The launch of Dried Rose Petals and Lavender Buds at Nyali Play House this past Sunday was not only an event filled with colour but love, laughter and a genuine sense of a community out to support one of its most enterprising daughters. Entering the Play House, one is accosted by two distinct things- a large number of women attendees (and very few men), and the generous splash of colour around the well-lit room with most ladies in matching saffron head scarves rhyming with the book cover. The colour and enticing space is most obviously to Salma’s (the author) liking; she is candid about her inclination to colourful things and the colourful Instagram posts prior to the book launch are a testament to this.
The Swahili Literary Festival, an annual event entering its second year, is a celebration of the rich intellectual, cultural and literary history on the Swahili coast. The festival is largely driven by the need to bring the Swahili community together in acknowledging and celebrating its heroes and intellectual history.
The 2020 edition of the festival which will be hosted at SwahiliPot Hub, Mombasa County, is heavily informed by the 2019 edition whose theme was “Celebrating Achievement”. The post-festival conversations we had with different scholars on the issue of “Swahiliness” indicated the need to talk about identity politics on the Swahili coast.
It has been long propagated, erroneously I may add, that people from the Coast do not read. In a previous article, we explained our opinion, one of the differences in approach towards reading between two diverse spaces- the Kenyan Coast and Nairobi, and two on the paradigm shift in the former’s reading attitudes. To a large extent, I feel this stereotype has played into (some) our minds as well, in the process leading to a general aversion to book production and consumption. This, of course, does not apply across the board; it is the people who refuse to be culpably nonobservant, and those who refuse play into or be influenced by this stereotype who are at the forefront of building a reading culture in the coast.
Knowledge is created then disseminated through various methods, and bookstores play a vital role in the knowledge economy. Time and space inevitably play a big part in the mobility of knowledge as well, and in the case of the Swahili coast, these elements have shaped Swahili poetry to an extent it became a ritualized form of knowledge production. This ritualization of poetry gave the shairi form a certain ability to morph into different shapes and forms to suit different audiences and needs.
This lecture, “THE LATE PROF. ALI A. MAZRUI’S IMPACT ON OUR GENERATION OF SCHOLARS”, was delivered by Professor Mohamed Bakari, Vice-Chancellor RAF International University, in Mombasa, 7th November 2019 at the launch of “Sauti Ya Haki: Maisha Na Mawazo Ya Sheikh Muhammad Kasim Mazrui”.
On the eve of Kenya’s Independence in 1963, the country was blessed with a crop of very talented and relatively educated leadership, in politics, public administration and to a certain extent in academia. Just before independence, there had been a rush to educate young Kenyans to assume positions of leadership in key areas of national life.
March 2019 marked the first instalment of the annual Swahili Literary Festival, the inaugural theme being “Celebrating Achievement”, a participatory theme informed by the dire need to acknowledge and celebrate heroes in the East African littoral space. While heroes come in many different shades, our intention was to celebrate those whose achievement was literary or artistic in nature.
To read Latifa Chiragdhin’s ‘Shihabuddin Chiraghdin: Life Journey of a Swahili Scholar’, (available on Amazon)
The thought of speaking before an audience numbering a thousand or more filled me with an equal amount of excitement and queasiness, so much so that I almost bailed out. It was Gloria, my friend and editor who egged me on, reminding me importance of building networks and of Hekaya’s commitment as an emerging publisher in the culturally dynamic East African littoral creative space. It was an absolute joy when International Publishers Association Vice-President Bodour Al-Qasimi reached out and asked if I could speak at the seminar. The opportunity to talk about the little steps we are making in telling the coastal story and to hear what other established and emerging publishers are doing was always a welcome delight.
“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” — Sue Monk Kidd, author
Hekaya Initiative is currently looking for fiction writers to participate in a traveling story that aims at connecting the larger Swahili Coast. Locations of interest include: Dar-e-Salaam, Bagamoyo, Kilwa, Swahili-speaking Northern part of Mozambique, Voi, Mombasa, Kilifi, Watamu, Malindi, Lamu, Kiunga, Bosaso, Zanzibar, Comoros, and Pemba.
The story will be passed on from one location to another until it traverses all these locations. Stories connect us, and we hope the traveling story will capture the cultural wealth and diversity of the Swahili Coast.
“…For literature to remain a veritable tool and agent of social change, it must continue to reflect the conflicts and crises thrown up by the society.” Prof Edwin Onwuka, Covenant Uni., Ota Ogun State, Nigeria- Dept of Languages.
Our appreciation of the khanga as an active preserver of Swahili culture will use as its point of departure a true love story whose outcome is heavily influenced by the writing on a khanga . Abdi, a good non-Swahili boy falls in love with Fatma, a pure Swahili girl. Her father would have none of it and insists on getting her married to her first cousin who is just back from Abu Dhabi with lots of Arab money that can only be adequately spent in obtaining a worthy wife, a wife like Fatma. But Fatma loves Abdi, and she cannot see her life without him. Her grandmother knows and supports it too.