The Swahili term baraza describes informal meetings and regular discussion rounds among neighbours and friends that occur in everyday street life on the Swahili coast, usually in front of houses and in a casual atmosphere. The term also signifies the location where these gatherings commonly take place: the stone benches on the outer walls of houses in East African coastal towns. These gatherings give locals the opportunity to communally discuss, interpret and question any topics of interest to the attendees and may include the latest news and gossip as well as cultural topics, and religious and political conversations and discussions. In this spirit, the baraza constitutes a place and time for the exchange of knowledge within a familiar social context.
The Baraza la Kiswahili la Berlin (BALAKI-BE) is a Swahili-speaking meeting point, a kind of jour fixe for Swahilophone researchers, advanced students and interested members of the public. Each meeting is ranked around a talk or presentation that may be more or less academic in character; from research papers to biographical accounts a broad range of topics can be covered in this ongoing series of informal discussions.
On the one hand, as a platform for academic exchange on research-related topics, the Baraza la Kiswahili la Berlin (BALAKI-BE) is open to contributions in disciplines ranging from linguistics, literature and history, over to political science, philosophy and social anthropology. It thus acts as a platform for the presentation and discussion of research as well as literary documentation and translation. On the other hand, the baraza offers a space for literary and biographical presentations by East African authors, poets and other personalities, and for discussions with them.