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The Channel: A Podcast from the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS)

Swahili Poetry of Ustadh Mahmoud Mau with Clarissa Vierke and Annachiara Raia

Season 1, Ep. 29

This episode features a conversation about poetic traditions in East Africa. Earlier this year, Brill published In This Fragile World: Swahili Poetry of Commitment by Ustadh Mahmoud Mau. Ustadh Mau is a spiritual leader and popular poet from Lamu, Kenya. When he visited the Netherlands in May 2023, a local bookshop in Leiden hosted a reading to launch this new collection of English translations. In this episode, we will be playing some recordings from that event to give listeners a sense of the poems in their original Swahili (see also the audio recordings that supplement the book itself). To guide us through the poems and introduce their broader context, the podcast was pleased to welcome Clarissa Vierke and Annachiara Raia, who served as editors and translators of In This Fragile World. Clarissa Vierke is a professor of Literatures in African Languages at the University of Bayreuth. Her PhD examined the specific poetics of a narrative poetic genre from the Swahili Coast in Eastern Africa. Since then, she has worked on manuscript cultures in Eastern Africa and travelling texts along the East African Coast from Kenya to Mozambique and across the Indian Ocean. Annachiara Raia is a University Lecturer at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS). She specializes in African languages and literatures, and her research focuses on the role of texts and performative practices in forging Swahili Islamic networks across Muslim lands of the Indian Ocean and the African continent. 

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