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Abdilatif Abdalla: Poet in Politics

Marie Beck

Publication Year: 2016

Abdilatif Abdalla: Poet in Politics �celebrates the work of Abdilatif Abdalla, one of Kenya�s most well-known poets and a committed political activist. It includes commentary essays on aspects of Abdilatif Abdalla�s work and life, through inter-weaving perspectives on poetry and politics, language and history; with contributions by East African writers and scholars of Swahili literature, including Ngugi wa Thiong�o, Said Khamis, Ken Walibora, Ahmed Rajab, Mohamed Bakari, and Sheikh Abdilahi Nassir, among others. Abdalla became famous in 1973, with the publication of Sauti ya Dhiki (Voice of Agony), a collection of poems written secretly in prison during three years of solitary confinement (1969-72). He was convicted of circulating pamphlets against Jomo Kenyatta�s KANU government, criticizing it as �dictatorial� and calling for political resistance in the pamphlet, 'Kenya: Twendapi?' (Kenya: where are we heading?). His poetry epitomizes the ongoing currency of classic Swahili form and language, while his work overall, including translations and editorships, exemplifies a two-way mediation between �traditional� and �modern� perspectives. It makes old and new voices of Swahili poetry and African literature accessible to a wider readership in East Africa, and beyond. Abdalla has lived in exile since 1973, in Tanzania, London, and subsequently, until now, in Germany. Nevertheless, Swahili literature and Kenyan politics have remained central to his life.

Published by: African Books Collective

Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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Preface and Acknowledgements

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pp. v-vi

This volume of essays presents praise and exploration of the works and the person of Abdilatif Abdalla, poet and activist – and colleague, teacher and friend to many of us.
It was not difficult to select a title for us. Poet in Politics is especially appropriate as it encapsulates, in a succinct and concise form, what Abdilatif Abdalla stands for, as a writer and political activist, as verbal artist and a master...

Section 1. Poet in Politics

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‘Deep Language’ Crossing Borders

Rose Marie Beck

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pp. 3-10

Abdilatif Abdalla approached pension age at the end of April 2011, after 15 years of employment as a lecturer for Swahili at the Institue of African Studies, University of Leipzig. This was half a year after my appointment to the chair of African Languages and Literatures at the institute. Very soon it became clear to me that we should create an occasion to pay homage to this outstanding...

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Abdilatif Abdalla and the Voice of Prophecy

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

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pp. 11-18

Though Abdilatif and I come from two different regions of Kenya, he from the Coast and I the Highlands, and we are of different ages, he born in 1946 and I, in 1938, our two lives are interwoven with the post-colonial history of Kenya and have crossed at key moments of that history. I published my first novel, “Weep Not Child”, in 1964 at the age of 26; he published his first...

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Abdilatif Abdalla: Poet and Activist, Voice of the Discontented, Voice of Humanity

Kai Kresse

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pp. 19-34

Shaaban Robert’s statement, that truth will ultimately prevail, if not today then tomorrow, can be read as a commitment to hope, and confidence, that forces of the good will in the end succeed, even against the odds and the adverse powers that may dominate ‘today’ (leo). This statement is quoted by Abdilatif Abdalla at the very end of his lecture on the obligations of the writer in society, given...

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Whither Swahili Literature? Translation and the World Recognition of Abdilatif Abdalla’s Sauti ya Dhiki

Said Ahmed Khamis

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pp. 35-44

In a general implicit sense, the above title informs what Casanova (2004:175-204) calls: small literatures. By small literatures we mean literatures which are hardly recognised in a global scene, or literature(s) whose heritages are betrayed, their differences denied and their values always alleged to be derived from the great literary traditions as if the so-called great literatures are completely...

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The Poetics of Abdilatif Abdalla’s Agony

Mohamed Bakari

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pp. 45-54

Abdilatif Abdalla was charged with sedition in 1968 after publishing and distributing an article in Swahili entitled Kenya: Twendapi? (Where is Kenya Headed?). The trial and the subsequent three-year sentence made Abdilatif the first political prisoner in post-independence Kenya. Bwana Mataka, the nineteenth century local ruler of the town of Siyu in the Lamu archipelago, is...

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Doing Things with Words in Prison Poetry

Ken Walibora Waliaula

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pp. 55-64

In March 1969 Kenyan Swahili poet and political activist Abdilatif Abdalla appeared before a Mombasa court on sedition charges. The magistrate found him guilty and sentenced him to eighteen months in prison for the offence. But the attorney general Charles Njonjo successfully appealed against the sentence, claiming the magistrate had been too lenient. Abdalla’s sentence...

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The Urgency of Memory in an Age of Greed

Ahmed Rajab

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pp. 65-74

A word of warning: those expecting an exposition of some aspect of the work of Michel Foucault would be disappointed although one can without difficulty find a linkage between some of Abdilatif Abdalla’s poetry and Foucault’s ‘archeology of knowledge’ or, arguably, his concept of épistèmes. But I will not embark on such an exercise because we are here to celebrate, and celebrations...

