Baraza la Kiswahili la Berlin


Monday, 7 December 2020

Rooted in its meaning – amusement and enchantment – Taarab music implies the elevation into another emotional state. The lyrics in tune with the musical composition elicit emotions which are difficult for outsiders to grasp. Yet its sophisticated emotional power and relevance in everyday life and festive occasions comes to light when listeners become immersed in the intricacies of taarab.  It thus reveals itself as a medium of communication for negotiating and reflecting on inter-personal and social concerns. A detailed analysis of Khulaita’s poetic battle demonstrates the emotional power of taarab.

The female poet Khulaita Said Muhashamy (1950 – 2013) was a master in the art of communication through taarab. She wrote lyrics and composed music tailored to the backgrounds and needs of her audiences. As one of a very few female poets who offered their expertise to a wider public, she received visitors – mostly women – who sought advice and commissioned her to write songs. Her clients confided in her because she was trustworthy. Hence Khulaita was very well informed about issues concerning women in her society.

When her artistic skills reached a wider, global audience through her collaboration with the female singer Malika in 1990s, Khulaita engaged in poetic exchanges, which empowered women. Khulaita wrote “Huwi Tena” in reply to the song “Leo Tena” by Abdalla Issa. “Leo Tena” is addressed to a woman who allegedly wishes to resume love with her former lover. The ex-lover rejects her adamantly, even resorting to offending her.  “Huwi Tena” answers these insidious and rude accusations in an elegant and artful way. Her answer reflects her genius because it echoes the music and lyrics of “Leo Tena”. It picks up on its melody and traditional rhythm and mirrors the structure, idioms and rhyme of the verses of her opponent’s song. Upon listening for the first time, it might appear that Khulaita’s response was intended to be playful. Knowing the social context though it is evident “Leo Tena” was actually addressed to a woman. Hence, Khulaita defended this woman’s honour with her response “Huwi Tena”.

Thus, particularly women who were very much acquainted with the social context that Khulaita’s song addressed celebrated the genius of her response. By virtue of its poetic and musical skill, “Huwi Tena” put the sender of “Leo Tena” in his place. Even if listeners were not familiar with the intimate details of sender and addressee they still cherished the poetic and musical victory of the female answer over this misogynistic song. The success of the song “Huwi Tena” was such that it was featured among Khulaita’s most successful and popular songs in Swahili communities all over the globe.

Khulaita Muhashamy’s work offers a glimpse into the subtle power that female poets exerted.

(Report by the presenter Stefanie Kolbusa)



Swahili Translation

Kutokana na mzizi wa maana yake –kufurahisha na kuburudisha – muziki wa taarab humpeleka mtu katika hali nyingine ya kihisia. Mashairi na mahadhi huamsha hisia ambazo ni vigumu kuelewa kwa msikilizaji asiye wa jamii husika. Nguvu yake ya kihisia na umuhimu wake katika maisha ya kila siku na sherehe za kila aina hujionesha pale wasikilizaji wakijikita katika muziki huu. Hivyo, muziki huu unakua chombo cha mawasiliano katika kujadili na kuakisi masuala ya kibinafsi na ya kijamii. Uchambuzi makinifu wa majibizano ya kimashairi ya Khulaita Said Muhashamy huonesha nguvu hii ya kihisia ya taarab.

Mshairi wa kike Khulaita Said Muhashamy (1950 – 2013) alikua bingwa katika sanaa ya mawasiliano kupitia taarab. Aliandika mashairi na kutunga nyimbo zilizoendana na mahitaji ya hadhira yake. Kama mmoja wa washairi wakike wachache sana aliyehudumia hadhira kubwa zaidi, alipokea wageni – wengi wao wanawake – ambao waliomba ushauri na kumwomba awaandikie nyimbo. Wateja wake walimwamini kwa sababu aliaminika. Hivyo, Khulaita alijua mengi kuhusiana na wanawake katika jamii yake.

Katika miaka ya tisini, umahiri wake uliufikia ulimwengu kupitia ushirikano wake na mwimbaji Malika. Wakati huu Khulaita alijihusisha katika majibizano ya nyimbo, ambayo yaliwawezesha wanawake. Khulaita aliandika “Huwi Tena” akijibu wimbo wa “Leo Tena” ulioimbwa na Abadalla Isa. “Leo Tena” inampakazia mwanamke kwa kusema kuwa anataka kurudiana kimapenzi na bwana wake wa zamani. Bwana huyo anamkataa na kufikia hatua ya kumkebehi. “Huwi Tena” inajibu haya matusi ya chini chini na mabaya kiustaarabu na kisanaa zaidi. Jibu lake linadhihirisha umahiri wake kwa sababu linatoa mwangwi wa “Leo Tena". Linachukua mahadhi, mdundo wa kiasili na kumulika muundo, methali na vina vya mashairi ya wimbo wa mpinzani wake. Ukisikiliza kwa juu juu, unaweza kudhani jibu la Khulaita lilidhamiriwa kuwa la mchezo. Lakini kwa kufahamu muktadha wa jamaii, ni dhahiri kuwa “Leo Tena” ilimlenga mwanamke. Hivyo, Khulaita alimtetea huyu mwanamke kupitia jibu lake “Huwi Tena”.

