The second edition of the Ake Arts and Book Festival (held last week in Abeokuta, Ogun State) saw the announcement of a major new award for African writers. The Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature will be given to the best unpublished fiction, poetry and memoir, and graphic novels written in Kiswahili (spoken by approximately 140 million people in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo). The Prize was co-founded by Mukoma wa Ngugi (professor and son of Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong'o who has famously advocated for literature written in indigenous African languages) and Lizzy Attree (director of the Caine Prize for African Literature).
The Prize was established with the support of Mabati Rolling Mills (a Kenyan manufacturing firm) and Cornell University. Its aim is to "recognize[s] excellent writing in African languages and encourage[s] translation from, between and into African languages." Ngugi Wa Thiong’o described is as a “major intervention in the struggle for writing in African languages, for their place and visibility in the global sun of literary imagination." The first prize winners will receive $5,000 in the categories of prose and poetry; second prize $3,000, and third prize $2,000. The winning entry will be published in Kiswahili by East African Educational Publishers (EAEP) and the best poetry book will be translated and published by the Africa Poetry Book Fund. The four prize winning writers will spend a week in residence at Cornell and a week at an additional partner institution. More information on the prize can be found here.