June 30, 2013

Swahili in Arabic Script part 3: the ink

 The ink
            Ink was prepared from scorched rice which was pounded into powder and then mixed with water and Arabic gum to make it sticky, otherwise it would run too quickly and make stains. Red ink, which was commonly used by Islamic scribes to insert passages from the Koran into their Swahili works, and also for ornamental flowers and arabesques, was prepared by means of zingifuri, cinnabar or red mercuric sulfide, known already to the ancient Greeks. The Swahili poet often begins his invocation by addressing his assistant thus:
            “Brother bring me a good black ink, and red ink too, the best, from Egypt[i].”


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