Kale ya Washairi wa Pemba
The title of this collection of poetry, Kale ya Washairi wa Pemba: Kamange na Sarahani is translated as, iThe Past of Pemba Poets: Kamange and Sarahanii. Pemba, for those who may need reminding is the smaller of the two islands known as Zanzibar, the other being Unguja. The poets whose works make up the collection lived between the last half of the 19th and early 20th century in Pemba, but their poetry was known and much appreciated throughout the Swahili world of the time, meaning the coastal towns of East Africa, in particular, Mombasa, Lamu, Zanzibar and other settlements. The two famous and rival poets, Kamange and Sarahani, were influenced, as all artists inevitably are, by their environment and culture, among the most important of its manifestations being religion and language. Both of them were Muslims, and were therefore influenced by Islamic literature and Arabic language. But they were also influenced by the multiplicity of Swahili sub-cultures and dialects n which were not in fact called Swahili but Kim vita, Kiamu, Kipemba, Kimrima and Kivumba respectively (for the Swahili spoken in Mombasa, Lamu, Pemba, Vanga and Wasini off the Southern Kenya coast) and several others. One aspect of the richness of the collection of Kamange and Sarahaniis poetry is the length and breadth of their command of the different dialects. At the height of their fame, the two poets divided the world of poetry into followers of Kamange or Sarahani. This rivalry became even fiercer after Kamangeis death with Sarahani refusing to be engaged in it, because as he voiced it, in the absence of his real sparring partner there was no one to pit himself against. Kamange was the boisterous, and daring one writing on subjects of love and bravery while Sarahani was interested in religion erudition, philosophy and moral instruction. The collectors of the poems, Abdurrahman Saggaf Alawy and Ali Abdala El Maawy saved the poems from extinction after the1964 revolution in Zanzibar and kept them for more than forty years before presenting them to Abdilatif Abdala, editor of this collection (himself a renowned poet) to find a publisher for them. This is a real treasure of Swahili poetry that will open up a new window to the richness of Swahili literary and poetic culture.
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