Wanawake walioelewa kwa undani muktadha wa jamii ambao nyimbo ya Khulaita ulizungumzia walisherehekea umahiri wa jibu lake. Kupitia ustadi wake wa ushairi na muziki, “Huwi Tena” inamkemea mtunzi wa “Leo Tena”. Ijapo wasikilizaji hawakufahamu kwa undani juu ya mlenga na mlengwa walifurahia ushindi wa kishairi na kimuziki wa jibu la mwanamke juu ya wimbo huo uliomkandamiza mwanamke. Ushindi wa wimbo wa “Huwi Tena” ulikua kiasi kwamba ulikuwa miongoni mwa nyimbo mashuhuri za Khulaita katika jamii ya Waswahili ulimwenguni kote.

Kazi ya Khulaita Muhashamy inatumulikia nguvu ya ushairi ambayo watunzi wa kike wameitumia.

(Imetafsiriwa kwa Kiswahili na Augustine Malija na Stefanie Kolbusa)


Monday, 11 January 2021

Hailing from Namagondo village, Ukerewe Island in Lake Nyanza, Euphrase Kezilahabi’s literary wit scaled his career to professorship. His deep interest in literature and philosophical ideas already germinated when he was attending secondary school, the Catholic seminary Nyegezi. It was at this time when he wrote Rosa Mistika. Later, he joined the University of Dar es Salaam where he earned a BA and later a MA degree, with a thesis on the “father of modern Swahili literature”, Shaaban Robert. His singular intellectual ability earned him a placement as Assistant Lecturer at the same University until he enrolled for a second MA degree and subsequently a PhD degree at the University of Wisconsin Madison. His specialty on African philosophy and literature allowed him to graduate and acquire professorship. He went back to teach at the University of Dar es Salaam, before in 1995, he moved to teach at the University of Botswana where he continued to teach until he suffered from a stroke in 2017. After having returned to Dar es Salaam for the last two years of his life, he passed away on January 8, 2020. May his soul rest in peace. 

His literary composition comprised poetry, drama, novels and short stories. Rosa Mistika (1971) exposes realities of educational life for girls in the context of Ukerewe and Mwanza, at the time of its writing. His further long-lived novels are Kichwamaji (1974), Dunia Uwanja wa Fujo (1975), Gamba la Nyoka (1979), Nagona ([1987/]1990) and Mzingile (1991). While Rosa Mistika is perhaps still the most popular of his novels (followed by Dunia Uwanja wa Fujo), Nagona and Mzingile stand out as the most complex of his novels which have caused numerous debates in literary scholarship. His collections of poetry include Kichomi (1974), Karibu Ndani (1988) and Dhifa (2008). His choice of and advocacy for poems in free verse dismissed the traditionally structured approach in composition and gave way to an intense debate on the conventions of Swahili poetry. His drama Kaptula la Marx (1978) gained popularity across Tanzania and abroad since it talked about politics of socialism and self-reliance that was prominent in Tanzania at the time. His short stories appeared in newspapers such as Mwananchi that were later adopted in several books such as Mbonde Msokile’s guide on composing short stories (1992) and Kyallo Wamitila’s collections of short stories (2004, 2007, 2010).

His philosophical wit creatively brought seemingly unimaginable abstract ideas to life. It delved into questions on God’s existence, humanity, ontology, the meaning of life and existentialism. He also dealt with sensitive social and political issues such as the dichotomy of “tradition” and modernity, gender roles, and Ujamaa, the Tanzanian variant of African socialism. While Kezilahabi’s earlier work is rooted in realism, he later started a new paradigm of writing in Swahili literature, variously analysed as experimentalism, post-realism and post-modernism. Some of its characteristics are a playful combination of different genres, a combination of oral and written literature from both Tanzania and across the world, fragmentation, minimalism and a sophisticated use of imagery informed by an aesthethic and philosophical agenda of its own kind. He remained an ambassador for Swahili language and literature by writing his work in Swahili, while advocating writing in African languages, and writing in indigenous languages in general.

This Baraza, conceived by Lutz Diegner (Lecturer in Swahili Language and Literature, Humboldt University Berlin), served to honour and remember Euphrase Kezilahabi by shedding some light on his life and work. After some opening remarks by co-hosts Kai Kresse (Vice Director and Professor of Anthropology, ZMO) and Lutz Diegner, Neema Benson Sway (Lecturer and Researcher, Institute of Kiswahili Studies, University of Dar es Salaam) started a series of presentations by giving a brief outline of Euphrase Kezilahabi’s life and work. Alena Rettová (Professor of African and Afrophone Philosophies, University of Bayreuth) dealt with Kezilahabi’s philosophical thought by highlighting some of its major features to be found in both this academic and fictional work. Roberto Gaudioso (Researcher in Swahili Literature, University of Napoli) spoke about his poetry and his different approaches to Kezilahabi’s poetry as a researcher and a poet himself. Lutz Diegner then went on to focus on his novels and his ability to discuss complex subjects in simple language. Furthermore, he emphasized Kezilahabi’s ample use of several stylistic devices in his works, such as metaphors, allegories and symbols. Josefine Rindt (BA African Studies, Humboldt University, MA student in Gender, Intersectionality and Politics, Free University Berlin) and Lena Dasch (BA African Studies, University of Bayreuth, MA student in African Studies, Humboldt University Berlin), subsequently gave a short insight into one of Kezilahabi’s best-known novels, Dunia Uwanja wa Fujo, and demonstrated how relevant it is to (re-)read this novel nowadays, especially against the backdrop of the year 2020.

