African Studies Swahili Language and Literature
by
Ann Biersteker, Alena Rettová
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0008

Introduction

Swahili has been spoken for centuries along the East African coast from southern Somalia to northern Mozambique and on Indian Ocean islands off the coast of East Africa. In the 19th and 20th centuries the language spread throughout eastern and central Africa. Today 100 million people speak Swahili. Swahili literature began as the literature of coastal and Indian Ocean Muslims. Early Swahili was written in Arabic script and often drew upon earlier texts in Arabic as well as Swahili traditions. During British and German colonial rule in the 20th century, Swahili came to be written in roman script and to draw upon texts in European languages, as well as a wide range of African literary traditions in African and other languages. This article provides an overview of the history of Swahili language and literature from the earliest known texts to contemporary poetry, fiction, and drama. We consider both performed and written texts as well as studies of Swahili literature and studies of the Swahili language, including linguistic studies, dictionaries, and grammars.

General Overviews

Sources are available in English that provide introductions to and overviews of Swahili literature. Mazrui 2004 provides a comprehensive overview of Swahili literature. Fabian 1986 looks specifically at the history of Swahili in what was the Belgian Congo. Gérard 1981 provides an introduction to Swahili literature in comparison with literatures in other African languages. Khamis 2000 considers contending definitions of Swahili literature and argues for an inclusive definition. Lihamba, et al. 1997 is a history of women’s literature in Swahili and includes a wide range of translated texts as well as commentaries that provide context.

  • Fabian, Johannes. Language and Colonial Power: The Appropriation of Swahili in the Former Belgian Congo, 1880–1938. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.

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    An insightful and solidly researched study of the colonial-era history of Swahili in Congo.

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    • Gérard, A. S. “East Africa: Swahili.” In African Language Literatures. An Introduction to the Literary History of Sub Saharan Africa. By A. S. Gérard, 93–153. Harlow, UK: Longman, 1981.

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      A useful introduction to literature in Swahili.

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      • Khamis, Said A. M. “The Heterogeneity of Swahili Literature.” Nordic Journal of African Studies 9.2 (2000): 11–21.

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        In this article Khamis discusses previous definitions of Swahili literature and considers the use of various dialects of Swahili in Swahili literature. He argues for a pluralistic definition of Swahili literature.

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        • Lihamba, Amandina, Fulata L. Moyo, M. M. Mulokozi, Naomi L. Shitemi, and Saïda Yahya-Othman, eds. Women Writing Africa. Vol. 3, The Eastern Region. New York: Feminist Press, 1997.

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          This anthology provides a wide variety of translations of Swahili oral and written poetry, autobiography, fiction, and other writings by East African women.

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          • Mazrui, Alamin. “The Swahili Literary Tradition: An Intercultural Heritage.” In The Cambridge History of African and Caribbean Literature. Vol. 1. Edited by Abiola Irele and Simon Gikandi, 199–226. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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            Mazrui’s essay provides a most useful overview of Swahili literature.

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            Bibliographies

            Bertoncini-Zúbková 1986 and Bertoncini-Zúbková, et al. 2009 are comprehensive annotated bibliographies of Swahili fiction and drama from the earliest novels and plays to 2008. Geider 2000 and Geider 2003 provide bibliographies that cover literature but also Swahili linguistics, culture, and history. Hussein 1969 covers drama and theater and includes the playwright’s annotations. Pouwels 2002 provides a guide to pre-19th-century primary sources for the study of East African history, while Spear 2000 has a comprehensive list of secondary sources. The Tanzanian Studies Association online bibliography covers Swahili literature, language, history, and culture. Van Spaandonck 1965 contains a useful bibliography of Congo Swahili.

            • Bertoncini-Zúbková, Elena. “An Annotated Bibliography of Swahili Fiction and Drama Published between 1975 and 1984.” Research in African Literatures 17.4 (1986): 525–562.

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              This is a useful bibliography of Swahili literature published between 1975 and 1984.

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              • Bertoncini-Zúbková, Elena, Mikhail D. Gromov, S. A. M. Khamis, and K. W. Wamitila. Outline of Swahili Literature: Prose Fiction and Drama. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2009.

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                This is an excellent guide to Swahili fiction and drama and includes an annotated list of authors and an annotated list of plays and fictional works.

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                • Geider, Thomas. “Progressive Swahili Bibliography 1993–2000.” Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere 64 (2000): 265–277.

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                  This is a comprehensive bibliography of Swahili studies for the period 1993–2000.

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                  • Geider, Thomas. “A Bibliography of Swahili Literature, Linguistics, Culture and History.” Swahili Forum 10 (2003): 1–100.

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                    This extensive bibliography covers literary criticism, linguistics, culture, and history in all periods but does not include annotation.

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                    • Hussein, E. N. “An Annotated Bibliography of Swahili Theatre.” Swahili 39.1–2 (1969): 49–60.

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                      This bibliography on Swahili drama and theater includes annotations by Ebrahim Hussein, who is considered by many to be the finest Swahili playwright.

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                      • Pouwels, Randall L. “Bibliography of Primary Sources of the Pre-Nineteenth-Century East African Coast.” History in Africa 29 (2002): 393–411.

                        DOI: 10.2307/3172171Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                        This bibliography covers pre-19th-century primary sources for the study of East African history.

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                        • Spear, Thomas. “Swahili History and Society to 1900: A Classified Bibliography.” History in Africa 27 (2000): 339–373.

                          DOI: 10.2307/3172120Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                          A comprehensive list of secondary works on Swahili anthropology, archaeology, language, and history.

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                          • Tanzanian Studies Association. Works on the Swahili Coast.

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                            This is an online active bibliography based upon an earlier bibliography compiled by Kelly Askew. The site also provides a bibliography of works on Tanzania.

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                            • van Spaandonck, Marcel. Practical and Systematical Swahili Bibliography: Linguistics, 1850–1963. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1965.

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                              Remains useful for its bibliography on Swahili in the Congo and for the discussion in his introduction of the international status of Swahili studies in the 1960s.

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                              Newspapers

                              Newspaper publication has been important in the history of Swahili literature. Even government-published newspapers have allowed considerable freedom of language and expression on poetry pages. Poetry on topical issues has been published in Swahili newspapers since the early issues of Mambo Leo and continues to be published today. Mambo Leo published a wide range of poetry and other cultural texts during 1923–1963. Baraza was an important publisher of topical poetry and fiction from the 1940s to 1970. Swahili newspapers have also published fiction, including serialized fiction, as well as literary criticism. Taifa Leo and Uhuru continue to publish poetry on topical issues.

                              • Baraza. 1939–1970.

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                                Started in 1939 as a colonial government paper, the Standard Group subsequently published Baraza until 1970. The paper published serialized fiction as well as poetry.

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                                • Mambo Leo. 1923–1963.

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                                  First published by the colonial government in January 1923 the monthly Mambo Leo began including poetry in its third issue. The newspaper was published until 1963 and included early published versions of classic poems such as “Utendi wa Mwana Kupona” and “Inkishafi” as well as poems by Shaaban Robert, Salehe Kibwana, and many others.

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                                  • Taifa Leo. 1958–.

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                                    First published by the Nation group as Taifa Kenya and then as Taifa Weekly, the newspaper in both daily and weekly formats has published serialized fiction, including detective stories by Eddie Ganzel, and continues to publish poetry on topical issues. Most back issues are available at the Center for Research Libraries.

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                                    • Uhuru. 1961–.

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                                      The Tanganyikan African National Union founded Uhuru as the party’s newspaper in 1962. The paper has consistently published poetry in support of government policies as well as poetry on social issues. Most back issues are available at the Center for Research Libraries.

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                                      Journals

                                      The most important Swahili journal has been Kiswahili, which was first published as Journal of the East African Swahili Committee in 1954. Articles in the journal are now primarily in Swahili. Annual Publication in African Linguistics includes articles on Swahili linguistics. Articles on both Swahili literature and linguistics appear in Journal of Swahili and African Studies. Research in African Literatures often publishes articles on Swahili literature. Swahili Forum includes articles in both Swahili and English on Swahili language, literature, and linguistics.

                                      Classical Poetry

                                      Many of the earliest available writings in Swahili are tendi (narrative poems), although there are a few examples of poems composed in other poetic genres, such as Sayyid Abdalla bin Ali Nasir’s Al Inkishafi (Ali Nasir 1977, cited under Classical Poetry: Primary Sources) and the poems of Muyaka bin Haji. The best-known genres of Swahili poetry are tendi and shairi. In an utendi each verse has four lines of eight syllables. The first three lines rhyme and the last line have an independent rhyme that runs throughout the poem, often ending in -ia or -ya. Many tendi are hundreds of verses long. In a shairi, each half-line has eight syllables and there are eight half-lines in each verse. In the first three lines there is internal rhyme of eighth syllables and final rhyme of sixteenth syllables. The final line may reverse the internal and final rhyme, or repeat them, or use another rhyme pattern throughout the poem. Mashairi may be of varying length, and one shairi often answers another shairi. They may present puzzles or enigmas and often employ complex metaphors and symbolism.

                                      Primary Sources

                                      Abdulaziz 1977, Ali Nasir 1977, and Allen 1971 provided three exemplary models for editions of classical poetry in Swahili. All were carefully researched and provided annotations on variations as well as English translations of the poems. Miehe, et al. 2002 is an excellent example of collaborative scholarship that makes accessible historically significant poetry. Liyongo Working Group 2004, another collaborative work, is a major scholarly edition of the Liyongo songs and supersedes earlier works. Mulokozi 1999 and Mutiso 2005 are examples of Swahili editions of classic poetry. Jan Knappert is possibly the single most productive author in the domain of the theory and history of Swahili poetry. Although his books need to be read with caution, owing to frequent errors, most scholars in the field of Swahili literary criticism refer to him and rely on his periodization of the history of Swahili poetry as well as his theoretical exposition of Swahili prosody. Knappert 1979 includes examples of Swahili poetry from the pre-Islamic period until the 20th century. Harries 1962 is a comprehensive reader of Swahili poetry with an English translation for each poem.

