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Samia Omar @SamiaOBwana
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The most inaccurate article on the Swahili I have ever read!! A thread soon following!!! On what #BeingSwahili means #IamSwahili
I promised a thread on this but since I submitted a letter to the editor to @nytimes, I couldn’t post it elsewhere till after the review period. Since they didn’t publish it, here it goes...”#SomeoneTellNYTimes Swahili people exist” #BeingSwahili…
In his review, Holland Cotter rewrites Swahili history in a way that wipes out the history of over 5million people by claiming that the Swahili language “belongs to no particular ethnic group or place” yet #IamSwahili. #BeingSwahili @nytimes
There are over two dozen subgroup of Swahili people. Between 5-15 million define themselves as being Swahili and speak the language as their mother tongue. So it’s amazing for Holland Cotter to ignore them #IamSwahili #BeingSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts
All major languages have people who call it their own; French is for the French, Italian for Italians, English for English etc. so how can one claim a language spoken by millions of people in the world just came to exist? #IamSwahili #BeingSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts #France
The only difference with European languages like French, Italian is is that they are usually are also defined by geographical boundary and nationality, while the Swahili spread among several nations from Somalia to Mozambique. #IamSwahili #BeingSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts
Sadly our nations weren’t defined by us, but named by colonial powers who separated us to divide and conquer. The Italians for Somalia, the British for Kenya, Germans for Tanzania, Portuguese for Mozambique, French for Comoros etc #IamSwahili #BeingSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts
So it’s illogical for the author to argue that since so many people speak Swahili across different nations then Swahili people don’t exist! Just because our arts are found in different nations, doesn’t mean they don’t belong to us! #IamSwahili #BeingSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts
This claims is particularly illogical since the word Swahili itself roots form the Arabic word “AlSawahil”, meaning the coast. A name given to us after it was seen that we spread among many nations across the East African coast #IamSwahili #BeingSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts
Swahili are as diverse as our dialects which evolved over centuries of trade and travel. From Chimwiini of Barawa Somalia, Bajun in Kenya, Kimvita in Mombasa, Kiunguja of Tanzania, Maho of Comoro, Kimwani of Mozambique etc
#IamSwahili #BeingSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts
Afraid of the power of the Swahili and the Islamic civilization, the colonialists claimed that our different dialects meant that we are different people so as to prevent us from coming under into one identity and rebelling
#IamSwahili #BeingSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts
The division worked and that’s why we remain disunited to date, with an inferiority complex and identity crisis. Some of us even calling themselves Arab Africans in the hope of finding a community to belong!! #IamSwahili #BeingSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts
Our forefathers were traders. They traded languages as much as goods. This is why you find Swahili words in the now extinct Sidi language in India and Socotra of Yemen as much as we find Arabic and Indian words in our language. #IamSwahili #BeingSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts
You find African drums in India as much as you find Indian cuisine in our kitchens. Trading is a two-way exchange. The Swahili just perfected the consolidation of cultures into one. We are therefore the epitome of world peace #IamSwahili #BeingSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts
In Swahili culture, the best of African, Arabs, Chinese, Portuguese, and Indian heritage coexist as one. So the arts that the author highlights will undoubtedly be an example of this rich mix, which makes them no less Swahili #IamSwahili #BeingSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts
To millions of us, Swahili is our identity, our culture and our being. So for @nytimes to discount that we don’t exist wipes off thousands of years of history and equivalent to academic genocide @nytimesarts #BeingSwahili
#BeingSwahili is having no definitive geographical boundary where your cousins are from. Having nieces from Somalia, uncles from Kenya, and aunties from Tanzania, yet you all speak the same language @nytimes @nytimesarts
#BeingSwahili in Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique, means you were never colonized as the East African Coast in these countries was under a protectorate with their own administrative structure
@nytimes @nytimesarts
#BeingSwahili means when you visit the Sidis of India, Socotra of Yemen, Suri of Oman, Madagascar and other places in Indian Ocean you can easily confused as one of them, and identify their music, words and foods to be similar to your own
@nytimes @nytimesarts
#BeingSwahili in one sentence I use words from Bantu, Arab, Indian, Chinese and Portuguese origins.
My numbers are symbolic to my unique mix: 1-5, 8, 10 being Bantu (moja, mbili, tatu, nne, tano), and 6,7,9 being Arabic (Sita, saba, tisa) @nytimes @nytimesarts
#BeingSwahili is the epitome of world peace. A mix of all nations trading on the Indian Ocean, and having cousins with all shades of skin colours, and all textures of hair. @nytimes @nytimesarts
#BeingSwahili means that if you are lucky to do a DNA test like me, you have all colors of the rainbow. We are a DNA cocktail of everything!!! @23andMe @nytimes @nytimesarts
#IamSwahili @swahiligal
#BeingSwahili means colonialists forced your forefathers to stop writing in Arabic script so that they could rewind the advanced literacy of your people and claim we couldn’t read and write and needed to be “civilized” #BeingSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts
#BeingSwahili means your mother tongue is spoken by a majority of people in 13 countries in Africa!! Making it so easy for your to travel and immerse in different places #IamSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts
#BeingSwahili being while I practice Islam, declare myself to be Muslim, read the entire Arabic script, and have some Arabic words in my language, and Arabic traditions in my rituals, I am NOT Arab. I am African!#IamSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts
#BeingSwahili means our forefathers perfected the art of building with coral stone and mangrove after living on the East African coast since the 4th century. That we have beautiful ruins that will forever prove my rights to my ancestral land #IamSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts
#BeingSwahili means your forefathers traded ingredients, such that our cuisine is one of the most intricate in East Africa for having candies, desserts and starters like Mahamri, vishete, labania etc as key elements of our menu #IamSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts @LifeinMombasa
#BeingSwahili means having furniture in your home that balances Arabian motifs, Chinese porcelain, and Indian woodworks that creates a unique piece of art and wins awards globally. Photos from the article itself is evidence of this #IamSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts
To Holland Cotter, #BeingSwahili means I have a culture, I’m not just a language that exists in space. I will not accept to have our history written off by a foreigner and an art critic for that matters who has no experience in African History #IamSwahili @nytimes @nytimesarts
To @nytimes, please tell your editors and authors that before publishing art critiques on elements of African history, to at least do a simple google search first to avoid insensitive writing off of an entire people’s existence and history!! #IamSwahili @nytimesarts
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