March 31, 2010

Sudanese Election Guide (Sahel Blog)

Alex Thurston is a writer/blogger (among other things) on political and social issues in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa:

"Sudan’s elections will take place from April 11-13, and I’m starting to familiarize myself with the technicalities of the process. I thought I’d share what I’m learning. Today I found the website of the National Election Commission. I urge interested readers to look around there. Perhaps most importantly, in the documents section, a factsheet entitled “The Electoral Process in General” explains how the results will come out:"

The full post can be found at his site which also includes links to the National Election Commission and the BBC.

We at the Azanian Sea hope to continue bringing you more information and resources on one of the most important elections in Sudan's recent history (as well as the first democratic election in ten years).


Old Photos of Sultan Qaboos and Sultan Said bin Taimur


Al Jazeera English - Africa - SPLM quits Sudan presidential poll

Al Jazeera English - Africa - SPLM quits Sudan presidential poll


March 30, 2010

An-Nuur (Islam in Tanzania web resource)

If you are ever in Dar or Zanzibar, you can find the print version of An-Nuur, but here is an interesting collection of articles in English and Kiswahili on Islam, Islamic reform in Africa, the Zanzibar revolution.


India's African Past


The Sidi community lives mostly in Gujarat (in western India), with smaller populations settled in the neighboring state of Maharashtra and the southern states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. There is no accurate census on the number of Sidis in India. According to various publications, there are no more than 20,000 in any one state. Although most Sidis live in villages, many are urban dwellers residing in towns and cities. Some also live in tribal surroundings and villages.

Descendants of African slaves and seamen, the ancestors of the Sidis came to India through sea trade with East Africa and the Gulf around the 12th century. They came from different areas such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and later Zanzibar. The Sidis of Gujarat are Muslims with a strong Sufi tradition. They have to some extent assimilated into the local culture through their dress, food and language, though their dark skin and African features are distinctive. Some have even married outside of their community. But, by and large, they remain marginalized, leading a life of relative obscurity and poverty. In some districts, the government has accorded them the Scheduled Tribe status.

Their history lost in time, the Sidis' only link to their past is their devotional music and dance dedicated to Gori Pir, a Sufi saint from Africa. Known as Hazrat Mubarak Nobi, he is said to have come from Nubia to India from Africa via Mecca, and stopped in Basra (in Iraq) to study with Rifai Sufis. He has shrines throughout Gujarat, in the places stopped at before settling in Bharuch district. Here he set up an agate workshop and became part of the Indian Ocean trade, especially in tasbihs (Islamic prayer beads) for hajis (pilgrims).

The fascinating culture and history of the Sidis was unknown to the world beyond their small communities spread across India. Over the past seven-eight years, though, Dr Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy's intervention has changed that. A visiting Associate Professor and Research Scholar in the Department of Ethnomusicology at University of California, Los Angeles, Catlin-Jairazbhoy has explored the cultural and historical significance of the Sidis, not only in Indian society but also as part of the larger African Diaspora. Her work has been much inspired by the groundbreaking anthropological work of Dr Helen Basu - whose book 'Sidi Sklaven, Habshi Fakiren' (Sidi Slaves, Habshi Faqirs) is considered a classic on the Sidi community; husband Nazir Jairazbhoy's collaboration; Professor of Women's Studies at University of California at Irvine and the advice of Beheroze Shroff, who guided her initial contacts with Sidis in Mumbai and Gujarat.

Catlin-Jairazbhoy became interested in the Sidi community in the 1970s, when she came from the US to Chennai, Tamil Nadu to do her dissertation in Carnatic music. She had always been interested in spirituality and music. And since she grew up during the era of the American Civil Rights movement, Catlin-Jairazbhoy had become well acquainted with the African-American culture and the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and India. Twenty years later, she and her husband ethnomusicologist Nazir Jairazbhoy made a short film on the music of Kutch. This was when they came into contact with the Sidis of Gujarat.

The film generated much interest in the US, but Catlin-Jairazbhoy wanted to do more for the Sidis. She approached the erstwhile royal family of Rajpipla to put up a conference on the Sidis in Gujarat. The three-day conference brought much-needed attention to the community, with several scholars in attendance and active media participation. The Sidis welcomed her efforts and, as she points out, "in fact sought help to find an opportunity to tour outside India".

