- 2016/2017 apexart New York City (NYC) Fellow
- 2014 Winner Burt Award for African Literature, Kenya Chapter
- 2010 Penguin Prize for African Writing nominee
- Ist Prize, Adult Fiction Category – NBDCK Literary Awards, September 2008 Book Week
Kiswahili Prize Tuzo ya Fasihi ya Ubunifu Winners
- Written by Moraa Gitaa
Created: 05 January 2016
The inaugural Kenya shillings 1 million Kiswahili Prize Tuzo ya Fasihi ya Ubunifu (Prize for Creative Kiswahili Literature) was awarded on December 16, 2015 at the Alliance Francaise in Nairobi. This is the richest literary prize in East Africa.
The prize is a collaboration between the French Embassy, Spotlight Publishers and the Nation Media Group, through its online publication, Swahili Hub.
Over 150 entries were submitted for the prize. The 15 short-listed writers included 14 men and only 1 woman.
The three top shortlisted manuscripts were ‘Shamba la Halaiki’, a play by Daniel Oduor Okello; ‘Dau la Mnyonge’, a novella by Silvester Ochieng’ Oduya and the winner was ‘Nyota Njema Mawinguni’, a novel, by Amos Nandasaba Kundu. Amos is a teacher of Kiswahili and history at Our Lady of Mercy Chebukaka school. The winning novel will also be translated into French and published in France. Nation Media Group undertook to promote the three wining books when published.
Speaking at the ceremony, the French Ambassador to Kenya, Remi Marechaux, said the French Embassy was interested in supporting efforts that promote culture. He emphasized that Kiswahili is not only an ancient language but also a language of communication, trade and cultural production not only in the East African countries but other parts of the world. This, he reiterated, is why Kiswahili is now taught in several institutions of learning globally.
Mr Marechaux expressed hope that this latest award will promote literature that bridges the gap that exists between the so-called Kiswahili sanifu (highbrow Swahili fiction) and popular literature in Kiswahili, which should allow ordinary citizens to read literature in Kiswahili, even in matatus.
He highlighted the role played by the Alliance Francaise, which in 2015 was involved in 217 cultural events that involved activities promoting Kenyan and French cultures.
On his part, Tom Mshindi, the Nation Media Group’s Editor-in-Chief, noted that the group will support the prize as an annual event to support budding and upcoming young writers. Nation Media Group, Mshindi said, noted the significance of Kiswahili as a national language, a language of bringing Kenyans together and the importance of Kiswahili in promoting a reading culture.
Mshindi noted that Nation Media Group is working with institutions, including universities in the rest of the world, to promote research in and use of Kiswahili. This, he said, is why Nation hosts Swahili Hub, which not only hosts newspapers but is active in provoking debate on emergent issues in Kiswahili in the country and regionally.
Simon Sossion, the managing director of Spotlight Publishers, pointed out that the intention of the prize is to encourage young writers to compete with established names, especially considering that prospective writers have tended to accuse publishers of only considering the works of established writers. He emphasized that this prize will pay more attention to the creativity of submitted manuscripts rather than the name of the author. Spotlight, Sossion said, would publish the top three ranked manuscripts in 2016.
Also, the other shortlisted manuscripts will be considered for publication by Spotlight publishers if deemed good enough.
The judging panel was headed by Kimani Njogu, a renowned literary and Kiswahili scholar. Also in the panel were Prof Sheila Rianga, Dr Richard Wafula, Prof Natalie Caree, Dr Ken Walibora and Hezekiel Gikambi who was also the secretary of the jury.
The committee noted that there are good creative writers, as reflected in the competence of the entries which looked at gender issues, leadership, history, corruption, discrimination, and education. Njogu noted that several writers boldly dealt with subjects that tend to be seen as taboo in Kenya.
The judges, however, decried the very few entries from women writers.