Sheikh Shaaban Bin Robert (often abbreviated as ‘Shaaban Robert’) had humble beginnings – he was an unasumming primary school dropout with a gift for storytelling.
He wrote prose, poetry and essays and employed a very wide range of literary devices, including allegory and personification. He wasn’t merely a storyteller – he was more of a teacher and socio-political commentator, using literature as a tool.
He tackled such themes as justice, law, love, peace, brotherhood and the human condition. His many and varied works made a big contribution to Swahili literature and culture.
Tanzania’s first president, Mwalimu Nyerere, was so big a fan that he personally promoted the books! According to a Daily Nation article, by Julius Sigei and Hugholin Kimaro, Shaaban Robert’s literature may have influenced Mwalimu Nyerere’s decision to introduce African Socialism (Ujamaa) to Tanzania, which he did with the Arusha Declaration of 1967.
The Socialism experiment didn’t go to well and among those who have written about Tanzania’s stryggle with it are Euphrase Kezilahabi, author of Dunia Uwanja wa Fujo and Gamba la Nyoka.
A selection of books by Shaaban Robert
Two of Shaaban Robert’s contemporaries were Muhammed Saleh Farsy (Kurwa na Doto, 1960) and Muhammed Said Abdulla (Mzimu wa Watu wa Kale, 1960), both of whom came from Zanzibar.
Shaaban Robert left us on June 22, 1962, but Death, be not proud – his works will be studied and enjoyed for generations, if not forever.
‘A writer will always have a place of immortality on this Earth as long as his/her work is still read and appreciated.’ – La Belle Rouge, Poetess Of The Heart
QUOTED FROM: CHANGING KENYA’S LITERARY
Part 2: Past, Present & Future
A research paper by Alex Nderitu