In April, Mozilla’s Common Voice and Hekaya Arts initiative asked Kiswahili literature lovers to write essays inspired by culture, heritage, and social justice themes. The result; 33 entries of creative writing pieces in both fiction and non-fiction categories in Tanzania, Kenya, and Burundi.

The top three winners are Florence Chanya Mwaita - Kenya, Omar Kibulanga - Kenya, and Elias B. Shelukindo - Tanzania, who bagged cash prizes of $400 USD, $250 USD, and $100 USD respectively.

Here’s a little bit more about the winners and their winning essays.

A picture of the writer

Florence Chanya Mwaita | The worst insect. The winning essay: Mdudu Mbaya Zaidi, cleverly weaves and lures readers into the brutal predatory tactics of a Tarantula Hawk wasp. An insect that stings and paralyzes its prey - a Tarantula spider, uses the decaying body to lay eggs, which then the growing larva feeds on. Florence uses this analogy to explore the topics of greed, corruption, and predatory governance systems. A relevant and timely essay, ahead of the upcoming Kenyan elections.

Florence is a communications specialist and alumni of Daystar University, Kenya. She’s a writer, a poet, and a Kiswahili writer, published in newspapers such as Taifa Leo, (Nation Daily) - Kenya’s mainstream newspaper in Kiswahili, among other publications. She was also the former chief editor of Daystar University's The Involvement newspaper.

A picture of the writer

Omar Kibulanga | Lots of love. Omar’s work, Mapend’i T’ungu-nzima, features an attractive writing style through the use of Kiamu - a Kiswahili dialect spoken in Lamu, Kenya’s coastal region. The choice to write in the dialect offers readers a refreshing and diverse taste of the language - greatly appreciated by the judging panel in honoring the heritage of various Kiswahili dialects. The essay’s content is a revealing mystery tale of who killed the King? Through different characters in the story, the writer piques readers' curiosity, providing room for various interpretations. Most importantly, Omar also uses the character of a woman to embody wisdom and knowledge.

Omar is a creative writer, voice artist, content producer, and English- Kiswahili translator. His work and contributions have been featured in various pan-African and international media outlets such as MNET, Supersport, and BBC, among others.

A picture of the writer

Elias B. Shelukindo| A letter from the street. The essay, Barua kutoka Mtaani, looks into the lives and exploitation of street children. Elias directly addresses the reader and this gripping approach forces readers to think of the neglect and unjust living conditions destitute children are exposed to. Elias is a budding writer and a student of commerce at the University of Dodoma, Tanzania.

This blog post is adopted from Hekaya Arts Initiative blog post, which gives a deeper dive into each story. Read the complete blog post here in Kiswahili.

This blog post is adopted from Hekaya Arts Initiative blog post, which gives a deeper dive into each story. Read the complete blog post here in Kiswahili.

About Common Voice Kiswahili Writing Competitions

Mozilla Foundation's Common Voice through its collaboration with Hekaya Arts Initiative seeks to recognize and support the literary works of budding Kiswahili writers. This is also an endeavor to grow Kiswahili’s open-source data set, enabling the inclusion of local African languages in tech use and development.

Are you interested in collaborating with Mozilla’s Common Voice project? Write to us via: [email protected]

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