Section 2. Selected Works of Abdilatif Abdalla

Kenya: Twendapi? (Facsimile Pages)

Abdilatif Abdalla

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pp. 76-80

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Wajibu wa Mshairi Katika Jamii Yake

Abdilatif Abdalla

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pp. 81-86

Hakuna Fasihi hata moja ulimwenguni ambayo imechimbuka na kuendelea kuishi katika ombwe tupu. Fasihi yoyote iwayo itakuwa imeupata uhai wake, miongozo yake, na hata maudhui yake, kutokana na hali ya kitamaduni, ya kisiasa na ya kiuchumi ya jamii hiyo iliyochimbukana nayo.
Uhusiano huu wa Fasihi na hizi tanzu nyengine za maisha ni uhusiano...

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Matatizo ya Mwandishi wa Jamii Katika Afrika Huru

Abdilatif Abdalla

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pp. 87-96

Katika mwezi wa Februari, 1967, huko Stockholm, Sweden, kulikuwa na mkutano wa waandishi wa Afrika na wa Skandinavia. Baadhi ya waandishi wa Afrika waliohudhuria mkutano huo walikuwa ni Kofi Awoonor-Williams, Dennis Brutus, Eldred Jones, Alex La Guma, Ezekiel Mphahlele, John Nagenda, Wole Soyinka, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, na...

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The Right and Might of a Pen

Abdilatif Abdalla

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pp. 97-100

Four days ago, the Mombasa High Court increased my sentence to three years’ imprisonment after the Attorney General appealed against the earlier sentence of 18 months as inadequate. Today, I’m transferred from Shimo la Tewa Prison, Mombasa, to Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, near Nairobi. I arrive in Kamiti at 7pm. What a dark night this is! Very heavy rain, lightning...

Section 3. Contexts

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Hope and Despair in Kenyan Politics During and After Independence

Sheikh Abdilahi Nassir

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pp. 103-108

The subject given to me is political: Hope and Despair in Kenyan Politics During and After Independence. This is a very political and sensitive subject. I will try as much as I can to see that I do justice to it.
To appreciate this, we have to go back in history. Was there Kenya before the coming of Europeans? Yes, there was; but not as it is demarcated...

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Existentialism and Swahili Literature

Alena Rettová

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pp. 109-122

Since Euphrase Kezilahabi introduced existentialism into Swahili literature in his two novels, Kichwamaji (Hydrocephalus, 197446) and Dunia Uwanja wa Fujo (The World is an Arena of Chaos, 1975), there has been a tendency in literary criticism to apply the label of ‘existentialism’ to every Swahili novel which shows an inclination towards philosophy. Also the two latest prose...

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Language in Africa Between the Local and the Global: How Political are ‘Dialects’?

H. Ekkehard Wolff

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pp. 123-132

In order to address the special occasion of this symposium, I would like to begin by paying homage to the man who is honoured by it: Abdilatif Abdalla. For almost the whole 15 years that I was privileged to hold the Chair of African Languages & Literatures at this university, he was on our team as an outstanding colleague, both in personal and professional terms. Abdilatif Abdalla was an ever...

Section 4. Congratulatory Texts

Kwa Abdilatif Abdalla

Irmtraud Herms

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p. 135

Kumsherehekea Abdilatif Abdalla

Jasmin Mahazi

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pp. 136-138

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Dear Abdilatif, dear friends and colleagues, ladies and gentlemen

Gudrun Miehe

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pp. 139-142

At the beginning, let me say a few words in English. Originally, the organisers and me had in mind to deliver this laudatio in English. However, going through my memory, trying to put my thoughts together, I realized that nothing is more appropriate than using Swahili for my small contribution, which has been our (common) language of communication since Abdilatif and me met at...

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Ndugu wote

Othman Miraji Othman

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pp. 143-145

Mei tano hadi sita 2011 katika Chuo Kikuu cha Leipzig, Ujerumani, kulifanywa kongamano, na kauli mbiu ilikuwa: “Lugha ya Ndani Katika Kuivuka Mipaka: Ugunduzi wa Matumizi ya Utamaduni Kama Rasilimali ya Harakati za Kisiasa na za Upinzani Ndani ya Bara la Afrika na Kwengineko.” Kongamano hilo, wakishiriki wasomi kutoka Ujerumani na nje, lilikuwa na madhumuni ya...

Kumkumbuka Bwana Abdilatif Abdalla –Mwalimu Wetu

Wanafunzi wa Chuo Kikuu cha Leipzig

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p. 146

List of Contributors

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pp. 147-148

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9789987753482
E-ISBN-10: 9987753485
Print-ISBN-13: 9789987753383

Page Count: 154
Publication Year: 2016

OCLC Number: 946704363
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Abdilatif Abdalla: Poet in Politics

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Abdalla, Abdilatif, 1946- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Abdalla, Abdilatif, 1946- -- Political and social views.
  • Swahili poetry -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Kenya -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Political activists -- Kenya.
  • 1900 - 1999 -- fast.
  • Criticism, interpretation, etc.
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