from Ancient Egyptian Literature, edited by Miriam Lichtheim
"As to those learned scribes,
Of the time that came after the gods,
They who foretold the future,
Their names have become everlasting,
While they departed, having finished their lives,
And all their kin are forgotten.
They did not make themselves tombs of copper,
With stelae of metal from heaven.
They knew not how to leave heirs,
Children to pronounce their names;
They made heirs fro themselves of books,
Of Instructions they had composed.
They gave themselves [the scroll as lector]-priest
The writing-board as loving son.
Instructions are their tombs,
The reed pen is their child,
The stone-surface their wife.
People great and small
Are given them as children,
For the scribe, he is their leader.
Their portals and mansions have crumbled,
Their ka-servants are [gone];
Their tombstones are covered with soil,
Their graves are forgotten.
Their name is pronounced over their books,
Which they made while they had being;
Good is the memory of their makers,
It is for ever and all time!
Be a scribe, take it to heart,
That your name become as theirs.
Better is a book than a graven stela,
Than a solid tomb-enclosure.
They act as chapels and tombs
In the heart of him who speaks their name;
Surely useful in the graveyard
Is a name in people's mouth!
Man decays, his corpse is dust,
All his kin have perished;
But a book makes him remembered
Through the mouth of its reciter.
Better is a book than a well-built house,
Than tomb-chapels in the westl
Better than a solid mansion,
Than a stela in the temple!
May 27, 2015
from Ancient Egyptian Literature, edited by Miriam Lichtheim
January 14, 2015
Had the privilege to travel to Washington, DC in November to participate in the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art's roundtable entitled "Connecting the Gems of the Indian Ocean." Lots of great nuggets to chew on here. Thanks so much to Nicole and the Smithsonian staff for inviting me!
October 15, 2014
Ingredients for incense (udi)
September 25, 2014
Click links for bao and hawalis
Each player has 32 men. The object of the game is to capture all the opponent’s men or so to reduce them that he cannot move. The centre horizontal line of the board divides it so that each player has two rows each of eight squares. He may play only his own men on his own side of the board and may not interfere with those of his opponent except to count them or take them. When he takes any men from his opponent, a player adds them to his own men and thereafter plays them exactly the same as his original 32.
When this has been done, the player’s move may or may not be finished. If the last of these captured men falls into an occupied square the player continues his move in the ordinary way, unless it should so happen that this occupied square is in the row of squares nearest the center line and that the two squares of his opponent’s half of the board opposite are occupied: in which case he again takes what men are there and proceeds to play them on his own side of the board starting from the square next to the one last empty. It is thus possible for a player by a combination of relayed moves and moves made with men taken from his opponent to travel round his side of the board several times before falling out of play through his last man falling into an empty square. The skill of the game consists in working out the moves well ahead so that the opponent’s men are taken whilst as few openings as possible are left to him.
There is one complication to mention: “going back.” In certain circumstances it is permissible to move back, in a clockwise direction. Notice the diagram highlighting the four squares on the left hand of each player. If a player sees that the number of men (being two or more of course) contained in one of these squares will land him when travelling clockwise into one of the squares in his second row (the row closest to his opponent), which is occupied and has two occupied squares of his opponent immediately opposite, he many move in clockwise direction and take the men. The men which he takes he then proceeds to distribute one to each square in the usual way, starting from the square on the counter-clockwise side of the square last left empty (one of the four left hand squares), unless he finds that the number of men which he has taken, will, if started from the square on the clockwise side of the square left empty land him in an occupied square in his second row which faces two squares of his opponent both occupied. In this last event he takes the men and goes back to the square left empty and continues his move in an anti-clockwise direction unless the requisite conditions for moving backward again prevail. In moving in a clockwise direction a player may not move beyond the right hand end of his second row of squares even though he may be able to relay until he comes round again to a square in the second row which is conditioned to permit him to take some opponent’s men.
The board is divided into four rows of 8 squares, for a total of 32 squares. Each player begins the game with 32 men.
