Isaac Ndolo has made it to the finals of the Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature competition with his manuscript titled Wimbo wa Hatima. Isaac, is the first Kenyan to make it to the shortlist since 2020. His shortlisted manuscript falls under the Fiction category of the competition.

The Prize is supported by Safal Group, through its member companies Mabati Rolling Mills in  Kenya, and ALAF in Tanzania, the Africana Studies Center at Cornell University, and the Ngugi wa Thiong’o Foundation.

The Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature was founded in 2014 by Dr. Lizzy Attree and Dr. Mukoma Wa Ngugi to recognize writing in African languages and encourage translation from, between, and into African languages.

The chairman of this year’s judges panel, Professor F.E.M.K. Senkoro, when giving the decision of the judges, said that the receipt of a very large number of manuscripts of novels and poetry, from various parts of Africa, especially East Africa, 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.

“Many of the manuscripts that competed for the Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature in 2022 were so good that it made the judges’ work very difficult to decide which works should be awarded as first place winners. In fact, almost all the manuscripts reviewed by the judges deserved victory in one way or another, but since there must be a winner in this kind of competition, the judges unanimously decided on the names of the  shortlisted and from which the winners will be announced,” added Professor F.E.M.K. Senkoro during the announcement.

Other judges who joined Professor F.E.M.K. Senkoro in reading and nominating the manuscripts for the 2022 competition were Dr. Magdaline Nakhumicha Wafula of Moi University, and Dr. Hamisi Babusa of Kenyatta University, Kenya.

The shortlisted works and authors are:

  • Wimbo wa Hatima – Isaac Ndolo (Kenya)
  • Dunia na Watu Wake  Ahmad Simba Mwaita (Tanzania)
  • Ujanajike – Dotto Daudi Rangimoto (Tanzania) in the Fiction Category
  • Mzoga Unaonukia – Lenard Mtesigwa (Tanzania)
  • Mamangu Nipe Wosia – Salum Makamba (Tanzania)
  • Uswahilini – Ally Bakari Mchanyato (Tanzania) for the Poetry Category.

Overall winners will be announced at the awards ceremony slated for January 25, 2023 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Kiswahili Prize Award Criteria: The prize will be awarded to the best unpublished manuscript the categories of fiction, poetry and memoir, and graphic novels. The total proposed awards of 15,000 US dollars will be divided as follows:

  • 1st Fiction/Non-fiction prize – USD 5,000
  • 1st Poetry prize – USD 5,000
  • Runner-up Prize any genre– USD 2,500

In addition to the prizes, winning entries will also be considered for publication by Mkuki na Nyota Publishers in Tanzania while the winning poetry will be translated to English and published by the Africa Poetry Book Fund.