In several rounds of discussion chaired by Neema Benson Sway and Erasto John Duwe (Lecturer and Editor, Institute of Kiswahili Studies, University of Dar es Salaam), participants from Tanzania, Kenya, the US, Great Britain, France, Italy, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Germany – among them a number of doyens of Swahili literature like Farouk Topan, Abdilatif Abdalla, Catherine Ndungo, Kyallo Wamitila, and Aldin Mutembei – engaged in a rich discussion about Kezilahabi’s work, his methods and ideas.

As Marehemu Kezilhabi rests in peace, the world and his readers will miss his unique approach to literature and philosophy.



Akitokea katika kijiji cha Namagondo kilichopo Kisiwa cha Ukerewe katika Ziwa la Nyanza, utaalamu wa fasihi wa Euphrase Kezilahabi ulimpa uprofesa. Mapenzi yake ya fasihi na mawazo ya kifalsafa yalianza alipokua akisoma seminari ya kikatoliki Nyegezi kwa masomo yake ya sekondari. Wakati huo huo alikuwa anaandika riwaya ya Rosa Mistika. Baadaye alijiunga na Chuo Kikuu cha Dar es Salaam akahitimu masomo ya shahada ya kwanza na ya pili alipoandika tasnifu juu ya “Baba wa fasihi ya Kiswahili ya kisasa”, Shaaban Robert. Umahiri na ueledi wake wa kisomi ulimfanya aajiriwe kama mhadhiri mwandamizi katika chuo hicho mpaka alipoanza shahada yake nyingine ya pili na baadaye shahada ya uzamivu katika Chuo Kikuu cha Wisconsin Madison. Ubobezi wake katika falsafa na fasihi za Kiafrika ulimwezesha kuhitimu masomo yake huko. Alirejea Tanzania akafundisha Chuo Kikuu cha Dar es Salaam mpaka mwaka 1995. Baadaye alihamia kufundisha katika Chuo Kikuu cha Botswana mpaka alipopatwa na mshtuko mwaka 2017. Miaka miwili baada ya kurejea Dar es Salaam, alifariki mnamo tarehe 8 Januari 2020. Roho yake ilale mahali pema peponi.

Utunzi wake wa kifasihi ulijumuisha mashairi, tamthilia, riwaya na hadithi fupi. Rosa Mistika (1971) inaelezea hali halisi ya maisha ya kielimu kwa watoto wa kike wa maeneo ya Ukerewe na Mwanza katika kipindi ambacho kitabu hicho kiliandikwa. Riwaya zake nyingine zilizodumu kwa muda mrefu ni Kichwamaji (1974), Dunia Uwanja wa Fujo (1975), Gamba la Nyoka (1979), Nagona ([1987/]1990) na Mzingile (1991). Japokuwa Rosa Mistika ni moja ya riwaya zake maarufu Zaidi (ikifuatiwa na Dunia Uwanja wa Fujo), Nagona na Mzingile ni changamano zaidi na zimesababisha majadiliano ya kina katika ulimwengu wa fasihi. Diwani zake za mashairi zilizochapishwa ni Kichomi (1974), Karibu Ndani (1988) na Dhifa (2008). Chaguo lake la kuandika mashairi huru lilikinzana na kanuni za kimapokeo za uandishi wa mashairi likichochea mjadala mkali juu ya utunzi wa mashairi. Mchezo wake wa kuigiza uitwao Kaptula la Marx (1978) ulipata umaarufu ndani na nje ya Tanzania kwa sababu ulizungumzia siasa za Ujamaa na Kujitegemea ambazo zilikuwa ni siasa za Tanzania wakati huo. Hadithi zake fupi zilizochapishwa katika magazeti kama Mwananchi na baadaye kutolewa vitabuni pia, kama vile katika kitabu cha utangulizi wa hadithi fupi cha Mbunda Msokile (1992) na mikusanyiko ya hadithi fupi ya Kyallo Wamitila (2004, 2007, 2010).

Umahiri wa fikra za kifalsafa za Marehemu Kezilahabi ulimfanye ashughulikie masuala yasiyoweza kufikirika kirahisi. Alijikita katika maswali magumu kama vile kujiuliza kama Mungu yupo, pamoja na maswali mengine ya utu, ontolojia, maana ya maisha na uwepo kwa ujumla. Aliandika pia juu ya masuala nyeti ya jamii kama vile mila na desturi, mahusiano ya kijinsia na sera ya Ujamaa  ya Tanzania ya wakati ule. Pamoja na kuwa kazi zake za mwanzo zilijikita katika uhalisia, alianzisha nyanja mpya ama mikondo mipya ya fasihi ya Kiswahili ambayo imechambuliwa kama fasihi ya (ki)majaribio, fasihi ya (ki)uhalisia-baadaye ama fasihi ya (ki)usasaleo. Baadhi ya sifa za fasihi ya aina hii ni kuchanganya mandhari na nyakati tofauti, na kuunganisha fasihi simulizi na fasihi andishi za kutoka ndani na nje ya Tanzania. Nyinginezo ni matumizi ya vipandevipande kimaudhui na kimtindo (fragmentation), uchache wa kimtindo (minimalism) na matumizi mapana na ya kina ya jazanda (lugha ya picha) – zote zikichangia katika ajenda ya kiujumi na ya kifalsafa ya aina yake. Marehemu Kezilahabi alikuwa balozi wa lugha na fasihi ya Kiswahili kwa kuandika kazi zake kwa Kiswahili na kuwahamasisha waandishi wenzake kuandika kwa lugha za Kiafrika na lugha za asili kwa ujumla.