                                      • Abdulaziz, Mohamed H. Muyaka: 19th-Century Swahili Popular Poetry. Nairobi: Kenya Literature Bureau, 1977.

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                                        This edition provides annotated editions and translations of the poems of the early-19th-century Mombasa poet Muyaka bin Haji and explains the linguistic and historical contexts of the poems.

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                                        • Ali Nasir, Sayyid Abdalla bin. Al Inkishafi: Catechism of a Soul. Translated and edited by James de Vere Allen. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Literature Bureau, 1977.

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                                          Allen offers a readable translation and notes on this classic poem about the decline of the city-state of Pate.

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                                          • Allen, J. W. T., ed. Tendi: Six Examples of a Classical Verse Form with Translation and Notes. Nairobi, Kenya: Heinemann, 1971.

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                                            Allen provides editions and translations of six narrative poems: “Utendi wa Mwana Kupona” (Mwana Kupona’s Poem), “Utendi wa Ngamia na Paa” (The camel and the gazelle), “Utendi wa Masahibu” (Adversity), “Utendi wa Mikidadi na Mayasa” (Miqdad and Mayasa), “Utendi wa Ayubu” (Job), and “Utendi wa Qiyama” (The Last Judgment).

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                                            • Harries, Lyndon, trans. and ed. Swahili Poetry. Oxford: Clarendon, 1962.

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                                              After an introduction to Swahili prosody and a discussion of the linguistic situation of Swahili poetry (e.g., the issue of dialects, the influence of Arabic), the reader covers the most important classical Swahili poems. The sections classify poems according to prosodic forms and include the utendi, with both epic and didactic content, the long-measure verse (wedding songs, qasida), the quatrain (shairi), and a section of poems composed in other forms.

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                                              • Knappert, Jan. Four Centuries of Swahili Verse: A Literary History and Anthology. London: Heinemann, 1979.

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                                                The chapters cover the poetry of the legendary hero Fumo Liongo, the maghazi tradition of poetry depicting the battles of early Muslims against their enemies, the poem Inkishafi about the fall of the sultanate of Pate, the political poems composed by the famous Mombasan poet Muyaka bin Haji, and poetry written during the German colonization, down to modern poets such as Shaaban Robert, Mathias Mnyampala, Amri Abedi, and Ahmad Nassir.

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                                                • Liyongo Working Group. The Liyongo Songs: Poems Attributed to Fumo Liyongo. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe, 2004.

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                                                  This study of poems attributed to the Swahili hero Fumo Liyongo consists of an introduction and Part A (texts and translations) and Part B (critical editions of the texts). Gudrun Miehe was the editing coordinator of this project; the other participants were Abdilatif Abdalla, Ahmad Nassir Juma Bhalo, Ahmed Nabhany, Angelica Baschiera, Clarissa Dittemer, Farouk Topan, Mohamed H. Abdulaziz, Said A. M. Khamis, Yahya Ali Omar, and Zeina Mahmoud Fadhil Al Bakary.

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                                                  • Miehe, Gudrun, Katrin Bromber, Said Khamis, and Ralf Grosserhode, eds. Kala Shairi: German East Africa in Swahili Poems. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe, 2002.

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                                                    Part 1 of this volume includes poems by East Africans that were commissioned by the Germans about the German conquest of various regions of German East Africa. Part 2 includes poems by Hemedi Abdulla Al Buhry on Abushiri’s war and by Abdul Karim Jamalidini on the Maji Maji war.

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                                                    • Mulokozi, Mugyabuso M. Tenzi Tatu za Kale (Fumo Liyongo, Al Inkishafi, Mwanakupona). Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili, 1999.

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                                                      A new edition of three famous utendi. The book includes an introduction and marginal comments on the poems, explaining outdated grammar and vocabulary features of the poems. There is no translation.

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                                                      • Mutiso, Kineene wa, ed. Utenzi wa Hamziyya. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili, 2005.

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                                                        A new edition of the ancient qasida (praise poem to the Prophet), Hamziyya. The edition includes commentary on the poem.

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                                                        Secondary Sources

                                                        Abdulaziz 1996 considers the history and impact of qasida poetry in East Africa. Biersteker 1996 discusses dialogue poetry in Swahili by comparing a series of historically significant exchanges of poetry. Kassim 1995 is a study of poems in dialects of Swahili spoken in Somalia. Mulokozi and Sengo 1995 provide an overview of the history of Swahili poetry, while Saavedra Casco 2007 gives a historical analysis of poems written about the German colonial conquest. Njozi 1993 reacts to the Marxist (Mulokozi and Sengo 1995) and feminist (Biersteker 1991) readings of the famous “Utendi wa Mwana Kupona.” He stresses the need of a proper understanding of the social context of the poem, which is that of Islamic 19th-century Swahili society. Vierke 2011 is an analysis and edition of a classic utendi. Her work sets new standards for both editions and analyses of Swahili poetry.

                                                        • Abdulaziz, M. H. “The Influence of the Qasida on the Development of Swahili Rhymed and Metred Verse.” In Qasida Poetry in Islamic Asia and Africa. Edited by Stefan Sperl and C. Shackle, 411–428. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1996.

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                                                          Abdulaziz discusses East African writers who wrote qasida in Arabic and then explains how specific genres of Swahili poetry were influenced by the qasida forms and other genres of poetry in Arabic.

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                                                          • Biersteker, Ann. “Language, Poetry and Power: A Reconsideration of ‘Utendi wa Mwana Kupona.’” In Faces of Islam in African Literature. Edited by Kenneth W. Harrow, 59–77. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1991.

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                                                            Biersteker argues for multiple and nuanced readings of this poem. She suggests that verses of this poem should be read both in the context of immediately preceding and following verses and within the larger context of the entire poem.

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                                                            • Biersteker, Ann. Kujibizana: Questions of Language and Power in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Poetry in Kiswahili. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1996.

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                                                              Biersteker provides examples of two performed poems that answer Mwana Kupona’s 19th-century written poem. She also considers poems that provided Muslim answers to late 19th-century Christian hymns, a poetic debate between Julius Nyerere and Saadan Kandoro on Tanzanian socialism, Kandoro’s and Shaaban Robert’s competing poems on language and politics, and issues of editing, translating, and publishing colonial-era poetry.

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                                                              • Kassim, Mohamed M. “Islam and Swahili Culture on the Banadir Coast.” Northeast African Studies 2.3 (1995): 21–37.

                                                                DOI: 10.1353/nas.1995.0009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                This is a fascinating study of the history of Islamic leaders who composed poetry in the northernmost Swahili dialects.

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                                                                • Mulokozi, Mugyabuso M., and T. S. Y. Sengo. History of Kiswahili Poetry, A.D. 1000–2000. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Institute of Kiswahili Research, 1995.

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                                                                  A bold, original presentation of Swahili poetry, relying on the authors’ fieldwork as well as secondary sources. The book studies poetry from different angles, both historical and contemporary: its geographical spread, social functions, and political impact.

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                                                                  • Njozi, H. M. “The Social Context of Utendi wa Mwanakupona.” Frankfurter Afrikanistische Blätter 5 (1993): 83–90.

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                                                                    A discussion of “Utendi wa Mwana Kupona” against the background of Islam in East Africa. Njozi suggests that many of the statements in the poem, interpreted by other critics in terms of gender politics (either submission or oblique empowerment of women), can be understood as straightforward expressions of Islamic beliefs.

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                                                                    • Saavedra Casco, José A. Utenzi, War Poems, and the German Conquest of East Africa: Swahili Poetry as Historical Source. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2007.

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                                                                      This is a major study by a historian of Swahili narrative poems as historical sources. Saavedra Casco provides an insightful analysis of the poems composed about the German conquest of what became German East Africa, now mainland Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi.

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                                                                      • Vierke, Clarissa. On the Poetics of the Utendi: A Critical Edition on the Nineteenth-Century Swahili Poem “Utendi wa Haudaji” Together with a Stylistic Analysis. Zurich, Switzerland: LIT Verlag, 2011.

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                                                                        A groundbreaking study of the genre of utendi. After a detailed analysis of the utendi stanza, in which Vierke stresses its bipartite structure, she elaborates the utendi’s way of telling history and reflects on views of history in the Swahili culture and on Swahili historiography. The analytical part is followed by a critical edition of “Utendi wa Haudaji.”

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                                                                        Classical Prose

                                                                        The earliest extant prose texts in Swahili are chronicles that relate the histories of Swahili city-states. These texts have been studied by historians, linguists, and literary scholars.

                                                                        Primary Sources

                                                                        The available chronicles of the Swahili city-states have long been of interest to scholars (Freeman-Grenville 1962). Two of the earliest extant chronicles are in Arabic (Strong 1895) and Portuguese (see Theal 1900 for an English translation), although these versions may be based on competing versions told in Swahili (see Saad 1979, cited under Classical Prose: Secondary Sources). Alburi 1957 is a chronicle in Arabic that also relates the history of the most northern Swahili communities. Three chronicles in Swahili are available in Hamed al-Bakariy al-Lamuy 1938, Tolmacheva 1993, and Omar and Frankl 1990. In studying the chronicles it is important to pay special attention to their provenance and to consider the ways in which poetry and epic elements have been incorporated into them. Nurse 1994 demonstrates the connection between Swahili poetic and prose historical narratives by including examples of each with translations.

                                                                        • Alburi, Fazil bin Omar. “Kitab al Zanuj.” In Somalia: Scritti Vari Editi ed Inediti. Vol. 1. Edited by E. Cerulli, 231–251. Rome: Administrazione Fiduciaria Italiana dell’Somalia, 1957.

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                                                                          Fazil bin Omar Alburi is assumed to have based this 19th-century chronicle on earlier versions about the settlement of the northern Swahili coast. This chronicle is the first to mention Shungwaya.

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                                                                          • Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P., ed. and trans. “Anonymous: An Arabic History of Kilwa Kisiwani c. 1520.” In The East African Coast: Select Documents from the First Century to the Early Nineteenth Century. Edited by G. S. P. Freeman-Grenville, 34–49. Oxford: Clarendon, 1962.