Before the game proper starts each player distributes his men four to each square in his first row. The object of this is to ensure that each player has the correct number of men Having checked this each player allots his men between his sixteen squares as best pleases him. There is no rule as to the number which may be placed in any square and any square may receive any number of men or none at all. One common arrangement is the “seventeen game” (photo). In his own interest he will not place men in squares in rows one and two which are opposite to each other, as this is the position in which his opponent can take them.
It is only permissible to move backwards under the following circumstances:
a. Starting from the two squares at the left hand end of the first row or the two squares at the left hand end of the second row.
b. The move must immediately result in the taking of some opponent’s men.
c. The distribution of men taken may be started from either side of the square last left empty, but in the case of a start from the square on the clockwise side of the empty square the move must immediately result in the taking of some more opponent’s men. Having taken all the men possible by moving clockwise, the player continues his move in a counterclockwise direction by starting to distribute the last lot of captured men, relaying where possible and finishing on an empty square.
September 24, 2014
September 19, 2014
Man, they are literally building a new Kenya-Uganda Railway. (Almost 2,500 people died when the British built the original). The symbolic capital involved in this project is HUGE.
China to build railway linking East Africa - Africa - Al Jazeera English
June 16, 2014
Laura Goffman is a Ph.D. student in Middle East and North African History at
Georgetown University. She also holds an M.A. in Near Eastern Studies from New
York University. Her research focuses on the cultural and social dynamics of
militarization in twentieth-century Oman. Check her out on Academia.edu.
Al-Ghonaimi, Sheikha. Zanjibar: Wa Akfān min Rahim al’alam. Maktaba ḍāmirī lilnashar wa at-tawzī‘. Sultana Oman, 2012.
The cover of Sheikha Al Ghonaimi’s 2012 novel Zanjibar: Wa Akfān min Rahim al’alam (Zanzibar: Shrouds from the Womb of Pain) is an outline of the map of Zanzibar, splattered haphazardly with blood-red blotches of paint, spilling from the island into the surrounding Indian Ocean. We learn in Ghonaimi’s introduction that this blood represents the Omanis of Zanzibar who were slaughtered during the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution. This uprising led to the death and expulsion of thousands of Arabs and South Asians, including the Omani Sultan who had been placed at the head of a constitutional monarchy when the British Empire granted Zanzibar’s independence in 1963. He fled the island on his yacht—many others were not so fortunate.
May 24, 2014
James Penhaligon. Speak Swahili Dammit! Trevelyan Publishers. Falmouth, Cornwall, 2012.
Penhaligon has a gift for vivid description, and succeeds in both skewering the provincial racism and insularity of the white colonials, while also showing some of its internal diversity--Germans, Italians, Greeks, Scots, and Austrian Jews, survivors of the Nazi death camps. He portrays a rich tapestry of life choices that bring people to Geita, the mining town. There are surprisingly perceptive observations on the elaborate internal social hierarchies that pervade the town.
The book is also rich with Swahili vocabulary, although it is obvious from the many oddly spelled Swahili words and strange grammatical constructions that the author is remembering a language he picked up orally and then likely stopped speaking for many years. As someone who learned Swahili in a formal setting, I cringed each time Penhaligon quoted people using the word kuja to command someone to come. (The imperative command for come in Swahili is, in fact, njoo; kuja is the infinitive form of the verb). But I am also not familiar with how Swahili was spoken in the 1950s around Lake Victoria; perhaps my "Kiunguja" snobbishness has got the better of me!
As a boy, Jim loves nothing more than running and playing in the bush, creating imaginary kingdoms with his best friend Lutoli, harassing the "night soil" man (who comes during the day and is called in Swahili, machula) and listening to war veterans from the first and second world wars recount their exploits.
As a historian, these stories were one of the most interesting parts of the book. I learned about General Paul Von Lettow Vorbek, the enterprising German general whose military genius during the first World War routed superior British forces time and time again, and who was only forced to surrender by the German declaration of surrender. I also learned about the local askaris, trained by Germans, who carried themselves with pride and dignity as members of an elite fighting force. Through Jim's inquisitiveness, we also learn snatches of the experience of the Africans who were brought to Burma to fight agains the Japanese, and the impact of this experience on their consciousness.