Baraza hili likiongozwa na Lutz Diegner (Mhadhiri wa Lugha na Fasihi ya Kiswahili, Chuo Kikuu cha Humboldt Berlin), lililenga kumkumbuka Marehemu Euphrase Kezilahabi, maisha yake na kazi zake. Baada ya kukaribishwa na Kai Kresse (Makamu Mkurugenzi wa Utafiti na Profesa wa Anthropolojia, ZMO) na Lutz Diegner, Neema Benson Sway (Mhadhiri na Mtafiti, Taasisi ya Taaluma za Kiswahili, Chuo Kikuu cha Dar es Salaam) alitambulisha wasifu na kazi za Euphrase Kezilahabi kwa ujumla. Alena Rettová (Profesa wa Falsafa za Kiafrika, Chuo Kikuu cha Bayreuth) alizungumzia sifa za falsafa yake Marehemu Kezilahabi ambazo zinapatikana katika kazi zake za kitaaluma na za kifasihi. Roberto Gaudioso (Mtafiti wa Falsafa ya Kiswahili, Chuo Kikuu cha Napoli) alizungumza juu ya ushairi wa Marehemu na mkabala wake wa kiutafiti kuyachambua hayo mashairi akiwa mtafiti na mshairi yeye mwenyewe wakati mmoja. Lutz Diegner aliendelea na wasilisho la kuwapatia hadhira vionjo vya riwaya zake Marehemu akisisitiza mkabala wake wa kiuandishi wa kujadili masuala mazito kwa lugha nyepesi, na matumizi mapana na ya kina ya mbinu za kimtindo kama vile jazanda na tamathali za semi, kwa mfano sitiari, istiara na ishara. Josefine Rindt (shahada ya Masomo ya Kiafrika, Chuo Kikuu cha Humboldt, mwanafunzi wa shahada ya uzamili ya Jinsia, Utegemezano na Siasa, Chuo Kikuu Huru cha Berlin) na Lena Dasch (shahada ya Masomo ya Kiafrika, Chuo Kikuu cha Bayreuth, mwanafunzi wa shahada ya uzamili ya Masomo ya Kiafrika, Chuo Kikuu cha Humboldt Berlin) waliizungumzia riwaya ya Dunia Uwanja wa Fujo ya Marehemu Kezilahabi na kuelezea umuhimu wa kukisoma kitabu hiki (tena) leo hii ingawa ni ya zamani kidogo.

Katika majadiliano yaliyoongozwa na Neema Benson Sway and Erasto John Duwe (Mhadhiri na Mhariri, Taasisi ya Taaluma za Kiswahili, Chuo Kikuu cha Dar es Salaam), washiriki kutoka Tanzania, Kenya, Marekani, Uingereza, Ufaransa, Italia, Uswisi, Ucheki na Ujerumani – kati yao maprofesa na wabobezi mashuhuri wa fasihi ya Kiswahili kama Farouk Topan, Abdilatif Abdalla, Catherine Ndungo, Kyallo Wamitila, na Aldin Mutembei – waliyatajirisha majadiliano hayo juu ya kazi na mawazo ya Kezilahabi.

Marehemu anapopumzika kwa amani, ulimwengu wa wasomi wenzake na wasomaji wake wote kwa ujumla watamkumbuka kwa kazi zake za kipekee zilizokuwa na mchango usio na kifani katika fasihi na falsafa ya Kiswahili.


Dubbed as Swahili speaking Omani, these youth who were born to a generation of people often considered to have ‘returned’ to Oman from Zanzibar and other places in East Africa in the 1960s and 1970s face a myriad set of opportunities and challenges from social through economic in the broader context of Omani identity formation.

One of the circumstances that affect their sense of belonging is the sometimes challenging situation of finding adequate spaces for speaking and being Swahili, while also being Omani. While many young people manage to find creative ways to claim Omani belonging through their Swahiliness, others withdraw from speaking Swahili publicly as they seek to avoid disdainfully being labelled as “Africans” – of supposedly lesser status. Despite the derision, some young Omanis are promoting Swahili language and culture both in Oman and overseas. Some of them through You Tube channels where they teach Swahili, some sell or promote Zanzibari food in the streets of Muscat or on Instagram. Not only does this keep the language alive but it also motivates Omani youth a space to feel and be both Arab and African.

Jobs and better prospects for life are one factor driving the migration of a new wave of Omani-Zanzibari young people who are seeking “to build a life” (kujenga maisha) for themselves. Even though Oman offers more jobs than Zanzibar, they struggle getting equal work opportunities. This is due to Oman’s latest nationalization policies that reserve work distribution to national citizenship.

Bringing together the perspectives of both Zanzibari-Omani and Omani-Zanzibari young people allow for a contemporary understanding of the young generation’s Omani identity formation; and place on the broader spectrum of the so-called Zanzibar Diaspora. Follow through a complete Zoom conversation here.


Swahili Translation

Wakijulikana kama waOmani wazungumzaji wa Kiswahili, vijana hawa wanakabiliwa na fursa pamoja na changamoto za kijamii na kiuchumi katika muktadha mzima wa kuwa wenyeji wa Omani. Vijana hawa wanalelewa na kizazi kinachotambulika kama “kimerudi” Oman kutoka Zanzibar na maeneo tofauti Afrika Mashariki miaka ya 1960 na 1970.

