Adam Shafi's memoir blows fresh breath to Swahili literature


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Adam Shafi's memoir blows fresh breath to Swahili literature



Adam Shafi. His dexterity and mastery of Swahili language make him a wordsmith, imbuing his life story with unforgettable vivaciousness.

By KEN WALIBORA
Posted Sunday, January 27 2013 at 02:00

Title: Mbali na Nyumbani

Author: Adam Shafi

Publisher: Longhorn (K) Ltd (2012)

Reviewer: KEN WALIBORA

The past decade has witnessed an upsurge in the publication of Swahili fictional works, particularly in Kenya. Both seasoned and upcoming authors have had their works published on a scale unprecedented in the Swahili literary history.

This increase in Swahili titles is presumably attributable to publishers' rather belated discovery of the lucrative Swahili market as the language continues to gain popularity globally and in the East and Central Africa region in particular.

This is not to suggest that Swahili is now at par with English in terms of the quantity and quality of literary publications. If Swahili has had the audacity to compete reasonably well with English in fictional works published in Eastern Africa, it hasn't fared very well in nonfiction.

Since the doyen of Swahili letters Shaaban bin Robert penned
Wasifu wa Siti Binti Saad, the biography of a famous taarab female songbird, as well as his own memoir, Maisha Yangu na Baada ya Miaka Hamsini, there has been little in the way of Swahili life writing.

It is therefore enthralling to witness the recent publication of Adam Shafi's memoir,
Mbali na Nyumbani. Shafi's memoir is probably the most artfully crafted and candid piece of life writing in the Swahili literary corpus. Anchored on the themes of exile, youthful adventure, the quest for education and the journey motif, Shafi's Mbali na Nyumbani is a page-turner that is bound to revolutionise life writing in Swahili.

For once, a reader would encounter a highly intricate and humorous life narrative that is not interested in vain self-glorification or deliberate glossing over one's weaknesses.

Neither is the memoir a dry presentation of dates, facts and figures within a trite self-congratulatory frame, as is so often the case with inept autobiographical works that grace the bookshelves the world over. Mbali na Nyumbani exhibits great aesthetic beauty.

But perhaps the greatest virtue of this exilic life narrative lies in its ability to shed light on the human condition and to edify without pontificating.

Shafi needs no introduction. He has authored four powerful novels, namely;
Kuli, Kasri ya Mwinyi Fuad, Haini, and Vuta N'kuvute. The semi-autobiographical Haini and the revolutionary Vute N'kuvute are the probably most acclaimed literary pieces of his literary oeuvre.

But in Mbali na Nyumbani it is his ability to put to use his astute literary skills to carve out a public image of himself from his private life that makes his memoir an abounding work of life writing. His dexterity and mastery of Swahili language make him a wordsmith, imbuing his life story with unforgettable vivaciousness and novelty.

But even more enthusing is the way the memoirist plays with the thin line between fiction and fact.

His account is full of dramatic events and near-death situations, including reminiscence of his life as bus conductor for Mawingo Bus that operated between Bungoma and Kisumu and his dalliance with at least two women in Bungoma and Khartoum, his detention in northern Uganda, etc.

It is interesting how the journey gravitates towards an anticlimax as Shafi ends up being recruited into a secret military training camp in Egypt aimed at unseating the colonialists in Zanzibar, instead of pursuing university education as he had anticipated. But Zanzibar attains its independence before he puts his new skills to use.

Overall, the author writes about his misdeeds and missteps with astonishing candour. His account of having casual sexual encounters with women while being hosted at the mosque is a case in point.

Writer's life

But the life story is not just about dalliance with women in foreign lands; it encapsulates the breadth and width of a risk-ridden and intriguing youthful phase of the writer's life. It teems with the articulation and narration of his aspirations, his hopes, his doubts and his despair, as he seeks the elusive goal of a university education in colonial Africa, an education with which to save both himself and others.

If 2010 saw the publication of arguably Ngugi wa Thiong'o's best literary work in his memoir Dreams in a Time of War, then 2012 witnessed a great boost in Swahili life writing with the publication of Mbali na Nyumbani. This memoir has also thrown down the gauntlet to other Swahili fiction writers to turn to their own lives as subjects of their literary and imaginative productions.

But it seems to me life writing is the challenge Mbali na Nyumbani throws Swahili writers and scholars. The need for more Swahili life narratives has never been greater than now. With Mbali na Nyumbani, Shafi has set the pattern for us to follow.

kwalibora@yahoo.com

Shafi
 
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Huwa namuona mitaa ya Fire na kariakoo anatembea kwa miguu sijui namfananisha.
 
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namkubali sna ,nimesoma kazi yake ya vuta n'kuvute ni riwaya tamu sana! ana namna ya kuandika unaposoma unajiona kama umo ndani ya riwaya,yan nilishindwa kukiweka kitabu chini usiku kucha
 
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Morxmir Mwasala

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Mhusika gani unayekufanya mpaka usitue kitabu chini?
Kati ya hawa- Denge, Yasmini, Mwajuma, Inspector Wright, Koplo Matata?
 
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Mhusika gani unayekufanya mpaka usitue kitabu chini?
Kati ya hawa- Denge, Yasmini, Mwajuma, Inspector Wright, Koplo Matata?
bahati mbaya , hii riwaya sijaisom! Will look for the book!
 
FaizaFoxy

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Huwa namuona mitaa ya Fire na kariakoo anatembea kwa miguu sijui namfananisha.
Nijuavyo anakaa ubavuni mwa fire. Kwa hiyo kumuona mitaa hiyo si hasha.
 
FaizaFoxy

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Mmenitia hamu ya kumsoma, sijawahi kusoma vitabu vyake zaidi ya articles moja au mbili kwenye magazeti ingawa nnamjuwa sana.
 
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Mmenitia hamu ya kumsoma, sijawahi kusoma vitabu vyake zaidi ya articles moja au mbili kwenye magazeti ingawa nnamjuwa sana.
kasome kitabu chake cha KULI, nakala ngumu zimetapakaa kwa wingi tu hapo Zanzibar. tatizo lako wewe unazingia ilmu zaidi ya elimu.
 
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Mmenitia hamu ya kumsoma, sijawahi kusoma vitabu vyake zaidi ya articles moja au mbili kwenye magazeti ingawa nnamjuwa sana.
Anza na vutan'kuvute, kisha soma MBALI NA NYUMBANI, halafu HAINI...hakika utaona ladha ya uandishi...mie ameniathiri sana kwenye uandishi wangu....he is my role model linapokuja suala la creative writings...
 
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kasome kitabu chake cha KULI, nakala ngumu zimetapakaa kwa wingi tu hapo Zanzibar. tatizo lako wewe unazingia ilmu zaidi ya elimu.
Adam Shafi ni msomi mkubwa ilm, na uyaonayo yametokana na ilm yake.
 

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