In 1991, Catlin-Jairazbhoy and her husband founded the Apsara Media for Intercultural Education based in Van Nuys, California USA, to create a platform for in-depth documentary research from South Asia and Southeast Asia, including research on the Sidis. A small but important step had been taken towards changing the perception of the Sidis from that of an outsider community to a people who had much to offer through their rich musical tradition. In September 2002, Catlin-Jairazbhoy put together a group of Sidi performers from Gujarat for their first concert and lecture tour outside India. It seemed destined; Catlin-Jairazbhoy found "everything worked like magic". The success of the show was followed by more international performances by the Sidis, including a historic tour to East Africa, the land of their ancestors. They performed to excited audiences in Mombasa and in Nairobi followed by 'jamming sessions' with local musicians in a sort of cultural exchange during a two-day stay at Zanzibar.

In 2002, Catlin-Jairazbhoy published the CD 'Sidi Sufis: African Indian Mystics of Gujarat' and a year later 'From Africa to India: Sidi Music in the Indian Ocean Diaspora, the feature-length documentary, which pieces together the history, religion and sacred music of the Sidis over the centuries, making it an important part of understanding the African Diaspora in the context of the Indian subcontinent. The following year, she co-edited 'Sidis and Scholars: Essays on African Indians' containing essays by European, American and Indian scholars who have worked with the Sidis in Gujarat, Karnataka, and Mumbai.

There is also the CD compilation, which comprises field recordings from Sidi shrines (dedicated to Gori Pir) throughout Gujarat, recorded between 1999 and 2002. The Sidis have traditionally been wandering faqirs (mendicants) making their livelihood from alms given for their musical performances. These performances include a mesmerizing array of instruments - such as coconut rattles and armpit-held drums - which hark back to their African roots. However, the most distinctive of these instruments is the footed drum, with its pegged head and three or four 'feet'. As Catlin-Jairazbhoy points out, "Similar types of pegged drumheads and footed drums are widespread on the East Coast of Africa, while they are otherwise unknown in India."

The CD was made in collaboration with the Sidi community and Abdul Hamid Sidi, one of the lead dancers in Sidi Goma the touring group, whom the Jairazbhoys have trained in research and documentation. The proceeds from the recordings were put to the benefit of Sidi education projects in Gujarat.
In February 2003, she held a workshop to preserve Sidi culture. The 'Sidi Malunga Project' brought together some Sidi elders to teach the basic techniques of constructing and performing the traditional Malunga - an African musical bow used by the Sidis in their songs.

There is no doubt we live in a culture that is exceedingly becoming absorbed by the events of the present. But Catlin-Jairazbhoy's work emphasizes the importance of cultural and historical legacy in discovering our own place in contemporary society. Thus, as the Sidis sing and dance, and tour the world, they celebrate their present and honor their past with the hope that their new local and transnational relationships will create a more promising future.


Medieval Arab Writers on Africa: Abû Ûthmân al-Jâhiz: From The Essays, c. 860 CE

On the Zanj:

Everybody agrees that there is no people on earth in whom generosity is as universally well developed as the Zanj. These people have a natural talent for dancing to the rhythm of the tambourine, without needing to learn it. There are no better singers anywhere in the world, no people more polished and eloquent, and no people less given to insulting language. No other nation can surpass them in bodily strength and physical toughness. One of them will lift huge blocks and carry heavy loads that would be beyond the strength of most Bedouins or members of other races. They are courageous, energetic, and generous, which are the virtues of nobility, and also good-tempered and with little propensity to evil. They are always cheerful, smiling, and devoid of malice, which is a sign of noble character.

The Zanj say to the Arabs: You are so ignorant that during the jahiliyya you regarded us as your equals when it came to marrying Arab women, but with the advent of the justice of Islam you decided this practice was bad. Yet the desert is full of Zanj married to Arab wives, and they have been princes and kings and have safeguarded your rights and sheltered you against your enemies.

The Zanj say that God did not make them black in order to disfigure them; rather it is their environment that made them so. The best evidence of this is that there are black tribes among the Arabs, such as the Banu Sulaim bin Mansur, and that all the peoples settled in the Harra, besides the Banu Sulaim are black. These tribes take slaves from among the Ashban to mind their flocks and for irrigation work, manual labor, and domestic service, and their wives from among the Byzantines; and yet it takes less than three generations for the Harra to give them all the complexion of the Banu Sulaim. This Harra is such that the gazelles, ostriches, insects, wolves, foxes, sheep, asses, horses and birds that live there are all black. White and black are the results of environment, the natural properties of water and soil, distance from the sun, and intensity of heat. There is no question of metamorphosis, or of punishment, disfigurement or favor meted out by Allah. Besides, the land of the Banu Sulaim has much in common with the land of the Turks, where the camels, beasts of burden, and everything belonging to these people is similar in appearance: everything of theirs has a Turkish look.


Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. Prof. Arkenberg has modernized the text.


Busaidi Family Geneaological Website

So, the site's purpose is "designed with the aim of recording, and increasing knowledge about, the genealogies of the current and former ruling families of Africa, Asia and the Americas. Unlike their European counterparts, genealogical information on these families is sparse and inadequate."

For those researchers doing histories of families in Oman and Zanzibar, this is an invaluable starting point. Click on the title to link to the Busaidi section; there are also substantial pages on the Busaidis in Zanzibar, and royal honors and military decorations.


Zanzibar under Colonial Rule: Schoolgirls a Metaphor for State Independence

From Lehman on iTunes U:

Zanzibar under Colonial Rule: Schoolgirls a Metaphor for State Independence
April 23, 2009

Professor Corrie Decker examines how child marriage and colonial rule in Zanzibar during the early twentieth century changed the national discourse about the government's role in shaping the sexuality of schoolgirls through public education.

6 Minutes 47 Seconds.


Ustadh Mahmoud Mohamed Taha's Court Statement

We have brought your attention to Ustadh Mahmoud before; here is a video of his statement before the court while on trial for charges of apostasy, a trial that led to his execution and the suppression of his movement, the Republican Brothers.


Al Jazeera English - Africa - Riots after fire guts Uganda tombs

Al Jazeera English - Africa - Riots after fire guts Uganda tombs


Al Jazeera English - Africa - Bashir threatens Sudan referendum

Al Jazeera English - Africa - Bashir threatens Sudan referendum


March 6, 2010

Contemporary Islamic Thinkers You Should Know: Abdullah an-Naim

From Wikipedia:
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law. His specialties include human rights in Islam and cross-cultural issues in human rights, and he is the director of the Religion and Human Rights Program at Emory. He is also a senior fellow of Emory's Center for the Study of Law and Religion. An-Naim was formerly the Executive Director of the African bureau of Human Rights Watch.
Born in 1950, An-Naim is originally from Sudan, where he was greatly influenced by the Islamic reform movement of Mahmoud Mohamed Taha. He is a naturalized American citizen, but retains Sudanese citizenship.


March 2, 2010

(Kamusi Project) Developing Technological Vocabulary in Kiswahili

We are asking for your help on a quick, important project intended to
improve access to computer technology in East Africa. The task is simple:
look through a list of English terms that are used in information
technology, and vote on the Swahili translations or suggest your own.

Twaomba msaada wako kwenye mradi muhimu unaolenga kuboresha matumizi ya
teknolojia za tarakilishi katika Afrika ya Mashariki. Shughuli ni rahisi:
tazama orodha ya maneno yanayotumiwa kwenye teknolojia ya habari na
mawasiliano, na kupigia kura tafsiri zilizoko za Kiswahili au pendekeza neno
lako (unalofikiri ni sawa).

We need volunteers with good knowledge of information technology and the
Swahili language. To get started, just visit

Tunahitaji watu kujitolea ambao wana ujuzi wa teknolojia za mawasiliano na
pia lugha ya Kiswahili. Kuanza, tembelea:

Several efforts have been made to produce Swahili ICT vocabularies, but
three big problems remain. First, many terms have been given poor Swahili
equivalents because the original concept was misunderstood. Second, many
terms have been given different Swahili equivalents in different translation
projects; the same English term might have five different Swahili
translations, depending on whether you are using Microsoft, Google, KiLinux,
Facebook, or Wikipedia! Third, many terms have not yet been translated, and
new terms keep appearing as ICT continues to evolve.

Kumekuwepo juhudi mbalimbali za kuandaa istilahi ya teknolojia kwa
Kiswahili, lakini matatizo matatu bado yangalipo. Kwanza, maneno mengi
yalitafsiriwa vibaya kwa sababu ya maana asili kutoeleweka. Pili, maneno
mengi yalitafsiriwa tofauti katika miradi tofauti tofauti ya utafsiri;
inawezekana kuwa neno lile lile la Kiingereza kuwa na tafsiri tano,
kutegemea ikiwa unatumia Microsoft, Google, KiLinux, Facebook, au Wikipedia!
Tatu, maneno mengi hayajatafsiriwa bado, na maneno mapya yanazidi
kuvumbuliwa teknolojia inavyozidi kuwa.

