Swahili Literature Through the Centuries

This exhibit highlights representative works of Swahili literature from the collection of the University of Kansas Libraries.  It features examples of various literary genres that comprise the most notable items in the Swahili collection.  These include biographical and autobiographical works, drama, fiction, poetry, and works translated into Swahili.  Also featured are the writings of Shaaban Robert (1909-1962), Tanzania’s most well-known literary figure, and examples of the interconnections between language and politics.

 

Kanga writings

 

Nyimbo za Liyongo / zimekusanywa na kuhaririwa na Jopo la Utafitl kuhusu Liyongo = Liyongo songs: poems attributed to Fumo Liyongo

The earliest Swahili poet of note whose works have survived to the present day is Fumo Liyongo. Dating his life and work, and hence dating the…

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Dar es Salaam: Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili, Chuo Kikuu cha Dar es Salaam, 2006.

Nguzo mama [Mother-pillar]

Written with many features taken from the oral tradition, this play is about the attempts of women to heave the “mother- pillar,” which…

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Dar es Salaam: Dar es Salaam University Press, 1982.

Barua za Shaaban Robert, 1931-1958, zilikusanywa na kuhifadhiwa na Yusuf Ulenge

This work consists of correspondence written by Shaaban Robert to his half-brother, Yusuf Ulenge. The letters were collected and published…

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Dar es Salaam: Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili, Chuo Kikuu cha Dar es Salaam, 2003.

Babu alipofufuka [Grandpa’s resurrection]

This novel deals with the question of African identity in a rapidly changing world. Babu, the grandfather, who is both dead and alive, tries to point…

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Nairobi: Jomo Kenyatta Foundation, 2001.

Shamba la wanyama [Animal farm]

George Orwell’s Animal Farm is quite possibly the most politicized text to be translated into the Swahili language. The text first appeared in…

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Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1967.