Changamoto moja inayoathiri uenyeji wao kwa wakati mwingine ni hali ukwasi wa hadhira ya kuongea nayo Kiswahili na kuwa mswahili, wakati huo huo kuwa waOmani. Wakati vijana wengi wameweza kubuni njia mbali mbali za kuwa wenyeji kupita uswahili wao, baadhi yao wamejiengua kuongea Kiswahili hadharani. Hii yote ni kuepuka kuitwa “Wa-Afrika” ambayo inaangaliwa na baadhi ya watu kama hadhi ya chini. Mbali na kushushwa huko, baadhi ya vijana wa Omani wanakuza lugha na tamaduni za Kiswahili ndani na nje ya Oman. Baadhi yao hufundisha Kiswahili kupitia mtandao wa You Tube. Wengine huuza chakula cha kizanzibari katika mitaa ya Muscat au katika mtandao wa Instagram. Pamoja na jitihada hizi kukuza lugha, zinatoa nafasi kwa vijana wa Oman kujisikia Wa-Arabu na Wa-Afrika wakati mmoja.

Kazi na tumaini la maisha mazuri ni moja ya sababu zinazopelekea uhamaji wa vijana wa Ki-Omani-Zanzibari. Pamoja na Oman kutoa kazi nyingi zaidi kuliko Zanzibar, wanahangaika kupata usawia wa nafasi za kazi kutokana na sera mpya zinazotoa kipaumbele cha kazi kwa raia wa Omani.

Mjumuiko wa mitazamo wa vijana wa Zanzibari-Omani na Omani-Zanzibari unatoa fursa ya kuelewa ukuaji wa uenyeji katika Omani kwa vijana na kutengeneza dhana nzima ya “Zanzibar Diaspora”. Fuatilia mazungumzo mazima kutoka Zoom hapa.

Monday, 6 July 2020, 4pm

28 Attendees

Baraza with Hassan Mwakimako (Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Pwani University Kilifi, Kenya), Nandera Mhando (Head of Department, Philosophy and Religious Studies, University of Dar es Salaam), Nicholas Githuku (Assistant Professor of History, Philosophy and Anthropology, York College, CUNY, New York), and Neema Kasabo (Lecturer for Swahili Language, Freie Universitait, Berlin).

Hosted and introduced by Kai Kresse (Vice-Director ZMO & Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin) and Lutz Diegner (Lecturer of Swahili, Humboldt Universität Berlin).

In our first virtual Baraza event and during a digital discussion over Zoom, four of the five invited speakers located in four different countries spanning three continents discussed their experiences regarding the Coronavirus pandemic, with a view to the changes they have observed both in public and in their private lives. Unfortunately, our announced decorated speaker Abdilatif Abdalla (writer of “Sauti ya Dhiki”, Oxford University Press 1973) was not able to participate, for reasons out of his control.

Speaking from Mombasa, Hassan Mwakimako illuminated on Kenya’s lockdown context that restricted movement of people for Kilifi, Mombasa, and Kwale counties. This has made commuting to work impossible for workers living in a separate town from where they work. Initially, most people thought that this disease was only affecting Western countries. This led to a divide between the many who took it for granted and the few that took it seriously. As a result, some people were not following the sanitary rules against the virus by for example not wearing masks until they see police. Streets have since been colored with signposts from prohibiting groups to assemble to the closure of mosques. As a result, the town has had limited economic activity and access to household items, such as Mombasa’s sea food. Also, the fulfillment of social responsibilities like attending burial ceremonies (considering a 15 people quota) and visiting family and friends have been strongly constrained. Within the processes of implementing prevention measures, the Swahili word “barakoa” (meaning a mask) has been coined and is in frequent usage. On the political scene, some politicians have used the disease as an opportunity to seek more popularity, through their efforts to spread the message for the need to follow sanitary rules.

Per Nandera Mhando, Tanzania dealt with Corona differently. Standing with 480 infections, 167 recoveries and 16 deaths, Tanzanian government decided to only announce recovery and hospitalized numbers.  Alongside advising the public to follow sanitary rules against COVID-19, the Tanzanian government did not implement a lockdown. Government icons, namely the president, prime minister, and minister for health, were exemplars on hygienic rules of washing hands, wearing masks and using sanitizers. While the minister for health emphasized sanitary rules, the president and prime minister emphasized on the need to pray to God as the main approach to shy away the virus that set a tone throughout the country. This aroused criticism from the elite who saw need for a lockdown. By the 29th of April, cities were clouded by worries to contain the virus. On the other hand, villages and small towns were not, since their daily activities exposed them to relatively less congestion compared to big cities. This invoked an idea that the disease is for cities.

Low testing capacity and scarcity of protective equipment stimulated innovation among intellectuals and entrepreneurs. The University of Dar es Salaam conducted research that led to the production of suitable masks and sanitizers. As a ripple effect, it has encouraged research on the potentials of traditional medication against the virus within the university, at the National Institute for Medical Research and Small Industries Development Organization. Corollary, it encouraged behavioral research on how people cope with sanitary rules against the virus.

On the other hand, due to limited testing capacity, people in cities have to live with many rumors, since there is no exact data on the spread – and they have adjusted to live with the disease. There has also been a restricted quota of only ten attendees in burial ceremonies, which severely limited established cultural patterns for relatives to get together and talk about family matters. This led to the circulation of WhatsApp pictures for late night burial ceremonies and the expansion of graveyards in big cities, which in turn ignited worries. After the government allowed travel for burial in hometowns, the spread of these pictures began to wane. In the month of June, tourism, hotels and schools were open – and at the same time, election preparations began. In sum, rumors continue to spread, making life worrisome.

