And if you are in East Africa where Kiswahili poetry has been injected with some of the finest writers in Bongo Flava, you have to remember that guys like Professor Jay (aka Joseph Haule) are a continuous segment from Mr Two, past 1960’s Swahili poet Mathias Mnyampala through Shaaban Robert to Fumo Lyongo’s classic poetry of the 12th century.
When Professor Jay recorded “Ndiyo Mzee” ridiculing politicians bubbling fake promises to win votes, the President himself acknowledged the tune highlighting political hypocrisy. Likewise Morogoro musician Salum Abdullah wrote songs to inspire the struggles of TANU and Mwalimu Nyerere in the 1950’s.
The profound importance of literature cannot be underestimated in any society.
In 1984 I bought “Asali Chungu” a Kiswahili novel in Nairobi. The extraordinary publication or its author, Said Ahmed Mohammed were unknown in Tanzania. I also noted that a couple of superior quality Swahili novels were being produced by a 1980’s Kenyan publisher called Shungwaya.
Released in 1976, “Asali Chungu” is a pre Zanzibar revolution period story of greed and lechery, known nowadays as Ufisadi. In a detailed rape scene, the Fisadi character (Zuberi) fathers a child that eventually grows to haunt him. The unknown orphan (supposedly) sleeps with the Fisadi’s wife, marries and has kids with his step sisters. The end is disastrous.
WASTA: SAUTI ZA UFASAHA NA BUSARA – SAID AHMED MOHAMED
This was Professor Said Ahmed’s debut masterpiece. Since then he has written 28 books: ten novels, among them a brilliant “Nyuso za Mwanamke” issued in 2010, by Sasa Sema. Also known as Longhorn, Sema are based in Nairobi with a small office in Kinondoni, Dar es Salaam. Professor Said has also published seven plays; four poetry and seven collections of short stories, respectively.
There is also a tendency to magnify certain sections of society more than others, he explains. “It is sad that an historical figure like Mohammed Said Abdullah is revered and respected overseas more than in his country of origin.”
German scholar and Swahili language lecturer at the University of Humboldt in Berlin, Dr. Lutz Diegner, says Professor Said is: “an extremely gifted writer who made use of Swahili rich in vocabulary and rhetorical devices, engaged in conserving, reviving and being highly innovative at the same time.”
With the current falling standards of Kiswahili and English languages we need to value the efforts of such a prolific author to help improve the quality of both students and citizens in our East African educational system.