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ISSN: 1570-0178

Volume 11, Issue 1 (19 February 2009)

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Swahili remembered
Two conversations

transcribed, translated, and annotated by

Johannes Fabian

University of Amsterdam

Amsterdam School for Social Science Research
University of Amsterdam
Kloveniersburgwal 48
1012 CX Amsterdam
The Netherlands




Text One

Text Two



In the summer of 1985 I revisited Lubumbashi for the first time in more than ten years. I had just completed Language and Colonial Power: The Appropriation of Swahili in the Former Belgian Congo 1880-1938. [Second Edition] Berkeley: University of California Press. 1991. The questions I had raised in the book where still on my mind and when I had the opportunity I discussed with many people I met, among them with three contemporary witnesses of the processes that resulted in  Katanga Swahili getting established as a medium of popular culture. My late friend Kalundi Mango Albert helped to arrange, and was an active participant in, two meetings that were recorded and are here presented in transcript and translation.

Text 1, a conversation with Jean Matafari (M) and Kalundi Mango (K) recorded in Lubumbashi on May 27, 1985. The setting was the yard behind Matafari’s house on Avenue des Usines (close to the center of town). Baba Matafari had retired from his job at the Gécamines where he had worked as one of the two Swahili editors at the company paper Mwana Shaba (see Archives of Popular Swahili, Vol. 1).  

Text 2, a conversation with Kisimba Adolphe (K) and Kalundi Mango (Ka) recorded a week later, on June 6, 1985, also in Lubumbashi. The meeting took place in Kisimba’s office at the Social Services Department of the Gécamines. Kisimba’s recollections of  the emergence of popular music and theater provide valuable background (and occasionally counter-points) to the more recent material on Mufwankolo (see Archives of Popular Swahili, Vol. 6). Both conversations, especially Text 1, invited frequent recourse to the Vocabulaire de ville de Elisabethville (see Archives of Popular Swahili, Vol. 4).

Unlike most conversations I recorded, the exchanges presented in Text 1 had three active participants (though on other occasions third persons were present and listened or intervened infrequently). Kalundi knew Matafari and Kisimba and came along to the meetings he helped to arrange. As it turned out, he was too close to the persons and the subjects discussed to remain in the background.
Also unusual (but not unique, see the conversation with Ngoie at MTK in Archives of Popular Swahili, Vol 10) was the outside setting of the first exchange, the yard of Matafari’s house where children were playing and other members of the household going after their chores. This may account for problems of transcription and translation that will be commented on in footnotes. While I worked on the text I compiled the following list:


    [Text One]

    [Text Two]

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    © Johannes Fabian
    The URL of this page is: Publication date: xx November 2008