Through our support of these awards, The Safal Group is firmly committed to the course of African languages. I commend the SAFAL-MRM Foundation for organising the awards this year.”
Walter Bgoya of Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, the official publisher of the winning manuscripts, said, “The Safal-Cornell Award has raised talented writers in the field of literature since it was established in 2014, and there is no doubt that it has given writers inspiration and made the award ceremonies a day of great joy in the lives of those who are lucky enough to win.”
Dr Caroline Asiimwe congratulated the winners and praised the management of the Prize, its board, and the sponsors, led by Safal Group, for their important work in promoting literature in African languages, particularly Kiswahili.
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