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                                                                            This document is also known as Kitab al-Sulwa. According to Saad and Strong, the extant copy of the Kitab is MS Or. 2666 in the British Museum.

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                                                                            • Hamed al-Bakariy al-Lamuy, Shaibu Faraji bin. “Khabari Lamu / The Lamu Chronicle.” Edited and translated by William Hichens. Bantu Studies 12 (1938): 1–32.

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                                                                              Hichens’s translation concludes, “Written down by Saleh at the command of the governor Abdallah bin Hamed,” but “Maneno haya yote tumenakili” in the Swahili version suggests that this manuscript was written from an earlier text.

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                                                                              • Nurse, Derek. “Historical Texts from the Swahili Coast.” Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere 37 (1994): 47–85.

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                                                                                Nurse provides examples of narrative poems in the Bajuni/Kitikuu and Siu/Siyu dialects as well as historical accounts in the Bajuni vave genre and prose historical narratives in Mwini/Chiimwini and Bajuni/Kitikuu.

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                                                                                • Omar, Yahya Ali, and P. J. L. Frankl, eds. “The Mombasa Chronicle.” Afrika und Ubersee 73 (1990): 101–128.

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                                                                                  This version of the Mombasa Chronicle is based upon a manuscript in the collection of the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies.

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                                                                                  • Strong, S. Arthur. “The History of Kilwa.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (1895): 385–430.

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                                                                                    In this work, Strong publishes the Kitab al-Sulwa in Arabic and summarizes and analyzes it in English.

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                                                                                    • Theal, George McCall. “Extracts from Da Asia, by João de Barros.” In Records of South-Eastern Africa. Vol. 6. By George McCall Theal, 1–307. London: William Klowks, 1900.

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                                                                                      Includes an English translation (pp. 240–244) of the Portuguese version of the Kilwa Chronicle that was published by João de Barros in Da Asia Vol. 1 (Lisbon: Sá da Costa, 1945), pp. 323–328.

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                                                                                      • Tolmacheva, Marina, ed. and trans. The Pate Chronicle. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1993.

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                                                                                        This scholarly edition is based on and comments on earlier versions and editions of this chronicle.

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                                                                                        Secondary Sources

                                                                                        While commentary on specific chronicles and on the chronicles more generally is found in many of the editions of the chronicles and in historical studies, Prins 1958 and Saad 1979 consider and compare all of the available chronicles.

                                                                                        • Prins, A. H. J. “On Swahili Historiography.” Journal of the East African Swahili Committee 28.1 (1958): 26–40.

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                                                                                          Prins provides a most useful overview of the histories of the various chronicle manuscripts. His study is crucial to any consideration of Swahili chronicles. He discusses missing chronicles as well as those that are extant, and he indicates relationships between different versions.

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                                                                                          • Saad, Elias. “Kilwa Dynastic Historiography: A Critical Study.” History in Africa 6 (1979): 177–207.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.2307/3171745Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            This is a fascinating study that compares the available versions of the Kilwa Chronicle and how they have been studied.

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                                                                                            Colonial-Era Prose

                                                                                            East African authors produced a wide range of prose texts in Swahili during the colonial era. The selections here demonstrate the range of genres in which authors wrote. Al Buhry 1952 is one of the earliest and most general histories, while Mtoro bin Mwinyi Bakari 1981 translates one of first studies of Swahili culture. Mnyampala 1995 explores Gogo history and culture, while Mwidad 1960 is a history of Rabai. Farsy 1989 is an important source for the study of the history of Islam in East Africa. This work provides biographies of nine scholars and information on their teachers and students. The study also includes poems written by the scholars. Robert 1967 is the first biography written in Swahili. Omar 1998 retells religious legends.

                                                                                            • Al Buhry, Hemedi Abdulla. “A History of Africa.” Translated by E. C. Baker. Tanzania Notes and Records 32 (1952): 65–82.

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                                                                                              Hemedi Abdulla wrote “A History of Africa” in 1912. “Africa” in the title refers to what was then German East Africa as well as the Swahili city-states in Kenya, then a British colony. He wrote about the dynasties of the Swahili city-states and about the Wamakua, Wangindo, Wambugu, and Wasegeju communities. He said that all shared a history of earlier peaceful life “under the rule of the Prophet Seleman.”

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                                                                                              • Farsy, Abdallah Salih. The Shafi’i Ulama of East Africa, c. 1830–1970: A Hagiographic Account. Translated and edited by Randall L. Pouwels. Madison: African Studies Program, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1989.

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                                                                                                Pouwels’s edition and translation of Abdallah Salih Farsy’s Baadhi ya Wanavyuoni wa Kishafii wa Mashariki ya Afrika. Includes biographies of Sh. Muhyiddin, Sheikh al-Qahtany al-Wa’il, Sh. Ali Khamis al-Barwany, Sh. Ali b. Abdallah Mazrui, Sh. Abdu’l-Aziz Abdu’l-Ghany al-Amawy, Sh. Abdallah Bakathir, Sh. Abdallah Bakathir II, Sh. Abdallah Bakathir III, Sayyid Ahmad Abu Bakr bin Sumayt, and Sayyid Ahmad Abu Bakr bin Sumayt II.

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                                                                                                • Mnyampala, Mathias. The Gogo: History, Customs, and Traditions / Historia, Mila na Desturi za Wagogo wa Tanzania. Edited and translated by Gregory H. Maddox. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1995.

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                                                                                                  Maddox’s edition and translation of Mnyampala’s classic work places the study within the wider frame of similar colonial-era studies.

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                                                                                                  • Mtoro bin Mwinyi Bakari. The Customs of the Swahili People: The Desturi za Waswahili of Mtoro bin Mwinyi Bakari and Other Swahili Persons. Edited and translated by J. W. T. Allen. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981.

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                                                                                                    Allen’s edition and English translation of Mtoro bin Mwinyi Bakari’s Desturi za Waswahili credits Mtoro for this work, which was originally published in 1903 under Carl Velten’s name. Mtoro describes 1890s life and culture in the areas around Bagamoyo, now a coastal city in Tanzania.

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                                                                                                    • Mwidad, Midani bin. “The Founding of Rabai, a Swahili Chronicle by Midani bin Mwidad.” Swahili 31 (1960): 140–149.

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                                                                                                      This 1960 chronicle is a more recent version of the classic genre.

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                                                                                                      • Omar, Ali Yahya. Three Prose Texts in the Swahili of Mombasa. Berlin: D. Reimer, 1998.

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                                                                                                        The three Kimvita texts included are “Matembezi ya Peponi” (A tour of paradise), “Matembezi ya Motoni” (A tour of Hell), and “Maisha ya Nabii Adamu na Mwana Hawa” (The life of Adam and Eve). These texts were written and broadcast on the radio in Kenya in the 1950s.

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                                                                                                        • Robert, Shaaban. Wasifu wa Siti binti Saad: Mwimbaji wa Unguja. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Nelson, 1967.

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                                                                                                          Shaaban Robert’s work on the life on the singer Siti binti Saad is less a biography than a tribute to a woman who overcame obstacles to become a famous singer.

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                                                                                                          Secondary Sources

                                                                                                          Historians have written extensively on the value of prose texts written during the colonial era. Studies of these sources include Geider 2002, an overview of Swahili ethnographies, histories, and biographies, and Rollins 1983, about the earliest Swahili prose texts. Hunter 2009 looks at a specific Swahili history in relationship to other histories written at the same time on the same region, while Topan 1997 looks at the history of biographical writing in Swahili. Pouwels 1992 considers early written Swahili literature in relationship to spoken and performed literature.

                                                                                                          • Geider, Thomas. “The Paper Memory of East Africa: Ethnohistories and Biographies Written in Swahili.” In A Place in the World: New Local Historiographies from Africa and South Asia. Edited by Axel Harneit Sievers, 255–288. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002.

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                                                                                                            Geider provides a comprehensive overview of Swahili ethnohistories and biographies.

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                                                                                                            • Hunter, Emma. “In Pursuit of the ‘Higher Medievalism’: Local History and Politics in Kilimanjaro.” In Recasting the Past: History and Political Work in Modern Africa. Edited by Derek R. Peterson and Giacomo Macola, 149–167. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2009.

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                                                                                                              Hunter considers Itosi Marealle’s Maisha ya Mchagga Hapa Duniani in relationship to other histories of the Kilimanjaro region written in the 1940s.

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                                                                                                              • Pouwels, Randall L. “Swahili Literature and History in the Post-Structuralist Era.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 25.2 (1992): 261–283.

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                                                                                                                Pouwels advocates that historians of the East African coast study both written and performed Swahili literature. His use of problematic sources undermines his arguments, but he provides many useful examples.

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                                                                                                                • Rollins, Jack D. A History of Swahili Prose, Part One: From Earliest Times to the End of the Nineteenth Century. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1983.

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                                                                                                                  Rollins provides an overview of early Swahili prose but includes more information on Arabic sources than examples from Swahili texts.

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                                                                                                                  • Topan, Farouk. “Biography Writing in Swahili.” History in Africa 24 (1997): 299–307.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.2307/3172032Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    Topan’s study covers prose writing from the Lamu and Pate chronicles through Ebrahim Hussein’s play Kinjeketile.

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                                                                                                                    Oral Literature, Performance, and Oral History

                                                                                                                    The considerable study of Swahili poetry has often not acknowledged that Swahili poetry is generally sung in performance. Recent studies of Swahili music have begun to fill this gap in Swahili studies and have demonstrated the complex history of interconnections between text and performance.

                                                                                                                    Primary Sources

                                                                                                                    Askew 2002 includes texts and a CD of taarab sung poems in Swahili. Taarab texts are also included in Fair 2001. Perullo 2011 also includes song lyrics. Audio and video versions of performances of Swahili poetry are also included in Daniela Merolla’s Verba Africana Series. While Steere 1928 is the first collection of Swahili proverbs and was the first to be printed as a book, Scheven 1981 is among the most comprehensive collections of proverbs. Mirza and Strobel 1989 is a good example of oral history.