Speaking for New York City, Nicholas Githuku pointed out that teaching and learning in higher education has been online since lockdown – which challenged the older generation that is less IT-savvy. Like in Tanzania, there has been a cloud of worries of containing the virus amongst New York residents, who at times needed to go out running important errands. A strict lockdown under governor Cuomo has led to people lacking their regular exercises. In this regard, they took individual initiatives to exercise. For example, Nicholas Githuku speed-walked 80 miles in the month of June. Along different lines, two important challenges he mentioned were, that it has been hard for people to identify familiar faces due to the imposition to wear masks, and he also expressed concern that social distancing laws could be used as an excuse for racial discrimination, in the context of ongoing protests against American police brutality that had led to the murder of George Floyd.

Neema Kasabo, a Berlin resident, explained that there has been scarcity of food items in the local super markets, and concerts and choir gatherings were cancelled and schools were closed. For some time, grandparents were not able to see their grandchildren in person.  In order to take care of the homeless, some hotels were open to accommodate them and some people supplied food to them in the streets.

Following the four speakers, members of the audience contributed to the discussion in a lively manner, asking follow-up questions and contributing further accounts of their own experiences, also in other countries, like Ethiopia and South Africa. Questions included challenges of balancing work, supervising children’s home-schooling, adopting online learning pedagogy and doing business. A notable contribution from a female student in Cape Town was that given a 100 day strict lockdown, female students have been experiencing mental health issues as a result of abusive male students they spend all day with in dormitories as opposed to a few episodes of a day when they were able to go to school.

You can find related updates on our Corona webpage. Examples include lived experiences in Old Town, MombasaAbdilatif Abdallah's travel across East Africa and Uganda's response to the pandemic.



Jumatatu, 6 Julai 2020

Mabadiliko ya Maisha Katika Kipindi cha Korona

Wahudhuriaji 28

Baraza na Hassan Mwakimako (Profesa wa Masomo ya Dini, Chuo Kikuu cha Pwani, Kilifi, Kenya), Nandera Mhando (Mkuu wa Idara, Falsafa na Masomo ya Dini, Chuo Kikuu cha Dar es Salaam), Nicholas Githuku (Profesa Msaidizi, Historia, Falsafa na Anthropolojia, Chuo Kikuu cha York, CUNY, New York), na Neema Kasabo (Mhadhiri wa Kiswahili, Chuo Kikuu Huru, Berlin).

Baraza liliandaliwa na kutambulishwa na Kai Kresse (Mkurugenzi Msaidizi ZMO na Profesa wa Anthropolojia ya Jamii na Utamaduni, Chuo Kikuu cha Freie Berlin) na Lutz Diegner (Mhadhiri wa Kiswahili, Chuo Kikuu cha Humboldt Berlin)

Katika Baraza letu la kwanza kupitia mtandao wa Zoom, wazungumzaji wanne kati ya watano walioalikwa watokao katika miji mikubwa minne walijadili maono yao juu ya tauni ya Korona na mabadiliko walioyaona katika jamii zao na maisha yao binafsi. Kwa sababu isiyoweza kuzilika, mzungumzaji wetu mahili Bwana Abdilatif Abdalla (Mwandishi wa “Sauti ya Dhiki”, Oxford University Press 1973) hakuweza kuhudhuria.

Akiongea kutoka Mombasa, Hassan Mwakimako alizungumza jinsi usitishwaji wa shughuli ulivyozuia matembezi ya watu katika kaunti za Kilifi, Mombasa na Kwale. Hii imepelekea kushindikana kwa kusafiri kwenda kazini kwa watumishi wanaoishi kwenye miji tofauti na wanayofanyia kazi. Mwanzoni, watu wengi walidhani kwamba ugonjwa huu ni wa ulaya tu. Hali ambayo imepelekea mgawanyiko kati ya wengi ambao waliudharau ugonjwa na wachache ambao waliamini ungonjwa huu upo. Hivyo baadhi ya watu hawakufuata sheria za kiafya dhidi ya ugonjwa huu kwa mgano kutokuvaa barakoa mpaka waone polisi. Toka hapo, mitaa ilipakwa rangi za ishara kuanzia zinazozuia mikusanyiko ya watu hadi kufungwa kwa misikiti. Hii imepelekea upunguaji wa shughuli za kichumi, upatikanaji wa mahitaji ya nyumbani kama samaki wa bahari, uhudhuriaji wa misiba (ukizingatia kizingiti cha watu 15) na kutembelea ndugu, jamaa na marafiki. Katika harakati za kutimiza hatua za kijikinga, neno la Kiswahili “barakoa” limefufuliwa na linatumika mara kwa mara. Katika nyanja za siasa, baadhi ya wanasiasa wameutumia ugonjwa kujijengea umaarufu kabla ya uchaguzi. Hii imekua kupitia jitihada zao kuwahamasisha watu kufuata kanuni zote za kiafya dhidi ya ugonjwa huu.