The Kamusi Project is working to harmonize the various "localization"
efforts, in order to have unified, consistent Swahili ICT terminology as we
head into the next decade. Excitingly, we have the encouragement of both
Microsoft and Google, usually big competitors, which are both interested in
greatly expanding access to their services for Swahili speakers.

Kamusi Project inafanya kazi ya kuunganisha juhudi hizi za "Uswahilishaji",
ili kuwa na orodha moja inayokubalika, ya istilahi ya kiteknolojia kwa
Kiswahili, tunapoingia enzi ya tarakilishi katika Afika ya Mashariki.
Kinachosisimua ni kwamba tunaungwa mkono na Microsoft na Google, ambao kwa
kawaida ni washindani, ambao wanataka kuongeza sana huduma zao kwa
wanaozungumza Kiswahili.

We have inspected all of the existing ICT terminology lists that we know of,
from which we have produced several "packs" of difficult terms. Now we are
seeking community participation to help reach agreement on how to express
each term in Swahili going forward. The first five packs are
available at

Tumekagua orodha zote zinazopatikana za istilahi ya kiteknolojia, na
tumetayarisha mafurushi kadhaa ya maneno magumu. Sasa tunatafuta jamii
kuchangia ili kufikia makubaliano ya namna ya kusema kila neno kwa
Kiswahili. Mafurushi yapatikana

A few more packs will be added later this week, but we want to start the
community review project immediately so that we can get rapid feedback if we
need to adjust the process. This is an experimental project: as far as we
know, this is the first time that any linguistic community has invited to
help develop the ICT terms that will be used for their language in the
future. If the experiment is successful, we will use the experience as the
basis for more formal terminology development in the future, for Swahili and
other African languages.

Mafurushi mengine machache yataongezwa mwisho wa wiki hii, lakini tunataka
kuanza juhudi hii moja kwa moja ili tupate maoni ya jamii wanaochangia, kama
ni lazima kubadilisha jinsi ya kuendelea. Bidii hii kweli ni ya majaribio:
tunadhani kwamba ni mara ya kwanza kwamba wasemaji wa lugha yo yote
wanakaribishwa kusaidia kwenye maendeleo ya istilahi ya kiteknolojia
itakayotumiwa katika lugha yao. Majaribio yakifaulu, tutatumia uzoefu huu
kama msingi wa maendeleo rasmi zaidi ya istilahi za kisayansi, kwa Kiswahili
na lugha nyingi za Kiafrika.

So, for several reasons, it is very important that we have the participation
of as many people as possible who (a) have a good understanding of the
concepts involved in information technology, and (b) have good knowledge of
the Swahili language.

Kwa hiyo, kwa sababu nyingi, ni muhimu sana tukiwa na watu wengi
watakaojitolea ambao (a) wanaelewa vizuri maswala ya kiteknolojia, na (b)
wanaelewa vizuri Kiswahili.

Please join us, or tell other people who you think might be interested.
The project will end on 7 March, so please contribute this week if you want
your voice to be counted in Swahili localization! Again, the website is

Twaomba uungane nasi, au ueneze taarifa kwa watu wengine. Juhudi hii
itamalizika 7 Machi, kwa hivyo ni muhimu uchangie wiki hii ikiwa unataka
sauti yako ipate kusikika katika Uswahilshaji wa teknolojia. Tena, tovuti

Notice: this project is only for volunteers who are interested in promoting
the Swahili language. No payments or prizes are available. This effort is
organized by Kamusi Project International ( and ANLoc, and
is NOT officially affiliated with Microsoft, Google, BAKITA, or KiLinux.
All suggestions are highly appreciated, and will be given the most serious
consideration in the production of a harmonized Swahili ICT terminology set
that will be made freely available online within the next few months.

Tangazo: juhudi hii ni kwa watu wa kujitolea wanaotaka kuendeleza Kiswahili.
Hakuna malipo wala tuzo. Bidii hii imepangwa na Kamusi Project
International ( na ANLoc, na hauna mahusiano rasmi na
Microsoft, Google, BAKITA, au KiLinux. Tutashukuri kwa mapendekezo yoyote,
na yatafikiriwa sana wakati wa kuandaa istilahi ya kiteknolojia katika
Kiswahili. Istalahi itapatikana bila malipo kwa wote baada ya miezi


Dr. Martin Benjamin
Executive Director, Kamusi Project International

twitter (work): kamusi


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