Two Tanzanian Kiswahili authors have won the 2017 Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature.
Ali Hilal Ali won the fiction category for his novel, Mmeza Fupa. The poetry award went to Dotto Rangimoto for his collection, Mwanangu Rudi Nyumbani. They both pocketed $5,000 (Sh11 Million) each.
The winners of the third edition of the prestigious literature prize were announced online on January 15, 2018 by chair of the Board of Trustees, Abdilatif Abdalla. The awards ceremony followed in February in Nairobi.
In their jury, the judges described Mmeza Fupa as: “Rarely does one encounter a Kiswahili novel whose writer has exhibited the nuanced mastery of artistic language which naturally flows and without traces of artificiality. In Mmeza Fupa, the various characters – main and otherwise – convey and represent the different social strata, with their attendant historical, political, psychological, cultural, rural and urban environments and concomitant contradictions.”
“Although set on an imaginary island, the political novel is clearly speaking to what ails the African continent. Mmeza Fupa has opened a new door in this particular genre in Kiswahili Literature,” they added.
“In Mwanangu Rudi Nyumbani, one encounters seductive metaphors and imagery, effectively and successfully used in diverse Kiswahili poetic forms and styles while articulating concerns that have direct bearing to the human condition,” the judges noted.
“Dotto discusses weighty and serious matters but in a manner that doesn’t burden the reader. Instead he encourages one to keep on reading. He is a master of the craft. The volume is a great contribution to contemporary Kiswahili poetry,” they added.
WRITERS AND POETS
Ali is a budding Kiswahili novelist and poet. He was born in Kalani, Pemba, in 1989, and grew up in Wete, where he started his primary school education in 1997. He later received his secondary school education at the Islamic College, Micheweni, Pemba. Thereafter, he joined the Institute for Financial Management (IFM), Dar es Salaam, where he graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Protection.
Ali’s initial attempt in novel and poetry writing was in 2008. His first novel, Safari Yangu, was published in 2015 by Buluu Publishing, in Paris, France. He has also contributed several poems in an anthology by five poets, Diwani ya Kurasa Mpya.
Rangimoto, one of the upcoming Kiswahili poets, was born in Morogoro, Tanzania, in 1986. He completed his secondary education in 2004 at Morogoro Secondary School. Thereafter, he has been involved in small enterprise business and farming. He is a great enthusiast of Kiswahili literature, especially novels and poetry.