This year’s Wahome Mutahi Literary prize is shaping up to be another epic battle between surgeon Yusuf Dawood and journalist Ng’ang’a Mbugua. They both have been nominated in the Adult English category of the award set to be delivered at the end of September.
Dawood’s book The Last Word, published by Longhorn a collection of essays that have been published in the Surgeon’s Diary column in Sunday Nation, has been nominated alongside Mbugua’s book This land is our Land, (Big Books) a collection of poetry. The other nominee is a book titled A Gift from a Stranger (KLB) authored by Waigwa Wachira.
The first contest between the two took place in 2011 when Dawood’s novel Eye of the Storm was nominated alongside Mbugua’s Terrorists of the Aberdare. Eye of the Storm took the ultimate prize with Terrorists of the Aberdare coming in at second. Literary observers agree that it was a close contest.
In 2012 the two writers were at it again. Dawood’s book Eye of the Storm was again in contention, this time for the Wahome Mutahi Prize against Mbugua’s Different Colours. This time Mbugua took home the prize. Mbugua is a veteran of the Wahome Mutahi Prize as Terrorists of the Aberdare had won the prize in 2010.
The Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize is held every two years in honour of the late humourist and novelist Wahome Mutahi of the Whispers column fame. It is organised by the Kenya Publishers Association and held at the end of the annual Nairobi International Book Fair.
There are four different categories to be awarded in the Wahome Mutahi Prize, namely English Adult, Kiswahili Adult, English Children and Kiswahili Children categories. The two children’s categories were introduced for this year’s Award.
Nominees in the Kiswahili Adult category are Juma Namlola’s Kula kwa Mheshimiwa (JKF), Tom Olali’s Watu wa Gehenna (JKF) and Jeff Mandila’s Upepo wa Mvua (JKF). In the Children English category, the nominees are Charles Gecaga’s Kuti makes a Difference (KLB), Naomi the Detective by Joseph Muleka (KLB) and A Note for Alice by Mureithi Maina (Moran).
In the Kiswahili Children category the nominees are John Kobia’s Maskini Punda (KLB), Kiswahili Gani by Lilian Wairimu (KLB) and Bitugi Matundura’s Adhabu ya Joka (Longhorn). Winners in each category will take home a cash prize of sh50,000.
A win for Ng’ang’a will be a major boost for Kenyan poets at it will be the first time a collection of poetry will be winning a major literary prize in the country. Literary prizes in Kenya are seen to only recognise prose writers. The Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize however has demonstrated its flexibility when the prize was awarded to activist Okoiti Omtata’s play Voice of the People in 2008.
Check out our review of Mbugua’s poetry book.
The judging panel consists of Dr Tom Odhiambo, as chair, of University of Nairobi, Prof Wangari Mwai of Kenyatta University and Rose Mavisi of Catholic University.