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Lycaon pictus

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Jan 31, 2021
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Special Prize for 2021




The Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize – The Nyabola Prize for Science Fiction 2021in Kiswahili/ Tuzo ya Nyabola Uandishi Wa Hadithi za Kisayansi na Kidhana kwa Lugha ya Kiswahili

The Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature is proud to announce a special award for 2021 for youth writing science fiction and speculative fiction in Kiswahili, for writers aged between 18 and 35. In partnership with writer and political analyst, Nanjala Nyabola, the award is designed to promote and popularise a Kiswahili vocabulary for technology and digital rights, in order to empower citizens in Kiswahili-speaking communities to participate in broader conversations on the issues.

The stories should be originally written in Standard Kiswahili and between 2000 and 2500 words long. The prize structure is as follows:

First prize: $1000

Second prize: $500

Third Prize: $250

Top 10 stories will be published as an anthology.

Submissions should be marked as ‘Nyabola Prize for Science Fiction entries’ and should be sent to: kiswahiliprize@cornell.edu by 31 May 2021

“Literary prizes not only highlight fresh talent but also encourage and inspire others to take to the pen, while showing readers the beauty, richness and malleability of their language, and giving them the tools to describe and participate in new frontiers”, says Munyao Kilolo of the Mabati Cornell Prize.

Nyabola adds, “science fiction and speculative fiction, including sub-genres like African Futurism, inspire young people to break the boundaries of imagination and imagine better futures. Science fiction and speculative fiction has inspired actual innovations in AI (Artificial Intelligence), tech ethics and political ethics, as well as spurred healthy critiques of political trajectories, for instance Isaac Asimov’s Three Rules of Robotics, and George Orwell’s exploration of the surveillance state in 1984”. Indeed, some of the most notable developments in the modern world were first inspired by science and speculative fictions.

Over 140 million people speak Kiswahili in Eastern and Southern Africa and it is the most widely spoken African language in the world. Although there is a long history of cultural production in Kiswahili, and popular poets and writers also write in Kiswahili, there has been some delay in both translating and popularising the grammar and lexicon of technology in Kiswahili, similar to many languages other than English. Yet without such a popular lexicon, developments in technology continue to leave African communities at the margins: speaking about and for them but not with them. Kiswahili is an established world language with tremendous symbolic and practical applications, and it is important to encourage initiatives that keep Kiswahili speakers apace with the rapid developments that are happening in technology.

The goal of this Prize therefore is to inspire boundary breaking creativity in the next generation of fiction writers in Kiswahili, while popularising a lexicon for technology and digital rights in the language.


To support participants, organisers will host 3 workshops on writing speculative fiction and about technology in Kiswahili for participants in March, April and May 2021. These virtual workshops are not mandatory but will offer tips and give tools to boost the confidence of those who may be interested in writing for the Prize.

For more information, please contact Munyao Kilolo or Nanjala Nyabola via kiswahiliprize@cornell.edu






Special Prize for 2021


2020 Call for Submissions

About the Prize

Rules of Submission

Award Criteria


2015 Winners

2016 Winners

2017 Winners

2018 Winners

2019 Winners

Frequently Asked Questions



Contact Information


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