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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Conservationism and liberalism in Swahili poetry: the linguistic dimension
Author:Mazrui, AlaminISNI
Periodical:Research in African Literatures
Geographic term:East Africa
Subjects:Swahili language
Abstract:In the 1960s Swahili free verse began to win a few converts in East African university circles. Until then Swahili written creative verse had been under the influence of a prosodic norm that combines meter and rhyme in a variety of largely fixed patterns. The relatively recent emergence of free verse has given rise to a debate between a 'conservationist' school that champions a continuation of the traditional prosodic mode of poetic composition, and a 'liberalist' school that is more inclined towards free verse. The conservationists argue that the introduction of free verse into Swahili poetry constitutes yet another case of African artists capitulating to European cultural colonization. The liberalists argue that Swahili traditional prosodic forms are themselves externally inspired; they are merely a symptom of Arabic cultural imperialism. The present author argues that one of the most important dimensions of the debate involves the inaccessibility of Swahili traditional poetry to the 'common man'. Due to specific linguistic features, viz. the frequency of linguistic Arabisms and the use of 'difficult words', prosodic poetry has become the exclusive reserve of a conservative few. Bibliogr., notes.