Abdilatif Abdalla: Poet in Politics by Rose Marie Beck, Kai Kresse

By Rose Marie Beck, Kai Kresse

Abdilatif Abdalla: Poet in Politics ­celebrates the paintings of Abdilatif Abdalla, considered one of Kenya's such a lot recognized poets and a devoted political activist. It contains remark essays on facets of Abdilatif Abdalla's paintings and lifestyles, via inter-weaving views on poetry and politics, language and heritage; with contributions by means of East African writers and students of Swahili literature, together with Ngugi wa Thiong'o, acknowledged Khamis, Ken Walibora, Ahmed Rajab, Mohamed Bakari, and Sheikh Abdilahi Nassir, between others. Abdalla grew to become recognized in 1973, with the e-book of Sauti ya Dhiki (Voice of Agony), a suite of poems written secretly in felony in the course of 3 years of solitary confinement (1969-72). He was once convicted of circulating pamphlets opposed to Jomo Kenyatta's KANU executive, criticizing it as 'dictatorial' and calling for political resistance within the pamphlet, 'Kenya: Twendapi?' (Kenya: the place are we heading?). His poetry epitomizes the continuing foreign money of vintage Swahili shape and language, whereas his paintings total, together with translations and editorships, exemplifies a two-way mediation among 'traditional' and 'modern' views. It makes outdated and new voices of Swahili poetry and African literature available to a much broader readership in East Africa, and past. Abdalla has lived in exile because 1973, in Tanzania, London, and in this case, earlier, in Germany. however, Swahili literature and Kenyan politics have remained principal to his lifestyles.

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This is how he contends: But not everyone succeeds in dealing with the conundrum of content and craft. Not all artists find the aesthetic that allows them to treat the political convulsions of these last hundred years in ways that do not make us question the very validity or relevance of art. But a handful have managed to make us believers – believers in the power of craft ... One good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain. It is not so much what it teaches, but what it fills, and how it manages to touch us in ways that are only explained by the beauty of the crafting of the words.

So far the criteria for the implementation of a geopolitical translation have never been thought out in Swahili literature. As a result we will mention in passing two main streams of translation: namely ‘translation of Swahili literature in major world languages’, and ‘translation of world literatures in Swahili’. The translation of Arabic/Islamic literature in Swahili already started in the 16th century. These translations24 especially from Arabic to Swahili were undertaken by leading Muslim clerics with the aim of restoring the Islamic values and sensibility threatened to disappear after over 200 years of Portuguese rule in East Africa (Gérard, 1976:7).

What relation to the national literatures whose production continued unabated even after Goethe announced their obsolescence? , a relevant question that hints at the impasses surrounding the notion of universalism vis á vis worldwide recognition of Swahili literature in general and Abdilatif Abdalla’s Sauti ya Dhiki (1973) / “Voice of Agony” in particular, and this despite the fact that we know that Swahili literature exists, and it exists robustly. To this effect, Damrosch reminds us of Franz Kafka, Katib Yacine, Henrik Ibsen and James Joyce – all found themselves faced with the same alternatives and curiously discovered the same way out from the same dilemma of smallness.

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