Mtoro bin Mwinyi Bakari
Swahili lecturer and author in Germany
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: African Books Collective
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This study presents the life history of a man who grew up and lived in the coastal area of East Africa during the last three decades of the nineteenth century, who then left for Germany where he lived and finally died in 1927. An African migrating to Europe in 1900 was not the exception it may seem from the perspective of ongoing globalization discourse. Migration actually...
1. Growing up in Dunda and Bagamoyo
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The industrial production of commodities, such as metals, beads, cloths and firearms, and the growing demand of ivory on the world market increasingly stimulated commercial activities on the East African mainland during the nineteenth century. Trade networks extended up to Lake Tanganyika and beyond, with caravans from the coast following the expanding trade routes....
2. Living under German colonial rule
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The colonial influence actually commenced with the presence of the German colonialists who began to shift the main basis of their operations from Zanzibar to Bagamoyo and to build stations further inland in 1886. At that time their financial resources and military capacity were rather limited, and some of them tried to overcome this weakness by frequently using force and...
3. At the School of Oriental Languagesin Berlin
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Being much smaller than London and approximating the size of New York and Paris at the end of the nineteenth century, Berlin, the German capital, was, for a time, the fourth largest metropolis in the world. With almost two million people living in the urban areas plus the same number in the wider surroundings, it was the most important city in Germany. The second one,...
4. Marriage in 1904
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Recognition of Mtoro Bakari’s talents and achievements did not help him much when he seriously pursued a relationship with a German woman. It seems that, at the beginning of May 1904, Mtoro Bakari and Bertha Hilske were betrothed by Adolf Schmidt, a Protestant pastor living not far from the home of the Bakaris at that time. Four months later Mtoro Bakari contacted...
5. Teaching German missionaries
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It was no longer possible for Mtoro Bakari to resume work as a lecturer at the SOL. In January 1906 he sent a letter to the German Kaiser in which he pointed out that the measures taken against him and his wife lacked any legal basis and, regarding their dire financial situation, asked for another position in the civil service, either in Germany or in East Africa.1 After receiving a...
6. At the Colonial Institute in Hamburg
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After Meinhof’s intervention had opened the way for Mtoro Bakari to work as a lecturer again, German colleagues and students profited from his unbroken willingness to share his knowledge of the languages and cultures of East Africa. On the surface, Hamburg lived up to its name as a liberal and independent port city; Mtoro Bakari’s marriage did not become a matter of...
7. 1913: further discord
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The measures designed to control the working conditions of “black” lecturers went hand in hand with the intention of curbing their intellectual abilities and thus reinforcing the belief in their racial inferiority. The kind of role regarded by many academics as appropriate for a “native” Swahili tutor after 1904 is illustrated by the teaching practice of Hans Zache, a lawyer who had first...
8. Back in Berlin
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Lacking a firm social footing in Hamburg, the Bakaris returned to Berlin shortly after Mtoro was dismissed in December 1913. The available sources reveal nothing about his private life and, as in Hamburg, do not contain any evidence of contacts with Africans in Berlin. According to the official registration file, the Bakaris quickly found an apartment in a new block in...
9. Reduced and forgotten
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Observing how society changed over many years and responding to the varying reactions of the audiences he lectured to, Mtoro Bakari did not apparently anticipate any advantages from engaging in political activity. One reason for the fact that he did not change his approach is the surge of racism which he faced after the defeat of Germany. Agitation in the press against the...
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For most of the last century Mtoro Bakari was mainly remembered for his marriage to a German woman. In Bagamoyo a few elderly people had vague recollections of his unsuccessful attempt to return to German East Africa until the 1980s. In Germany his story seemed to be largely forgotten following his dismissal from the HCI in 1913. With the transfer of the
Postscripton the writings of Mtoro Bakari
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The works of Mtoro Bakari are widely seen as outstanding examples of nineteenth century Swahili literature reflecting important aspects of the culture and society of the East African littoral at the end of the precolonial period. This view will not be challenged here. However, it should be kept in mind that, in actual fact, they were produced at the very beginning of the...
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Sources of Illustrations
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Page Count: 152
Illustrations: b/w illustrations
Publication Year: 2009