The State of Swahili Studies: Remembering the Past, Present, and Future

Ken Walibora Waliaula


It would be erroneous to conclude that Irish novelist Joyce Cary’s dismissal of Swahili language for supposedly having a narrow epistemic range in 1944 typifies attitudes toward the language. Indeed there were, have been, and will always be diverse attitudes and approaches within Swahili Studies. In tracing the path Swahili Studies as a field of enquiry has trodden over the years, this paper demonstrates these divergent views and opinions, and speculates about the future and its concomitant possibilities and challenges. In short, Swahili studies may be said to have traveled through three main historical and discursive phases, namely; 1) the colonial phase; 2) the nationalist phase; and 3) the post nationalist phase. However, it bears clarifying that categorizing Swahili studies into phases does not occlude or ignore the propensity for overlap between these phases. This paper will trace by way of example and in broad terms some of the key questions asked in the past and present and their implications for the future of Swahili Studies.


Swahili language; Possibilities and challenges


Allen, J. d. V. (1974). Swahili architecture in the later middle ages. African Arts, (7)2, 42-47.

Bertoncini-Zubkova E. (2007). A friend in need is a friend indeed: Ken Walibora's novel Kufa Kuzikana. Swahili Forum, 14, 153-163.

Caplan, A.P. (1976). `Boys' circumcision and girls' puberty rites among the swahili of mafia island, tanzania. Africa, 46(1), 21-34.

Caplan, P. & Farouk T. (Ed.) (2004). Swahili Modernities: Culture, Politics, and Identity on the East Coast of Africa. Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press.

Chimerah, R. (1998). Kiswahili: Past, Present and Future Horizons. Nairobi: Nairobi University Press.

Chiraghdin, S. (1974). Kiswahili na Wenyewe (the Swahili language and its speakers). Kiswahili, 44, 48-53.

Horton, M. C. (1994). Closing the sorridor: Archaeological and Architectural Evidence for Emerging Swahili Regional Autonomy. In P. David (Ed.), Continuity and Autonomy in Swahili Communities: Inland Influences and Strategies of Self-Determination (pp. 5-21). London: School of Oriental and African Studies.

Irele, A. (2001). The African Imagination: Literature in Africa and the Black Diaspora. Bloomington, Indiana University Press.

Kiango, S. D., & Sengo T. S. Y. (1972)“Fasihi”. Mulika 4, 11-17.

Kusimba, C. M. (1999).The Rise and Fall of Swahili States. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press. “Kenya’s Destruction of the Swahili Cultural Heritage.” (1996). In R. P., Schmidt, & R. J. McIntosh (Eds.). Plundering Africa's Past, (pp. 201-224).

Madoshi. F. F. (1971). The Meaning of the Word Mswahili.” Kiswahili, 41(1). 89-93.

Mazrui, A. M.,& Shariff, I. N. (1994). The Swahili: Idiom and Identity of an African People. Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press.

Mbaabu, I. (1978). Kiswahili: Lugha ya Taifa. Nairobi; Kenya Literature Bureau.

Mbaabu, I. (1985). Utamaduni wa Waswahili. Nairobi; Kenya Publishing and Marketing,.

Mbaabu, I. (1985). New Horizons in Kiswahili: A Synthesis in Developments, Research and Literature. Nairobi: Kenya Literature Bureau.

Mlacha, S. A. K, (Ed.). (1995). Kiswahili katika Kanda ya Afrika Mashariki. Dar es Salaam: Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili, Chuo Kikuu cha Dar es Salaam.

Mulokozi, M. M. (1985). The Present State of Swahili Literature: A Survey. African Literature Studies. The Present State / L'état present, 171-188.

Musau, Paul M. & Ngugi, P. M. Y. (1997). Kiswahili Research in Kenyan Universities: Where Are We Now?. Swahili Forum IV, 51, 219-229.

Sengo, T. S. Y. (1999). Usungo na Urombo Katika Taaluma ya Kiswahili: Karne ya Ishirini na Moja. In Kihore, In Kihore, Y. M. and Chuwa, A. R. (Eds. ), Kiswahili Katika Karne ya Ishirini na Moja. Dar es Salaam; Dar es Salaam University Press.

Senkoro, F. E. M. K. (1988).Ushairi: Nadharia na Tahakiki. Dar es Salaam; Dar es Salaam University Press.

Shariff, I. N. (1973). Waswahili and their Language. Kiswahili, 43(2), 67-75.

Tageldin, S. M. (2009). The African novel in Arabic. The Cambridge Companion to the African Novel, 85-102.

Topan, F. (1968). An Approach to the Teaching of Swahili Literature. Swahili, 38(2), 1968.

Waliaula, K. W. (2001). Matatizo ya Tafsiri katika Vyombo vya Habari. Kiswahili, 64, 23-30.

Waliaula, K. W. (2003). Kufa Kuzikana. Nairobi: Longhorn.

Waliaula, K. W. (2007). In Service of Kiswahili with Pen, Microphone, and the TV screen. Journal of African Language Teachers’ Association, 9, 81-94.

Whitely, W. (1969). Swahili:The Rise of a National Language. London: Methuen.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c)

Share us to:   


Online Submission


How to do online submission to another Journal?

If you have already registered in Journal A, then how can you submit another article to Journal B? It takes two steps to make it happen:

1. Register yourself in Journal B as an Author

Find the journal you want to submit to in CATEGORIES, click on “VIEW JOURNAL”, “Online Submissions”, “GO TO LOGIN” and “Edit My Profile”. Check “Author” on the “Edit Profile” page, then “Save”.

2. Submission

Go to “User Home”, and click on “Author” under the name of Journal B. You may start a New Submission by clicking on “CLICK HERE”.

We only use three mailboxes as follows to deal with issues about paper acceptance, payment and submission of electronic versions of our journals to databases:;;

 Articles published in Studies in Literature and Language are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC-BY).


Address: 1020 Bouvier Street, Suite 400, Quebec City, Quebec, G2K 0K9, Canada. 
Telephone: 1-514-558 6138 
Website: Http://; Http://;;

Copyright © 2010 Canadian Academy of Oriental and Occidental Culture