Tag Archives: narratives

Lost in translation: Swahili keeps the outrageous below the radar?

A language barrier?

A language barrier?

Tanzania is going through interesting times at the moment, even more so than usual. The political scene is hot, messy and ugly – the rise of Chadema as a meaningful opposition and the forthcoming retirement of President Kikwete in two years time is a fiery combination. Geopolitical shifts are apparently being fought out in Tanzania as fiercely as anywhere – with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit being swiftly followed by no less a figure than Barack Obama. And it’s all being powered by gas, with Tanzania having the dubious honour of joining the club of energy rich nations.

The media is doing a pretty decent job (in trying circumstances) of chronicling all of this, not least The East African‘s excellent pair of Tanzanian columnists – Jenerali Ulimwengu and Elsie Eyakuze. This week, they both addressed the recent blunt statement of the Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda, that those who cause trouble to the government will be beaten: “watapigwa tu”. (JU and EE).

These developments are undoubtedly interesting, and the columns well-argued, but it was a tangential paragraph in Jenerali’s piece that caught my attention:

“The Kiswahili medium has created for us Tanzanians an enclave in which we can evolve without too much world attention, especially since we ceased being opinion leaders in African and world affairs. It is thus that a lot of what is said and done that is outrageous stays below the radar, except in annual reports of rights organisations.” Continue reading