keskiviikko 5. syyskuuta 2012

Jahazi – Swahili poetry, book about revolution and jazz every night.

Yet another festival posting! And there are more to come after the Water Sports Festival next weekend. After that, I promise to write about something completely different – I will give you updates from Kenya, North Tanzania and Tanzanian coast. And after that, about a TV show that we are cooperating with.

So please just forgive me for a more serious posting this time. Well, again.

Here's links and more information about Zanzibari festivals!

But back to last weekend and Jahazi. This year was the second year for Jahazi Literary and Jazz Festivals. Everything happend right here in Stone Town, which I of course greatly appreciate. During the day time there were many different discussion and reading sessions, workshops etc. Night time was reserved for jazz music from all over the world.

Now, the star visitors were Americans: Quincy Troupe, Jeffery Renard Allen and Tariq Ali. All very interesting people, but since this is a swahili culture blog, I will not write more about them. You can find someone else who does.

The two main swahili, Zanzibari even, authors were the poet Haji Gora and a writer Fatma Jinja. Both of them belong to the older generation, Gora being 70-something and Jinja 82. What's wrong with the younger writer generations? I think they are all out of the country. Zanzibaris of these days are not the most enthusiastic readers.

Haji Gora is a man whom everybody in Zanizbar knows. Especially those who still remember their school times, since his books and poetry are thought at school. This is because a) he's really good and b) he writes excellent classical swahili.

Gora on the right, Farouque on the left is translating.

Gora red some of his poems to the audience. To me as a Finnish person it was a surprise to hear him actually sing the poems more than reading them – it reminded me greatly about our Kalevala poems (also available in Swahili by the way). It turns out that Gora has a very specific rythm and form in his poems. Here, I'll give you a (very badly) translated example:

This poem is very metaphorical, for example this verse:

It is a secret inside a secret
The chameleon passed the car
When you consider this

In this poem, the chameleon represents women and car men. So nowadays women are the ones more advanced.

And this gives me a chance to talk about an advanced woman, mrs. Jinja. In the 60's she opened the first guesthouse in Zanzibar, Malindi Guesthouse. She was also in the frontline of entepreneuring women in her time, and still an inspiration to many. A mother of 10 who lost her father and husband around revolution times, she had to struggle to make her living.

Fatma Jinja on the right. Left is a Ugandan author Doreen Baingana.

At the age of 82, she's now writing her autobiography. She said it's finally a time for that, earlier she could not have done it - it would have been too sensitive subject for many. Now she plans to write down all of it – being a shirazi, the revolution, her view of president Karume. And here's the charm: this book will be in English.

At the same time, she's also still owner of a farm, anf of course a great grandmother of almost 30 children.

As a lighter ending I offer you some jazz, just like in Jahazi festivals. Here's Simon Spang-Hanssen and Rainbow Spirit from Denmark.

And as an extra surprise, a Zulu song :)