                                                                                                                    • Askew, Kelly M. Performing the Nation: Swahili Music and Cultural Politics in Tanzania. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

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                                                                                                                      Askew’s study of Swahili music, especially taarab music, in the history of Tanzanian politics is both innovative and fascinating. She includes many examples of taarab and other song lyrics with translations; the work includes a discography, and the volume is sold with a CD that includes many of the songs discussed.

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                                                                                                                      • Fair, Laura J. Pastimes and Politics: Culture, Community and Identity in Post-abolition Urban Zanzibar, 1890–1945. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                        Fair’s work includes a chapter on the popular singer Siti binti Saad. This historical study is a valuable complement to Robert 1967 (cited under Colonial-Era Prose).

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                                                                                                                        • Merolla, Daniela, ed. Verba Africana Series.

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                                                                                                                          Collection can be found on the University of Cambridge’s website World Oral Literature: Voices of Vanishing Worlds.

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                                                                                                                          • Mirza, Sarah, and Margaret Strobel, eds. and trans. Three Swahili Women: Life Histories from Mombasa, Kenya. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.

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                                                                                                                            Three Swahili Women presents the life histories of Kaje wa Mwenye Matano, Mishi wa Abdala, and Shamsha Muhamad Muhashamy, three Mombasa women.

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                                                                                                                            • Perullo, Alex. Live from Dar es Salaam: Popular Music and Tanzania’s Music Economy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011.

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                                                                                                                              This study of contemporary Tanzanian music includes many examples of song lyrics. Videos of song performances that Perullo recorded during his research are available online.

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                                                                                                                              • Scheven, Albert. Swahili Proverbs: Nia Zikiwa Moja, Kilicho Mbali Huja. Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1981.

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                                                                                                                                This massive collection of Swahili proverbs includes English translations and explanations.

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                                                                                                                                • Steere, Edward. Swahili Tales, as Told by the Natives of Zanzibar. 2d ed. Revised by Alice Werner. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1928.

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                                                                                                                                  Steere’s collection of Swahili narratives is the earliest published collection and the best known. Originally published in 1870 (London: Bell and Daldy).

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                                                                                                                                  Secondary Sources

                                                                                                                                  A methodological reflection on the collection of oral sources (stories, performances of riddles, proverbs, rituals) is contained in Brower 2010 and Eastman 1984.

                                                                                                                                  • Brower, Lowell. “Babuzimwi.” Transition: An International Review 102 (January 2010): 40–67.

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                                                                                                                                    Brower’s beautifully written commentary on Steere is also an autobiographical account of the author’s research on storytelling in Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania.

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                                                                                                                                    • Eastman, Carol M. “An Ethnography of Swahili Expressive Culture.” Research in African Literatures 15.3 (1984): 313–340.

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                                                                                                                                      Eastman considers the performance contexts of riddles, proverbs, stories, and vugo, a specific type of sung poetry.

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                                                                                                                                      Modern Poetry

                                                                                                                                      The beginning of modern poetry in Swahili is associated with the prominent figure of Shaaban Robert (b. 1909–d. 1962), who produced most of his poems during World War II.Swahili poetry began to become familiar to audiences throughout East Africa with the publication of poems in the newspaper Mambo Leo in the early 1920s. Tanzanian and Kenyan newspapers still regularly publish poems on topical subjects. Many well-known Tanzanian political figures have published poetry in Swahili, including Julius Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania. Included here is only a small selection of works by the best-known authors.

                                                                                                                                      Colonial-Era Poetry: Primary Sources

                                                                                                                                      After independence, many poets who had published extensively during the colonial era collected their poems and republished them as anthologies. Collections by Tanzanian poets and political leaders include Kandoro 1972, Mnyampala 1965, Robert 1960, Robert 1967, and Robert 1969. Shaaban Robert’s poetry is accessible in English translation in Robert 1994.

                                                                                                                                      • Kandoro, S. A. Mashairi ya Saadani. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Shirika la Magazeti ya Chama, 1972.

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                                                                                                                                        This is a collection of the poetry of Saadani Abdul Kandoro, who was one of the founders of the Tanganyika African National Union. The volume includes poems that Kandoro exchanged with other political figures who were poets, including Julius Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, and Amri Abedi, the first African mayor of Dar es Salaam.

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                                                                                                                                        • Mnyampala, Mathias. Waadhi wa Ushairi. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Literature Bureau, 1965.

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                                                                                                                                          This is a collection of Mnyampala’s earlier and most highly regarded poetry. Many of the poems are on political topics.

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                                                                                                                                          • Robert, Shaaban. Pambo la Lugha. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1960.

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                                                                                                                                            This collection of Shaaban Robert’s poetry includes “Kiswahili,” one of the most famous poems in the Swahili language. His poem “Chama cha Waafrica” is also included here. The collection was first published in 1947.

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                                                                                                                                            • Robert, Shaaban. Masomo yenye Adili. London: Nelson, 1967.

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                                                                                                                                              Poems on a range of ethical and political topics. “Rangi Zetu” is one of the many beautiful poems in this collection.

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                                                                                                                                              • Robert, Shaaban. Mwafrika Aimba. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Nelson, 1969.

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                                                                                                                                                Well-known poems in this collection include Robert’s tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, his poem welcoming Princess Margaret to East Africa, and his poem to Saadan Kandoro suggesting the formation of an organization for poets.

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                                                                                                                                                • Robert, Shaaban. The Poetry of Shaaban Robert. Translated by Clement Ndulute. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Dar es Salaam University Press, 1994.

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                                                                                                                                                  This bilingual edition includes poems from eight of the collections of Shaaban Robert’s poetry.

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                                                                                                                                                  Colonial-Era Poetry: Secondary Sources

                                                                                                                                                  Ndulute 1985 and Ndulute 1987 consider the poetry of two major poets of the colonial era, Mathias Mnyampala and Shaaban Robert, both of whom were political activists as well.

                                                                                                                                                  • Ndulute, C. L. “Politics in a Poetic Garb: The Literary Fortunes of Mathias Mnyampala.” Kiswahili: Jarida la Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili 52.1–2 (1985): 143–160.

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                                                                                                                                                    The article considers the political poetry and political activism of Mathias Mnyampala.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Ndulute, C. L. “Shaaban Robert’s Poetic Landscape: From Ethnicism to Nationalism.” Kiswahili 54.1–2 (1987): 92–116.

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                                                                                                                                                      This article focuses on the reflection of Shaaban Robert’s political opinions in his poetry.

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                                                                                                                                                      Post-Independence Poetry: Primary Sources

                                                                                                                                                      Since independence, Swahili poetry has experienced several major innovations, such as the rejection of traditional prosody and the introduction of free verse by a group of students at Dar es Salaam University (Kezilahabi 1974). This type of poetry was used for philosophical and political topics, as demonstrated by Mazrui 1988. The development of poetry outside traditional prosody has culminated in wa Mberia 2001, which introduces graphic poetry. The majority of poets, however, have continued writing metrical verse. The masters of this style are the Kenyan Ahmad Nassir Juma Bhalo (Nassir Juma Bhalo 1971) and the Zanzibari Said Ahmed Mohamed (Mohamed 1980). Abdalla 1973 is one of the most famous collections of poetry from post-independence Kenya, containing poems written by a prisoner of conscience. Amidu 1990 shows how poetry is employed to further political interests during elections in Lamu, while the culture of Lamu is celebrated in Nabhany 1979.

                                                                                                                                                      • Abdalla, Abdilatif. Sauti ya Dhiki. Nairobi, Kenya: Oxford University Press, 1973.

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                                                                                                                                                        Poetry the author wrote while in prison for criticizing the Kenyatta régime during 1969–1972. The collection contains poems on political topics but also philosophical meditations. It has been one of the most influential and frequently studied collections of Swahili poetry.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Amidu, Assibi A. Kimwondo: A Kiswahili Electoral Contest. Vienna: Afro-Pub, 1990.

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                                                                                                                                                          This is a study of poetry that was exchanged during an electoral contest in Lamu, Kenya. Poets wrote poems in support of each of the candidates.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Kezilahabi, Euphrase. Kichomi. Nairobi, Kenya: Heinemann, 1974.

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                                                                                                                                                            This early collection of poetry written outside the classical prosodic norms played the role of a manifesto of free-verse Swahili poetry. The new style of poetry is defended both in the poems of this collection and in the introduction authored by Farouk Topan.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Mazrui, Alamin. Chembe cha Moyo. Nairobi: Heinemann Kenya, 1988.

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                                                                                                                                                              Many of the moving poems in this collection deal with political subjects and evoke voices of the oppressed.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Mohamed, Said Ahmed. ‘Sikate tamaa. Edited by Abdilatif Abdalla. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Longman, 1980.

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                                                                                                                                                                This collection includes poems written in the author’s youth, but demonstrates his skill in the use of metaphor and symbolism and his ability to manipulate the genre of Swahili poetry for his aesthetic purposes.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Nabhany, Ahmed Sheikh. Sambo ya Kiwandeo: The Ship of Lamu-Island. Edited by Gudrun Miehe and Thilo C. Schadeberg. Leiden, The Netherlands: Afrika-Studiecentrum, 1979.

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                                                                                                                                                                  This utenzi about Lamu ship construction details how the ship is constructed, the parts of the ship, how the ship is launched, and how it should be sailed. The poem is written primarily in the Lamu dialect. This is a bilingual Swahili–English edition.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Nassir Juma Bhalo, Ahmad. Malenga wa Mvita: Diwani ya Ustadh Bhalo. Edited by Shihabuddin Chiraghdin. Nairobi, Kenya: Oxford University Press, 1971.