Kulingana na Nandera Mhando, Tanzania imedhibiti Korona tofauti. Kukiwa na maambukizi 480, waliopona 167 na vifo 16, serikali ya Tanzania iliamua kutangaza watu wanaopona na wale walioko mahospitalini. Pamoja na kuushauri umma kufuta kanuni za usafi dhidi ya Korona, serikali ya Tanzania haikuzuia watu kutoka nje. Wakuu wa serikali ambao ni rais, waziri mkuu na waziri wa afya walikazania hatua za kiafya. Rais na waziri mkuu walitilia mkazo kusali na kujifukiza kama njia kuu za kuepuka ugonjwa ambayo ilipokelewa na watu wengi nchi nzima. Hii iliamsha vipingamizi kutoka kwa wasomi ambao walidhani kuzuia watu kutoka nje kulikua sahihi. Kufikia tarehe 29 Aprili miji mikubwa ilijaa hofu za juu ya kuambukizwa ugonjwa huu. Kwa upande mwingine, vijiji na miji midogo haikuhofu kwa sababu shghuli zao za kila siku haziwaleti kwenye misongamano ya watu wengi. Hali iliyo pelekea kuaminika kwamba ugonjwa huu ni wa miji mikubwa tu.

Uwezo pungufu wa kupima na uhaba wa vifaa vya kujikinga, ulichangia uzinduzi kati ya wasomi na wajasiriamali. Chuo kikuu cha Dar es Salaam kilifanya utafiti uliopelekea kutengeneza barakoa na sanitaiza stahiki. Hii imechagiza utafiti juu ya uwezekano wa dawa za kienyeji zinazotibu Korona ndani ya chuo kikuu, Taasisi ya Utafiti wa Dawa na Taasisi ya Viwanda Vidogo Vidogo. Vilevile, imechangia utafiti juu ya tabia za watu katika kufuata sheria za kiafya dhidi ya ugonjwa wa Korona.

Kwa sababu ya uwezo pungufu wa kupima, watu katika miji mikubwa imewabidi waishi kwa uvumi mwingi kwa sababu hakuna takwimu sahihi juu ya maambukizi – na wamejifunza kuishi na ugonjwa. Kumwekua pia na kikomo cha wahudhuriaji kumi katika mazishi, ambayo imeathiri tamaduni ya ndugu kukutana pamoja na kuzungumza mambo ya kifamilia misibani. Hali ambayo imepelekea usambaaji wa picha za WhatsApp juu ya mazishi ya usiku wa manane na kuongezeka kwa makaburi katika miji mikubwa. Hofu iliongezeka. Baada ya serikali kuruhusu safari za misiba nje ya miji mikubwa, usambaaji wa picha hizi ulianza kupungua. Katika mwezi wa sita, utalii, mahoteli na shule zilifunguliwa – na wakati huo huo maandalizi ya uchaguzi yalianza. Yote kwa yote uvumi unaendela kusambaa na kufanya maisha yawe ya wasi wasi.

Akiongea kutoka New York, Nocholas Githuku alieleza kwamba mafunzo yamekua ya mtandaoni toka watu walipozuiwa kutoka nje – ambayo imewasumbua watu wazima maana hawajui kutumia teknolojia hii sana. Kama ilivyo Tanzania, kumekua na hofu sana za kuambukizwa pale watu wakitoka nje kufanya manunuzi ya muhimu. Kizuizi cha kutoka nje chini ya uongozi wa gavan Cuomo kumepelekea watu kukosa mazoezi. Hali iliyopelekea wao kufanya maamuzi binafsi. Kwa mfano, Nicholas Githuku alikimbia maili 80 katika mwezi wa Juni. Changamoto mbili za muhimu alizotaja ni kwamba imekua ngumu kutambua watu wa karibu kwa sababu ya barakoa. Alieleza wasiwasi kwamba kuweka umbali kunaweza kutumiwa kama kisingizio na watu ambao ni wabaguzi wa kitamaduni kwa ajili ya kubagua watu dhidi ya rangi ya ngozi. Hii inafuatia baada ya unyama wa askari wa Marekani ulipeleka mauaji ya George Floyd.

Neema Kasabo, mkazi wa Berlin kutoka Tanzania, alielezea kwamba kumekua na uhaba wa chakula katika masoko makubwa, matamasha na mikusanyiko ya waimba kwaya ilisitishwa na shule zilifungwa. Kwa kipindi fulani wazee hawakuweza kuwaona wajukuu zao ana kwa ana. Baadhi ya hoteli zilifunguliwa kwa ajili ya kuwajali watu wasio na makazi na baadhi ya watu waliwapatia chakula.

Kufuatia wazungumzaji, wahudhuriaji walichangia kwa uhai katika mazungumzo wakiuliza maswali na kuchangia katika mada. Maswali yalihusu changamoto za usawia wa kazi, kusimamia watoto kujifunzia kutoka nyumbani, kuzoea masomo ya mtandaoni na kufanya biashara. Mada mashuhuri ilichangiwa na mwanafunzi wa kike kutoka Cape Town ambapo mpaka baraza, ilikua ni siku ya 100 ya kutokutoka nje. Alieleza kua imepelekea changamoto za kiakili kwa mabinti ambao wamekua wakinyanyaswa kijinsia na vijana wa kiume wenye malengo mabaya ambao kwa sasa wapo nao mabwenini ukilinganisha na muda mchache kipindi walipokua wakienda shule.

Unaweza kupata habari zifananazo katika ukurasa wetu wa Korona. Mfano hali ya Maisha Mji wa kale, Mombasasafari ya Abdilatif Abdallah Afrika Masharikina mapokeo ya Uganda.