The other part of the book that particularly interested me was the author's recounting of the Zanzibar Revolution, through an Indian clerk who works with his mother at the store. Here is Amil Mistree, the Indian clerk's account, as described by Penhaligon:
"At Bagamoyo, Amil and his relatives are woken in the small hours by the distant sound of explosions and gunfire. Zanzibar is only four miles away. They're alarmed. Later that morning, towards noon, bodies began to float up onto the beach below his cousin's house. Many have chunks bitten off by sharks. Flies carpet the rest. Panic-stricken, Amil takes his wife and children and flees the coast. Three days later, exhausted, dusty and terrified,, he arrives back at the mine. His is the first news of the massacre to reach Geita. Until then all that's known is that the 'corrupt' sultan has been overthrown by 'valiant freedom forces' on Zanzibar."
The passage is remarkable. I do not believe that Bagamoyo and Unguja were close enough to actually hear gunfire from the island on the mainland. And certainly Unguja is further than four miles offshore from Zanzibar! This is the first account I have read of mainlanders actually seeing corpses from Zanzibar float to the mainland. Finally is the death toll, which Penhaligon quotes (without attribution) as 17,000, claiming this figure was only admitted to years later (by who, he does not say). This is almost double the traditionally cited figure of 10,000. (Although during field research in Muscat I heard people quote figures as high as 30,000). It made me wonder if perhaps there are other accounts that reproduce these stories, as a kind of rumor, expressing something of the bloody terror that overran Zanzibar in the wake of the revolution.
Overall, this is a great book to pass time with. I do not know how much pedagogical value it has, and I remain skeptical of some of the Swahili reconstructions, but it is filled with hilarious and poignant stories.
May 12, 2014
Some time ago, I compiled a bibliography for my exams on comparing Atlantic and Indian Ocean diasporas from Africa. I present here the rough list, in case folks would like to build on this work or utilize it for teaching or an exam question. The problem of comparisons are many, but the rewards when done well are potentially great. One major problem is that there is far more information on Atlantic African diasporas, and the literature is much more voluminous. On top of this, movement and migration in the Indian Ocean predates that in the Atlantic by several millenia. There is also a question of the usefulness of the terms "African" and "diaspora" in an Indian Ocean context. The following is far from a comprehensive list, and is especially weak on the enormous literature on the black Atlantic. I am not sure that "littoral culture" and "African creoles" belong together, but I wanted to give some sense of the parallel processes of identity making and their contexts in each basin.
Lots to chew on here, so happy reading!
Manning, Patrick. Migration in world history. New York: Routledge 2005.
Oliver Bakewell. “In Search of the Diasporas Within Africa.” African Diaspora 1 (2008).
Katharina Schramm. “Leaving Area Studies Behind: The Challenge of Diasporic Connections in the Field of African Studies.”African and Black Diaspora 1(1): 2008.
Ray, Himanshu Prabha and Edward A. Alpers, eds. Cross Currents and Community Networks: The History of the Indian Ocean World. New York : Oxford University Press, 2007.
Alpers, Edward. East Africa and the Indian Ocean. Princeton, NJ: Markus Weiner Publishers, 2009.
Beaujard, Philippe “The Indian Ocean in Eurasian and African World-Systems before the Sixteenth Century.” Journal of World History 16(4): 2005, 411-465.
Gwyn Campbell, ed. The Structure of Slavery in Indian Ocean Africa and Asia.London: Frank Cass, 2004.
Alpers, Edward, Gwyn Campbell and Michael Salman, eds. Resisting Bondage in the Indian Ocean Africa and Asia. London: Routledge, 2006.
Campbell, Gwyn, ed. Abolition and Its Aftermath in Indian Ocean Africa andAsia. London: Routledge, 2005.