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                                                                                                                                                                    A collection of poetry of one of the most famous contemporary poets. The Mombasan Ahmad Nassir takes up the tradition of witty verse written in the shairi form. The poems are especially remarkable in their mastery of language, including use of Kimvita and other northern dialects and an extremely rich vocabulary. All these make up his ingenious poetic gems written on a range of philosophical and moral themes.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • wa Mberia, Kithaka. Bara Jingine. Nairobi, Kenya: Marimba, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                      The author’s second collection includes many poems dealing with social and political topics and demonstrates his innovative use of imagery dealing with nature.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Post-Independence Poetry: Secondary Sources

                                                                                                                                                                      Scholars have taken a variety of approaches in their studies of post-independence poetry. Arnold 2002, Njogu 1995, and Njogu 2004 considered dialogues between poets on political and social issues. Kresse 2007 addresses the topic of philosophical meanings of the concept of utu, in the example of a poem by Ahmad Nassir Juma Bhalo. Waliaula 2009 discusses the prison poetry of Abdilatif Abdalla. Topan 1974 is an early reception of the new free-verse style of Swahili poetry and contains an insightful analysis of its place in the tradition of Swahili poetry.

                                                                                                                                                                      • Arnold, Nathalie. “Placing the Shameless: Approaching Poetry and the Politics of Pemban-ness in Zanzibar, 1995–2001.” Research in African Literatures 33.3 (2002): 140–167.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Drawing upon earlier studies of dialogue poetry, Arnold argues that the poetry of political struggles is constitutive of those struggles. She uses examples of 1995–2001 political poetry from Pemba.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Kresse, Kai. “Ahmad Nassir’s Poetical Moral Theory Utu—How Human Beings Ought to Behave.” In Philosophising in Mombasa: Knowledge, Islam and Intellectual Practice on the Swahili Coast. By Kai Kresse, 139–175. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press for the International African Institute, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Kresse has made a major contribution to both the study of Swahili poetry and to African philosophy by presenting Swahili poetry as one source of philosophy. Swahili poetry is a significant channel for the expression of the philosophical ideas of Swahili intellectuals. In Philosophising in Mombasa, he focuses on two of these discursive practices, poetry and religious discourse.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Njogu, Kimani. “Poetic Serialization: Kiswahili Metapoetry on Prosodic Knots.” Research in African Literatures 26 (1995): 138–150.

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                                                                                                                                                                            Njogu considers the debate on questions of prosody conducted in poetry between Swahili poets.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Njogu, Kimani. Reading Poetry as Dialogue: An East African Literary Tradition. Nairobi, Kenya: Jomo Kenyatta Foundation, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                              This major study of dialogue poetry in Swahili explains the theory of dialogic relations in language and literature and considers contestation poetry and the performance of poetry. The author provides many examples.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Topan, Farouk. “Modern Swahili Poetry.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 37.1 (1974): 175–187.

                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1017/S0041977X00094945Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                This is one of the first studies to consider free verse in Swahili.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Waliaula, Ken Walibora. “Prison, Poetry, and Polyphony in Abdilatif Abdalla’s Sauti ya Dhiki.” Research in African Literatures 40.3 (2009): 129–148.

                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.2979/RAL.2009.40.3.129Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                  This study considers Abdilatif Abdalla’s prison poetry, which was published in the collection Sauti ya Dhiki.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Modern Prose: The Novel and Short Story

                                                                                                                                                                                  A wide range of authors have published novels and short stories in Swahili since the last years of the colonial era. Beginning with the novels by the “father of modern Swahili literature,” Shaaban Robert, many of which are allegories merging Muslim folklore with elements of literary realism, the Swahili novel passed through a phase of realism with different manifestations in Tanzania and in Kenya. While Tanzanian literature was heavily influenced by the socialist policy of ujamaa (familyhood, Tanzanian socialism), on one hand, and by the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964, on the other, both of which brought about far-reaching social upheavals, the Kenyan realist novel extensively reflects the repercussions of the major historical events of the pre-independence era, in particular the Mau Mau Uprising (1952–1960). Significantly, the situation of cultural and social alienation that resulted from colonialism and Western education and from ujamaa gave rise to the existentialist novel in Tanzania (Euphrase Kezilahabi), to be continued in the 2000s by reflections on the plague of HIV/AIDS (William Mkufya). Since the 1990s, the literatures of Tanzania and Kenya have come closer together, with both political and cultural boundaries becoming more permeable. Many Tanzanian authors live in the diaspora (Euphrase Kezilahabi, Said Ahmed Mohamed). We discuss selected novels by the best-known authors. Additional fiction can be found in the works cited under Bibliographies.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Primary Sources before 1990

                                                                                                                                                                                  During the decade before independence and in the two decades after it, many Swahili novelists wrote realist novels that dealt with contemporary social and political issues. Kezilahabi 1971 was one of the earliest novels to deal with the abuse of women. Mohamed 1976 also has as its main character an abused woman, who suffers because of her race as well as her gender. Women struggling against oppression are also central in Mohamed 1980. Workers struggle against colonial exploitation in Adam 2005, while in Mohamed 1988 youths and women unite against a corrupt patriarchal regime. Kezilahabi 2007 and Kezilahabi 2008 are the first existentialist novels in Swahili.

                                                                                                                                                                                  • Adam, Adam Shafi. Kuli. Nairobi, Kenya: Longhorn, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Kuli, or “Coolie,” first published in 1979, is a novel about the 1948 dockworkers’ strike in Zanzibar.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Bertoncini-Zúbková, Elena, ed. Vamps and Victims: Women in Swahili Literature. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      A representative and pedagogically helpful anthology of Swahili prose, including excerpts from novels and short stories by authors from the Tanzanian mainland (Euphrase Kezilahabi, Kajubi Mukajanga, Ben Mtobwa, Claude Mung’ong’o, Freddy Macha), Zanzibar (Said Ahmed Mohamed, Mohamed Suleiman Mohamed, Muhammed Said Abdulla, Saad S. Yahya), and Kenya (Peter Ngare). Each text has explanations of unusual grammatical and lexical features.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Kezilahabi, Euphrase. Rosa Mistika. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Literature Bureau, 1971.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        A novel Kezilahabi wrote while still at secondary school, this is one of the most widely read Swahili novels. It is the story of a girl affected by her father’s brutality.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Kezilahabi, Euphrase. Dunia Uwanja wa Fujo. 2d ed. Nairobi, Kenya: Vide-Muwa, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Kezilahabi’s second existentialist novel is the story of Tumaini, a young intellectual from the village of Bulogola on Ukerewe Island. Stripped of all his property after the introduction of Tanzanian socialism, he is unable to bear such frustration, kills the regional officer responsible for the nationalization of his possessions, and is sentenced to death. Title translates as “The World Is an Arena of Chaos.” First published in 1975 (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: East African Literature Bureau).

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Kezilahabi, Euphrase. Kichwamaji. 2d ed. Nairobi, Kenya: Vide-Muwa, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            This is the first existentialist novel in Swahili, abounding in reflections on the meaning of life and death, disease, crime, and moral guilt. Title translates as “Hydrocephalus.” First edition published in 1974 (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: East African Publishing House).

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Mohamed, Mohamed S. Nyota ya Rehema. Nairobi, Kenya: Oxford University Press, 1976.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              The fictional life story of Rehema treats issues of race and class in pre-independence Zanzibar/Pemba. Title translates as “Rehema’s Star.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Mohamed, Said Ahmed. Utengano. Nairobi, Kenya: Longman, 1980.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                Said Ahmed Mohamed is one of the finest novelists writing in Swahili. In this novel, as in many of his other novels, conflict within a family is closely connected with social and political conflict in the society. Title translates as “Separation.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Mohamed, Said Ahmed. Kiza katika Nuru. Nairobi, Kenya: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  A novel about the conflict between father and son. Bwan Juba plots the murder of his son Mvita, who threatens his father’s political career. Title translates as “Darkness in Light.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Secondary Sources on Post-Independence Prose Written before 1990

                                                                                                                                                                                                  A range of scholarship is available on post-independence fiction, covering various aspects of this literary production, including figures of speech and narrative techniques (Diegner 2002, Khamis 1998), gender (Mbughuni 1982), its political dimensions (Ohly 1981), and its philosophical impact (Garnier 2006, Philipson 1992).

                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Diegner, Lutz. “Allegories in Euphrase Kezilahabi’s Early Novels.” Swahili Forum 9 (2002): 43–74.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    An exposition of Kezilahabi’s realist writing. The novels Rosa Mistika, Kichwamaji, Dunia Uwanja wa Fujo, and Gamba la Nyoka are discussed against the background of literary and philosophical theories of allegory and metaphor.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Garnier, Xavier. Le roman swahili: La notion de “littérature mineure” à l‘épreuve. Paris: Karthala, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      A unique analysis of the Swahili novel, with chapters on the major novelists Shaaban Robert, Euphrase Kezilahabi, Mohamed Suleiman, and Said Ahmed Mohamed, but also with thematic chapters on the didactic novel, the ethnographic novel, the detective novel, and literature inspired by the policy of ujamaa.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Khamis, S. A. M. “Implication as a Literary Technique in Mohamed S. Mohamed’s Novels: Kiu and Nyota ya Rehema.” Swahili Forum 5 (1998): 93–114.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        An article suggesting a reading of the novels of Mohamed Suleiman Mohamed using the implication technique: emphasizing the way the text “shows” rather than “tells” (explicitly) what it wants to convey. For example, the descriptions of the luxurious mansion of the Arab father of Rahma, in Nyota ya Rehema, imply the social status of the family and, by extension, of Arabs in Zanzibar prior to the 1964 revolution.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Mbughuni, Patricia. “The Image of Women in Kiswahili Prose Fiction.” Kiswahili 49 (1982): 15–23.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          A seminal article for any gendered reading of Swahili literature. Mbughuni notes the negative depiction of female characters in Swahili literature, portrayed in two stereotypes—the prostitute and the housewife—with the male character trapped between the two types. Mbughuni traces this negative view of gender back to the didactic tendency omnipresent in Swahili literature, as well as to the mostly male authors’ social conditioning and intellectual horizons.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Ohly, Rajmund. Aggressive Prose: A Case Study in Kiswahili Prose of the Seventies. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili, 1981.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            An early analysis of the novel written in Tanzania and Kenya after independence, from a predominantly Marxist point of view.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Philipson, Robert. “Balzac in Zanzibar: The Swahili Novel as Disseminator of Bourgeois Individualism.” Research in African Literatures 23.3 (1992): 85–98.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              This article compares the narrative paradigm of tales and of the novel, showing how the novel contributes to the establishment of a new “bourgeois individualist” identity. While in tales the person is reduced to his or her role in the social fabric, the novel creates a unique psychological portrait and gives voice to the character’s individual rights and aspirations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              Primary Sources after 1990

