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Kenyan book in vernacular wins Spanish award

Saturday January 21 2017
MAA

Journalist Lorna Seneiya Sempele took the honours at the third International Language (Auto) biography Award recently for her autobiographical work in Maasai language. PHOTO | COURTESY

By JOHN KIBET

A Kenyan author has won a Spain-based book award for indigenous language works across the world.

Journalist Lorna Seneiya Sempele took the honours at the third International Language (Auto) biography Award recently for her autobiographical work in Maasai language.

The book, Osaei Okuso Laitaanyanyukie Enkutuk Ang’o’lmaasai (The Beautiful Bead Necklace of My Mother Tongue), is Sempele’s first published work which celebrates and seeks to preserve the linguistic and cultural beauty of her Maa language.

The award is organised by a consortium of Spanish institutions among them the Vives Network of Catalan Universities, Aurelia Figuras Foundation, and the Research Group on Endangered Languages of the University of Barcelona.

According to the judges, Sempele’s work stood out because “it expressed in Maasai, a minority language, the important role of language in the construction of culture and how painful such construction can be in the fragile linguistic and cultural contexts of the language.”

The author who also took home approximately Sh165,000 cash prize said she was excited to win the award with a debut work. She said she had written the book originally in English. However, the organisers asked her to translate it into Maasai and submit it for evaluation. It has since been translated into Catalan as well.

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“I enjoyed rural life while growing up at Siyapei village in Narok County and thought I should write about it,” says Sempele, a Nairobi-based journalist and publisher.

Her work beat other entries from Germany, Bolivia, the USA and Catalan-speaking regions in the world.  

The organisers will help to market the soft copy as well as the hard copies of the book in both Maasai and Catalan languages.

It will also be included in a series form with winners of past editions.

 

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