PhD research into concepts and practice of education and upbringing in Sunni girls' schools in Tanga, Tanzania

Monday, 3 February 2020, 4pm, ZMO

Baraza with Liese Hoffmann (Berlin Graduate School of Muslim Cultures and Societies)


In her lecture, Liese Hoffmann gave insight into the context of her PhD research, in which she explores the concepts and practices of education and upbringing in Sunni girls’ schools in Tanga, Tanzania. In her presentation she introduced impressionable ethnographic examples of her research, in which she describes the everyday life of Muslim pupils in the madrasa. Furthermore, she describes how she accompanied these students in the context of her field work, how as a researcher she behaved in spheres of the family and schooling, and how there she herself became a student again. In her lecture, she situates the madrasa in the context of Islamic upbringing in East Africa and elaborates on the discourses of teachers and pupils in relation to the different forms of schooling in Tanzania. A further focus of her research lies in how the Islamic mediation of morals and knowledge is put into correlation by these students in relation to their personal curriculum vitaes and future plans. In the following discussion the presenter elaborated on details and revelations of her ethnographic field work in response to the inquiries of the audience.


Utatu wa Nne? Uchambuzi wa mitazamo mipya katika riwaya za Maficho ya Wazi Wazi (2014) na Nuru ya Jioni (2018) za Nuruddin Farah - A fourth Trilogy? A modern literary approach of Nuruddin Farah’s novels Hiding in Plain Sight (2014) and North of Dawn

Monday, December 2nd, 2019, 4 pm, ZMO

Baraza with Obala Musumba (Humboldt University Berlin)

Obala Musumba talked about one chapter of his doctoral thesis on the two latest novels of Nuruddin Farah. In this chapter he deals with how children are staged in plots of war and how Farah created these child protagonists in his two novels. In regard to this, Obala Musumba in his speech reflected upon the post-colonial phase by referring to Frantz Fanon and the African philosophers Mbembe and Mudimbe, among others. In contrast to Farah’s previous novels, these two do not play in Mogadishu/Somalia, but in Nairobi/Kenya and Norway. A question with which the speaker opened up the discussion to his audience was whether the author Nuruddin Farah had lost hope in Somalia and expects the reconstruction of Somalia to come from Somalia’s youth who grew up abroad in a peaceful surrounding.

"Motifu ya kicheko katika fasihi ya Kiswahili: Uchunguzi wa riwaya za kipelelezi“ – "The Motive of Laughing in Swahili Literature: An Investigation of Crime Novels"

Monday, 24 June 2019, 4pm, ZMO

Baraza with Neema Benson Sway (University of Dar es Salaam)


Neema Benson Sway reported about her progressing doctoral thesis that discusses the motive of laughing in Swahili-speaking crime novels. This motive has until now not been taken into account elaborately in the literary analysis of Swahili literature. In an amusing and convincing manner, Neema Benson Sway explains how laughing and its related literary stylistic methods "comedy", "joke", "ridicule", "fun", and "mockery" are utilized in various Swahili-speaking crime novels and are expressed in different forms.

In the concluding discussion round the presenter clarified questions by the the audience, that was partly foreign to the subject matter, in a charming fashion.


“Majadiliano kuhusu kitabu kipya cha Kai Kresse kiitwacho ‘Swahili Muslim Publics and Postcolonial Experience‘ (2018)” – “Discussion about Kai Kresse's new book ‘Swahili Muslim Publics and Postcolonial Experience’ (2018)”

Tuesday, 20 May 2019, 4pm

Baraza with Kai Kresse (Freie Universität Berlin/ZMO), Hassan Mwakimako (Pwani University, Kilifi, Kenya), Irene Brunotti (Leipzig University) and Clarissa Vierke (Bayreuth University).

In ten-minute contributions the discussants reviewed the recently published book by Kai Kresse in which he explores the ideas and public discussions that have shaped and defined the experience of Kenyan coastal Muslims. The event was enriched by a video commentary of Tanzanian professor Hamza Njozi (Muslim Universitity of Morogoro) who draw parallels with the experience of Tanzanian Muslims and praised the book for its ethnographical and collaborative sensitive approach.

You can find an english translation of professor Njozi's video comment here.

"Kumbukumbu ya mshairi marehemu Ustadh Ahmad Nassir“ – "Remembering the deceased poet Ustadh Ahmad Nassir“

Monday, 29 April 2019, 4pm, ZMO

Baraza with Abdilatif Abdalla (Leipzig University) and Kai Kresse (Freie Universität Berlin/ZMO)

Together Abdilatif Abdalla and Kai Kresse remembered the late Swahili poet Ustadh Ahmad Nassir Juma Bhalo, who deceased on January 9th, 2019.  Abdilatif Abdalla’s older brother was born in the Kenyan coastal metropolis Mombasa in 1936. He became known in particular through his collections of poems “Malenga wa Mvita” (Oxford University Press, 1971), “Poems from Kenya: Gnomic Verses in Swahili” (University of Wisconsin Press, 1966), “Taa ya Umalenga” (Kenya Literature Bureau, 1978) as well as through his epic “Utenzi wa Mtu ni Utu” (Macmillan, 1979) in which he elucidates utu as key term for understanding humans as moral beings, and he lays out an ethics based on this.

Ustadh Ahmad Nassir was a guest at ZMO at the first baraza in 2008. You can find more information on this event here.

Dr. Harrison Mwalima of Deutsche Welle produced a radio feature about this baraza. You can listen to it here.

Previous Baraza la Kiswahili la Berlin events can be found in our archive