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In: The Arabic Script in Africa
In: Matatu
Author: Clarissa Vierke


This paper interrogates the notion of intervention in popular poetry. It takes the example of popular poetry from Dar es Salaam, which has so far not received much scholarly attention, since it can neither be classified as traditional nor avantgarde. The urban poets struggle to make ends meet, but regularly publish their poetry in the newspaper or through social media and organize themselves in networks. They often remain without a voice in their society, but, contrary to a romanticist perception of the downtrodden, also do not seem to do much to criticize the status quo. Rather than following patterns of postcolonial paradigms which reduce poetry to a political message, I will argue for the potential of the aesthetic experience of poetry, whose imagery stirs the imagination of alternative worlds. Taking the example of a poem by the a female poet, Bi Jalala Sikudhani, I will show how the poem offers alternative views on her lifeworld.

In: Matatu
Swahili Poetry of Commitment by Ustadh Mahmoud Mau
The present volume is a pioneering collection of poetry by the outstanding Kenyan poet, intellectual and imam Ustadh Mahmmoud Mau (born 1952) from Lamu island, once an Indian Ocean hub, now on the edge of the nation state. By means of poetry in Arabic script, the poet raises his voice against social ills and injustices troubling his community on Lamu. The book situates Mahmoud Mau’s oeuvre within transoceanic exchanges of thoughts so characteristic of the Swahili coast. It shows how Swahili Indian Ocean intellectual history inhabits an individual biography and writings while also portraying a unique African Muslim thinker and his poetry in the local language, which has so often been neglected as major site for critical discourse in Islamic Africa. The authors’ approaches highlight the relevance of local epistemologies as archives for understanding the relationship between reform Islam and local communities in contemporary Africa.
The selected poetry is clustered around the following themes: jamii: societal topical issues, ilimu: the importance of education, huruma: social roles and responsabilities, matukio: biographical events and maombi: supplications. Prefaced by Prof. Rayya Timamy (Nairobi University), the volume includes contributions by Jasmin Mahazi, Kai Kresse and Kadara Swaleh, Annachiara Raia and Clarissa Vierke.