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Kenya is slowly gaining the upper hand in publishing, and many Tanzanian novels have lately been reprinted in Kenya. The 1990s have also brought an exciting development away from literary realism in Swahili in the pioneering works of Kezilahabi 1990, Kezilahabi 1991, and Mkufya 1999. Aligning themselves with Latin American and Europhone African writers employing the literary style of magical realism, other Swahili authors furthered this nonrealist trend in the 2000s, as in Wamitila 2002, or ventured onto the terrain of science fiction (Mkangi 1995). Many of these authors have returned to literary realism in their recent works, such as Mkufya 2005, Walibora 2006, or Mohamed and Walibora 2007.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Kezilahabi, Euphrase. Nagona. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Dar es Salaam University Press, 1990.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                Abandoning realist narrative techniques and launching into experimental writing, Nagona is the story of an unnamed male character in search of “Nagona,” possibly embodied in a gazelle that changes into a woman. The novel culminates during a dancing feast, where the main character dances in a group of madmen.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Kezilahabi, Euphrase. Mzingile. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Dar es Salaam University Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A loose sequel to Kezilahabi 1990. Here the main protagonist is searching for the hidden God, whose daughter, the Second Saviour, has just been killed. Other children of this old man are born: a twin boy and girl. At the end of the novel, they embody the hope of a new world recreated from nothing after a catastrophe that devastated the old world and eradicated corrupt religions (especially Christianity). However, an old man reappears on the horizon, dragging on his back Marx’s Das Kapital. Title translates as “Labyrinth.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Mkangi, Katama. Walenisi. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Educational Publishers, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A proper name, literally “they-are-us.” A science-fiction novel constructing an allegorical image of Kenyan society. Dzombo, sentenced to death by being propelled out into space in a rocket with limited provisions, manages to land on a planet called Walenisi. There, he finds an ideal system of government based on socialist principles.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Mkufya, W. E. Ziraili na Zirani. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Hekima, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The story of an African atheist, Zirani, and his adventures in the Beyond. The brotherhood of Dhahara, a group of the souls of materialist thinkers dwelling in Hell, revolts against the injustice of sending souls of dead people to Hell for sins often committed on account of social inequality, out of hunger or poverty. Zirani becomes an ardent militant of this group and eventually the one who destroys God’s throne.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Mkufya, W. E. Ua la Faraja. 2d ed. Nairobi, Kenya: Longhorn, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Ua la Faraja is the story of several characters affected by AIDS. The central character is James Omolo, an existentialist thinker who questions the meaning of life, love, and sex. In spite of his initially very negative attitude to life, he marries and has a child. But instead of feeling joy, he feels nausea when seeing his baby and leaves the maternity hospital in perplexity. Title translates as “The Flower of Consolation.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Mohamed, Said Ahmed, and Ken Walibora. Kiti cha Moyoni na Hadithi Nyingine. Nairobi, Kenya: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The stories in this collection deal with a wide range of social and political issues. The title story, by Mohamed, begins with a family of four eating dinner. The mother, who lost her first husband many years ago, invites that husband to join them at the table. Title translates as “A Chair in the Heart and Other Stories.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Walibora, Ken. Ndoto ya Almasi. Nairobi: Macmillan Kenya, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Almasi returns home after spending a five-year sentence in prison for a crime he did not commit: setting on fire the house of the head teacher during a strike. The prison sentence means the end of his dream to become a radio announcer. Title translates as “Almasi’s Dream.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Wamitila, Kyallo W. Bina-Adamu! Nairobi, Kenya: Phoenix, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Wamitila’s novel is an allegorical depiction of imperialism in the world. The main protagonist, Jagina, sets out in search of three hermaphrodite children. Everywhere he goes, he sees the adverse effects of the boyish games of a certain P. P., accompanied by an omnipresent smell of he-goat (the Swahili word beberu means both “he-goat” and “imperialist”). It turns out P. P. stands for Peter Pan—a boy who never grows up. Title translates as “Man!”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Secondary Sources on Fiction Written after 1990

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The scholarship theorizing literature since 1990, apart from historical overviews (Bertoncini-Zúbková, et al. 2009), has especially highlighted the philosophical dimensions of these works: existentialist philosophy in Kezilahabi 1990 and Mkufya 1999 (both cited under Primary Sources after 1990; Diegner 2005), postmodernism (Gromov 2004), magical realism (Khamis 2005), and issues of ontology and metaphysics in Kezilahabi 1990 and Kezilahabi 1991 (Rettová 2007).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Bertoncini-Zúbková, Elena, Mikhail D. Gromov, S. A. M. Khamis, and Kyallo W. Wamitila. Outline of Swahili Literature: Prose Fiction and Drama. 2d ed. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: E. J. Brill, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This extensively revised and enlarged second edition is the best overview of Swahili prose up to 2007. It includes a list of writers and their works, the plots of novels, plays, and collections of short stories. Apart from “popular literature,” only parts of which have been described by scholars (in this book or in independent studies), the book is an exhaustive history of Swahili prose and theater.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Diegner, Lutz. Intertextuality in the Contemporary Swahili Novel: Euphrase Kezilahabi’s Nagona and William E. Mkufya’s Ziraili na Zirani. Swahili Forum 12 (2005): 25–35.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A comparison of two striking recent Swahili novels, based on a literary theory of intertextuality as well as a discussion of their philosophical implications.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Gromov, Mikhail D. “Postmodernistic Elements in Recent Swahili Novels.” Nairobi Journal of Literature 2 (2004): 28–36.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    An article explaining the features of postmodernism in the Swahili novel, on the example of Said Ahmed Mohamed’s Babu Alipofufuka. Gromov outlines the differences among realism, modernism, and postmodernism in the domain of literature, with postmodernism mixing styles, genres, characters, or aspects of plots. He states that, unlike European postmodernist authors, Swahili writers do keep a basic moral orientation in their writings, aiming at improvement of the moral, political, and economic situations within their societies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Khamis, S. A. M. “Signs of New Features in the Swahili Novel.” Research in African Literatures 36.1 (2005): 91–108.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      An article explaining recent developments in the Swahili novel since the 1990s toward postmodern styles, to reflect the changing conditions in present-day East African societies. The new Swahili novel experiments with narrative techniques, including fragmentation of plot, lack of unity and coherence of characters, and disruption of the linear flow of narrative, including changes in the logical sequence of events (reversal of cause and effect).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Rettová, Alena. Afrophone Philosophies: Reality and Challenge. Středokluky, Czech Republic: Zdeněk Susa, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Rettová presents a philosophical reading of several Swahili novelists, in particular Euphrase Kezilahabi and William Mkufya.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Drama

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        East African authors writing in Swahili have drawn upon a wide range of drama and theater traditions in their plays. There are classical Aristotelian well-made plays in Swahili as well as plays that draw upon a wide range of performance genres in Swahili and other African languages. East African playwrights have also studied the works of European and African playwrights and have drawn upon these sources for inspiration. School, community, and popular drama have a long history in East Africa, and in recent years, drama as been used in a variety of educational projects, especially in health education.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Primary Sources

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Ebrahim Hussein is the best-known Swahili playwright. Hussein 1970 is a classically structured play based on the events of the Maji Maji struggle against German colonial rule. Muhando 1975 incorporates song, dance, and audience participation in a celebration of socialist participatory education. Hussein 1980, like his other plays of this period, deals with contemporary social issues. The bulk of this work is a play within a play that takes place within the imagination of the main character. Hussein 1988 returns to classical structure and draws upon his study of Brecht as well as contemporary American plays and films to create a play that comments on social and political structures by reference to an East African family drama. Lihamba 1980 is based on a short story and a film by the Senegalese writer Sembene Ousmane about a man who is unable to cash a money order. Mazrui 1981 comments on neocolonialism and the status of women in this poetic drama. Mohamed 1995 is an absurdist play informed by Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and other works of this genre. Mohamed 2000 is a family drama titled with a proverb that takes on changing meanings throughout the play. Topan 1973 is a comedy that comments on the ideology of Tanzanian socialism.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Hussein, Ebrahim. Kinjeketile. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Oxford University Press, 1970.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This is a historical play about a leader in the Maji Maji war who, in the play, is a reluctant leader who tries to avoid war, but as he realizes the power of his leadership he accepts the consequences of his actions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Hussein, Ebrahim. Arusi. Nairobi, Kenya: Oxford University Press, 1980.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            In this play about a wedding, there is a dream play within the play that is also about a marriage. Through the dramatic action these troubled unions seem to be about politics on a broader scale. Title translates as “The Wedding.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Hussein, Ebrahim. Kwenye Ukingo wa Thim. Nairobi, Kenya: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This play rewrites the Kenyan case of Wambui Otieno’s dispossession after her husband’s death in terms of issues of ethnicity and class. Title translates as “At the Edge of Beyond.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Lihamba, Amandina. Hawala ya Fedha. Dar es Salaam: Tanzania Publishing House, 1980.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This play is a Swahili adaptation of Sembene Ousmane’s novella Mandat / The Money Order. The play seems more closely based on Sembene’s film Mandabi. Title translates as “The Money Order.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Mazrui, Alamin. Kilio cha Haki. Nairobi, Kenya: Longman, 1981.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This is a tightly structured play about a strike by agricultural workers at a multinational farm and food-processing factory. The leader of the workers is Lenina, who speaks truth to power in verse. Title translates as “Cry for Justice.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Mohamed, Said Ahmed. Amezidi. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Educational Publishers, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This is an absurdist play in which the two characters Ame and Zidi ponder the postcolonial situation and often cite well-known Swahili poems. Title translates as “Gone over the Top.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Mohamed, Said Ahmed. Kitumbua Kimeingia Mchanga. Nairobi, Kenya: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In this play mchanga (sand) that has gotten into a kitumbua (rice fritter) takes on various meanings as the title expression is used by various characters to oppose a marriage and to describe how a wedding ceremony has gone wrong.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Muhando, Penina. Pambo. Nairobi, Kenya: Foundation Books, 1975.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The title character, whose name means “ornament,” resents that his degree and government position have not brought him material prosperity. He runs away with children and begins to teach them his destructive ideology, but he and the children are rescued by a healer, their parents, and the audience.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Topan, Farouk. Aliyeonja Pepo. Dar es Salaam: Tanzania Publishing House, 1973.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This hilarious play is about a Swahili fisherman who dies and goes to heaven and is given the option of returning to earth as an Englishman or a Swahili cat. Title translates as “A Taste of Heaven.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Secondary Sources

