The shortlist for the inaugural Nyabola Prize in Science and Speculative Fiction in Kiswahili, given in partnership with the Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature, was announced November 17.
The prize, founded by writer and political analyst, Nanjala Nyabola, is designed to promote and popularize 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.
Writers between the ages of 18 and 35 were invited to submit science and speculative fiction in the Kiswahili language. Over 140 million people speak Kiswahili in Eastern and Southern Africa and it is the most widely spoken African language in the world.
The first place winner will receive $1,000, with $500 and $250 going to the second and third place winners. The top ten stories will be published in an anthology.
Nyabola has said, “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.”
An earlier press release also explained: “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 popularizing 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 final prize winners will be announced January 28, 2022.