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.
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.
To read Latifa Chiragdhin’s ‘Shihabuddin Chiraghdin: Life Journey of a Swahili Scholar’, (available on Amazon) a biography of her father, is to be intrigued, entertained and educated on matters history and culture, all at the same time. Latifa employs the use of simple, yet captivating language to take us through Maalim Shihab’s short but fulfilling life, right from childhood to adulthood in around two hundred pages.
“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
“…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.