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Criticism of Swahili drama has tended to consider individual works and the works of individual authors. One exception is Hussein 1980, which considers the relationship between East African performances and drama written for the stage. Ricard 2000 is a biography of Ebrahim Hussein. Fiebach 1997 considers Ebrahim Hussein’s plays in the context of Western theater. Kruishner 1999 contextualizes Topan 1973 (cited under Drama: Primary Sources) within the politics of Tanzanian socialism (ujamaa). Mwangi 2009 is a reading of Lihamba 1980 (cited under Drama: Primary Sources) based on gender theory. Mlama 1991 is a study of theater for development, especially of theater projects that engage women.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Fiebach, Joachim. “Ebrahim Hussein’s Dramaturgy: A Swahili Multiculturalist’s Journey in Drama and Theatre.” Research in African Literature 28 (1997): 19–37.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            An analysis of the plays of Ebrahim Hussein in the context of the development of Western theater, in particular Berthold Brecht’s epic theater, as well as Hussein’s gradual adoption of African narrative techniques (storytelling).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Hussein, Ebrahim. “Traditional African Theatre.” In The East African Experience: Essays on English and Swahili Literature; 2nd Janheinz Jahn Symposium. Edited By U. Schild, 35–54. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer, 1980.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Hussein’s analysis of the genesis of theater in traditional African performances and their comparison with Western theater.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Kruishner, Klazien. “Nani Alionja Nini? Who Had a Taste of What? A Sociopolitical Interpretation of Farouk Topan’s Play Aliyeonja Pepo (“A Taste of Heaven”), Dar es Salaam, 1973.” Research in African Literatures 30.1 (1999): 44–57.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                First published in Kiswahili 59 (1996): 7–12. This article suggests that the play Aliyeonja Pepo is a commentary on ujamaa socialism in Tanzania.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Mlama, Penina Muhando. “Women’s Participation in ‘Communication for Development’: The Popular Theater Alternative in Africa.” Research in African Literatures 22.3 (1991): 41–53.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Mlama considers the history and the impact of theater for development projects that involve women. She provides examples of projects in which women used song, dance, and drama to define and address issues relevant to their lives.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Mwangi, Evan. “Amandina Lihamba’s Gendered Adaptation of Sembene Ousmane’s The Money Order.” Research in African Literatures 40.3 (2009): 149–173.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This article considers the way in which gender is treated differently in the Lihamba’s play than in Ousmane’s short story.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Ricard, Alain. Ebrahim Hussein: Swahili Theatre and Individualism. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Mkuki na Nyota, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      An extended and in-depth portrait of the most famous and important Swahili dramatist, Ebrahim Hussein.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Literary Criticism in Swahili

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Swahili literature can boast extensive secondary sources—dozens of books of literary criticism and theory written in Swahili. The effort to teach Swahili literature in Swahili started at the University of Dar es Salaam as a result of the enthusiastic adoption of the language in all spheres of life, inspired by Julius Nyerere. Currently many prominent literary scholars and critics live in both Tanzania and Kenya, the latter gaining the upper hand in the publishing industry. The leading novelist and literary critic Kyallo W. Wamitila owns a publishing company (Vide-Muwa Publishers), an avenue for his prolific production of fiction and nonfiction texts. Three of the most important studies of Swahili poetry were written in Swahili. Amri Abedi was an accomplished poet, the first African mayor of Dar es Salaam, and Abedi 1954 is his classic study of Swahili prosody. Chacha 1992 is a detailed study of the poetry and life of Abdilatif Abdalla, the most famous of contemporary Kenyan poets. Noor Sharif 1988 is a comprehensive study of classical Swahili poetry and covers spoken and performed as well as written poetry. The essays in Njogu, et al. 2006 deal with a variety of issues in the study of Swahili performed and spoken texts, developing the earlier, more systematic and comprehensive survey of Swahili oral literature in Njogu and Chimerah 1999. Wamitila 2002 lists literary terminology and presents overviews of trends in literary theory and philosophy. Wamitila 2003 compares oral and written literature. Mutembei 2009 is the first comprehensive discussion of the way Swahili poetry deals with the topical issue of HIV/AIDS.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Abedi, K. Amri. Sheria za Kutunga Mashairi na Diwani ya Amri: The Poems of Amri with an Essay on Swahili Poetry and the Rules of Versification. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Literature Bureau, 1954.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Abedi discussed a wide range of types of verse, meter, rhyme, uses of repetitions, and poetic techniques. His work remains a useful starting point for the study of Swahili poetry. The volume is also the only collection of Abedi’s poetry.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Chacha, Chacha Nyaigotti. Sauti ya Utetezi: Ushairi wa Abdilatif Abdalla. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Dar es Salaam University Press, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This is a major study of Abdilatif Abdalla’s poetry. The work also includes biographical information. Title translates as “A Voice of Defense: Poetry of Abdilatif Abdalla.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Mutembei, Aldin K. Ukimwi katika Fasihi ya Kiswahili: 1982–2006. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Chuo Kikuu cha Dar es Salaam, Taasisi ya Kiswahili, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Mutembei’s study of the history of poetry in Swahili written about HIV/AIDS is based on his collection of 110 poems about HIV/AIDS between 1982 and 2006. The study is exemplary in its demonstration of how poets struggled to understand and help others understand the disease and its impact. The discussions of stigma and gender are noteworthy.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Njogu, Kimani, and Rocha Chimerah. Ufundishaji wa Fasihi: Nadharia na Mbinu. Nairobi, Kenya: Jomo Kenyatta Foundation, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Njogu and Chimerah consider the history of Swahili literary genres and major theories of literature and their relevance to the study of Swahili literature. This book won the 2000 Noma Award for Publishing in Africa. Title translates as “The Teaching of Literature: Theories and Methods.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Njogu, Kimani, Clara Momanyi, and Mbatha Mathooko, eds. Fasihi Simulizi ya Kiswahili. Nairobi, Kenya: Twaweza Communications, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This is a collection of essays on spoken and performed literature.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Noor Shariff, Ibrahim. Tungo Zetu: Msingi wa Mashairi na Tungo Nyinginezo. Trenton, NJ: Red Sea Press, 1988.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This is a comprehensive study of the genres of coastal Swahili poetry. The work includes numerous examples. Title translates as “Our Compositions: Basics of Poetry and Other Compositions.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Wamitila, Kyallo W. Uhakiki wa Fasihi: Misingi na Vipengele Vyake. Nairobi, Kenya: Phoenix, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    An introduction to literary criticism, with chapters on the novel, the short story, drama, and poetry, and an overview of literary schools, theories, and concepts, including semiotics, narratology, reception theory, feminist theory, psychoanalytic theory, Marxist criticism, structuralism and poststructuralism, and the theories of Bakhtin, Foucault, and postcolonial studies. Title translates as “Literary Criticism: Its Foundations and Aspects.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Wamitila, Kyallo W. Kichocheo cha Fasihi: Simulizi na Andishi. Nairobi, Kenya: Focus Books, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A classification and description of oral literature and its genres (drama, oral poetry, proverbs, sayings, and riddles), contrasted with written literature and its genres (novels, plays, poetry, and short stories). Title translates as “The Impetus of Literature, Oral and Written.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Dictionaries

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The compilation of Swahili dictionaries began as a missionary project to assist in the translation of the Bible. Johnson 1939 is one product of that work. Sacleux 1939 was also compiled while the author was a missionary in East Africa. Many more recent dictionaries have been produced by teams of scholars. Kamusi ya Karne ya 21 2011 is the work of a group of Kenyan scholars and is intended for the Kenyan schools market. Scholars at Taasisi ya Kiswahili (The Swahili Institute of the University of Dar es Salaam) produced Kamusi ya Kiswahili Sanifu (Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili 2004), Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili 1996, and Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili 2001. Martin Benjamin is the editor of the Kamusi Project, to which many others worldwide have contributed. Kirkeby 2000 is one of the few recent comprehensive dictionaries produced by a single author. Many additional specialized dictionaries and vocabularies have been produced but are not included here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Benjamin, Martin, ed. The Kamusi Project: The Internet Living Swahili Dictionary.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This online dictionary was originally (1994–1995) based on vocabularies in the most widely used Swahili textbooks in the United States and on the terms in Charles W. Rechenbach’s Swahili–English Dictionary (Catholic University Press, 1967). It is continually updated and provides a wide variety of services and resources.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Johnson, Frederick. A Standard Swahili–English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1939.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Although Johnson’s dictionary and a companion English–Swahili dictionary are dated, they provide useful information on the history of Swahili terms.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Kirkeby, Willy A. English–Swahili Dictionary. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Kakepela, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            With approximately 60,000 entries, this is one of the most comprehensive English–Swahili dictionaries available. It is based upon the author’s earlier English–Norwegian dictionaries and provides both British and American spellings of English terms.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Sacleux, Charles. Dictionnaire Swahili–Français. Paris: Institut d’ethnologie, 1939.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This is an essential dictionary for scholarly study of Swahili. It is the only Swahili dictionary that includes terms in all Swahili dialects as well as older terms used in poetry. Many of the examples included are from poems.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Taasisi ya Kiswahili. Kamusi ya Karne ya 21. Nairobi: Longhorn Kenya, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This is a recent and comprehensive Swahili–Swahili dictionary that includes many illustrations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili. TUKI English–Swahili Dictionary: Kamusi ya Kiingereza Kiswahili. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This is a comprehensive and reliable English–Swahili dictionary.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili. TUKI Kamusi ya Kiswahili Kiingereza: Swahili–English Dictionary. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This is a useful students’ Swahili–English dictionary.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili. Kamusi ya Kiswahili Sanifu. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This is an excellent Swahili–Swahili dictionary. First edition published in 1981.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Swahili Grammars and Studies of Swahili Grammar

