Courtesy of Cornell University

The winners of the Kiswahili prize, along with speakers, will attend the Friday ceremony.

November 28, 2022

Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize Winners to Speak on Contemporary Kiswahili Literature in First Formal Collaboration with Institute for African Development

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Cornell’s Institute for African Development will host a literary panel on Friday Dec. 2, in its first formal collaboration with the Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature. 

During this free event, three recent winners of the prize will discuss poetry, travel and Kiswahili intergenerational transcendence, according to the event webpage. Panelists will examine the role of contemporary Kiswahili African literature in the American higher education system. 

After the U.S. Department of Education awarded it the Undergraduate Studies and International Foreign Language Grant in 2019, IAD has worked to increase commitment to and continued engagement in African languages — specifically Kiswahili, Twi and Tumbuka languages — through expanded academic programming and language offerings. 

The three recent prize winners taking part in the panel will include Anna Manyanza, a novelist and children’s book author whose debut fiction novel won the 2015 prize; Jacob Ngumbau Julius, whose poem won the 2018 prize and Lello Mmassy, whose short story ‘Mimi na Rais’ took the 2019 prize in the fiction category. 

Founded in 2014, the prize, previously named the Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature, has promoted “the goal of recognizing African languages and encouraging translation from, between and into African languages,” according to its website. The prize rewards a total of $15,000 to unpublished fiction, poetry, memoir and graphic novel manuscripts. 

The panel will also feature Menansili Abraham Mejooli grad, a biomedical engineering Ph.D. candidate; Prof. N’Dri Assié Lumumba, Africana studies and Prof. Mũkoma Wa Ngũgĩ, literatures in English.

Ngũgĩ,  who co-founded the prize with Lizzy Attree, an assistant professor at Richmond American University London, is the author of several novels, including Nairobi Heat,’ and has had his works translated into German, Turkish and French. He is also a former editor of Pambazuka News and a political columnist for BBC Focus on Africa Magazine, with his columns appearing in publications like the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, International Herald Tribune and South African Labour Bulletin. 

Attendees will learn about the significance of Kiswahili literature in American universities, the ways in which they can engage with contemporary African literature and the importance of this engagement for African languages, especially among Cornell undergraduate students. Registration is currently open on the event’s website.