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Numerous linguists have studied Swahili grammar. Ashton 1944 remains a useful comprehensive grammar. Other comprehensive grammars include Mohamed 2001, Polome 1967, Thompson and Schleicher 2006, and Wilson 1985. Other works on Swahili grammar that may be of interest to both linguists and others who study Swahili include Contini-Morava 1994, which considers the semantics of noun classification in Swahili, and Engstrand and Lodhi 1985, which addresses aspiration in Swahili. Park 2000 is a study of syllable counting and stress in poetry and language games and is relevant to the work of those who study Swahili language and literature as well as to linguists.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Ashton, E. O. Swahili Grammar: Including Intonation. London: Longmans, Green, 1944.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This remains a useful, accurate, and comprehensive Swahili grammar. Ashton includes many examples and discusses a range of topics that are not considered by other authors.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Contini-Morava, Ellen. Noun Classification in Swahili. 1994.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This is an extensive and detailed study of the semantics of noun classification in Swahili.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Engstrand, Olle, and Abdulaziz Y. Lodhi. “On Aspiration in Swahili: Hypotheses, Field Observations, and an Instrumental Analysis.” Phonetica 42 (1985): 175–187.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This is a major study of aspiration in Swahili. The authors use quantitative evidence to demonstrate the significance of this feature.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Mohamed, M. A. Modern Swahili Grammar. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Educational Publishers, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This is a compact and solid basic grammar that includes references to and commentaries on other grammars, as well as a bibliography and vocabulary list.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Park, Jae Ick. “Swahili Syllable Counting in Poetry, Language Games, and Stress Assignment.” MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 36 (2000): 1–16.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This is a study of syllable counting in Swahili poetry and language games and of stress assignment in Swahili. It is a linguistic study that is of interest to those who are interested in language play.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Polome, E. C. Swahili Language Handbook. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics, 1967.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This grammar is more comprehensive than most. It includes a discussion of dialects and covers Swahili phonology in more detail than other grammars.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Thompson, Katrina Daly, and Antonia Folarin Schleicher. Swahili Learners’ Reference Grammar. 2d ed. Madison, WI: National African Language Resource Center Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The second edition of this grammar is useful for students because it is accessible and clearly written, with sufficient examples.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Wilson, Peter M. Simplified Swahili. Nairobi, Kenya: Longman, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Students find this basic grammar useful because of its clear explanations and summaries and its numerous examples.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Historical and Comparative Linguistic Studies

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Nurse 1982 and Nurse and Hinnebusch 1993 are the two foundational studies of Swahili dialects and of the relationship between the dialects of Swahili and the languages most closely related to them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Nurse, Derek. “The Swahili Dialects of Somalia and the Northern Kenya Coast.” In Études sur le Bantu Oriental (Comores, Tanzanie, Somalie, et Kenya). Edited by M. F. Rombi, 73–l46. Paris: SELAF, 1982.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This is the best available study of the northern dialects of Swahili. Derek Nurse’s database on Kibajuni/Kitikuu, which includes discussion of poetry and history, a lexicon, a grammatical description, and a map, is available online.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Nurse, Derek, and Thomas J. Hinnebusch. Swahili and Sabaki: A Linguistic History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This is the definitive historical and comparative study of Swahili and the related languages of the Sabaki group. It is an essential source for those interested in the history of the Swahili language.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Theorizing about Swahili Cultural Identity

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          There is probably no other civilization, society, ethnic group, or nation in Africa that has received as much attention as the Swahili have with respect to their “cultural identity.” Works such as Middleton 1992 have described a Swahili civilization that extended along the eastern African littoral and the coastal islands. Nurse and Spear 1985 deals with Swahili society, while Parkin 1994 discusses Swahili communities. At different times the term “Swahili” has referred to different types of political and social organizations as well as to different groups of people. This is due to the complex factors that have influenced the people living on the eastern coast of Africa and their trade with other Indian Ocean peoples and other African peoples. As a consequence of these historical factors, many contemporary Swahili see the religion of Islam and the urban character of their society as central components of their culture and as marks of the “authentic Swahili” person, while some have seen racial characteristics (Arab vs. African) and/or the absence of slave origin. Glassman 2011 discusses the history of racial thought in Zanzibar. However, because of the spread of the Swahili language in three major waves—the ivory and slave trade in the 19th century, the German administration in the first half of the 20th century, and ujamaa (Tanzanian socialism) after independence—Swahili has become the first language of millions of people in Africa beyond the original coastal settlements. Swahili is spoken as far into the continent as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with first-language speakers who are Christians and use French loanwords instead of Arabic (or English) ones. In addition, Swahili literature, originally poetry composed in the coastal dialects of Swahili, has changed a great deal, especially since the standardization of the language (Standard Swahili 1930) and the introduction of a range of genres, in particular forms of drama and the novel. The new genres first written in Standard Swahili thrived first in Tanzania, away from the original coastal civilization, and have subsequently spread to the Kenyan mainland, where they were appropriated by writers with non-Swahili ethnic backgrounds. Many of these questions of language and literature, along with others, are considered in Mazrui 2007. This diversification of Swahili-speaking people calls into question earlier views of “authentic Swahili” culture and is at the base of the extensive theorizing about “Swahili identity.” Consideration of questions of Swahili identity and recent social and political change are central to Caplan and Topan 2004.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Caplan, Pat, and Farouk Topan, eds. Swahili Modernities: Culture, Politics, and Identity on the East Coast of Africa. Papers presented at a two-day conference held in London, 2001. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This collection includes essays on a wide range of topics, but many deal with language and literature at least in part.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Glassman, Jonathon. War of Words, War of Stones: Racial Thought and Violence in Colonial Zanzibar. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Glassman writes about 20th-century Zanzibari racial rhetoric and the impact of this rhetoric on “the War of Stones,” the June 1961 race riots, which Glassman argues were a prequel to the 1964 revolution. He argues that the sources for this rhetoric were global and that local debates over meanings defined the impact of this rhetoric on the lives of many Zanzibaris.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Mazrui, Alamin. Swahili beyond the Boundaries: Literature, Language and Identity. Ohio University Research in International Studies Series, African Series 85. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Mazrui considers the history of Swahili literary identity, especially during the colonial and postcolonial periods. He discusses the intercultural history of Swahili literature, debates on aesthetics, religion and identity, and questions of translation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Middleton, John. The World of the Swahili: An African Mercantile Civilization. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Middleton’s deep respect for the Swahili inspired his description of Swahili civilization. This is a classic and solidly researched ethnography.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Nurse, Derek, and Thomas Spear. The Swahili: Reconstructing the History and Language of an African Society, 800–1500. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This is an accessible, readable, and reliable history of Swahili language and society.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Parkin, David, ed. Continuity and Autonomy in Swahili Communities: Inland Influences and Strategies of Self-Determination. Vienna: Afro-Pub, 1994.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A penetrating analysis of the demographics of the coastal Swahili population.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Translations into Swahili

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Translations of the Bible and of the Qur’an into Kiswahili have a long history, as does the translation of other Islamic and Christian texts. Other literary translations are more recent. Two of the most significant are Julius Nyerere’s translations of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare 1974) and Julius Caesar (Shakespeare 1969). Works in English, French, and Gikuyu by major African writers such as Achebe 1973, Armah 1976, Bâ 2009, Ngũgĩ 1997, and Soyinka 1974, and some works by European writers, such as Havel 2005, have also been translated into Swahili. Nyerere’s translations and others have been set books on the Swahili syllabi in Kenya and Tanzania.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Achebe, Chinua. Shujaa Okonkwo. Translated by Clement Ndulute. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Publishing House, 1973.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Translation of Things Fall Apart, the most widely studied African novel. The translator, Clement Ndulute, is a professor of English at Tuskegee University and has also translated the poetry of Shaaban Robert.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Armah, Ayi Kwei. Wema Hawajazaliwa. Translated by Abdilatif Abdalla. Nairobi, Kenya: Heinemann Educational, 1976.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Translation of The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born. Poet Abdilatif Abdalla translated this well-known novel about postcolonial corruption in Africa.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Bâ, Mariama. Barua Ndefu Kama Hii. Translated by C. Maganga. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Mkuki na Nyota, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Translation of Une si longue letter / So Long a Letter. Clement Maganga, a professor of Kiswahili, translated this novel from the English version. This is one of the best-known novels written by an African woman.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Havel, Václav. Uzinduzi. Translated by Abdilatif Abdalla and Alena Rettová. Středokluky, Czech Republic: Zdeněk Susa, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The first translation into Swahili of the work of the former Czech and Czechoslovak president Václav Havel. Uzinduzi (Vernisáž) shows how people who are denied political freedom invest their energies in gathering material possessions as a way of forgetting about the erosion of human identity and values in oppressive political systems.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. Shetani Msalabani. Translated by Clement M. Kabugi. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Educational Publishers, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Translation of the Gikuyu novel Caitaani Mũtharaba-inĩ / Devil on the Cross. This novel about postcolonial corruption was written by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o while he was a political prisoner. The novel was first published in Gikuyu and translated into Swahili and English.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Shakespeare, William. Juliasi Kaizari. Translated by Julius K. Nyerere. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Oxford University Press, 1969.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Translation of Julius Caesar. Nyerere’s elegant translation is written in blank verse.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Shakespeare, William. Mabepari wa Venisi. Translated by Julius K. Nyerere. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Oxford University Press, 1974.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Translation of The Merchant of Venice. This second of Nyerere’s translations is also written in blank verse.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Soyinka, Wole. Masaibu ya Ndugu Jero. Translated by A. S. Yahya. Nairobi, Kenya: Oxford University Press, 1974.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Translation of The Trials of Brother Jero. Yahya brings alive in Swahili the humor of Soyinka’s satirical play about a beach prophet.

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