What is Swahili — an African language, a people, a culture? The answer is yes, it’s all three, and you can learn more by visiting the UVA Library’s new Swahili Studies guide which brings together Library holdings and web resources containing information about Swahili culture and language (also called Kiswahili) spoken originally by Bantu people in eastern and southern Africa, and currently by more than 100 million people worldwide:
- Dictionaries — Find online resources that will build your Swahili vocabulary and teach you proper pronunciation and usage. Library holdings include the most definitive and comprehensive Swahili dictionary in existence as well as books of phrases, synonyms, and proverbs.
- Streaming Media — The Library offers access, over Kanopy’s on-demand streaming video platform, to films assigned in UVA courses; for example, Wanuri Kahiu’s award-winning “Rafiki” about a budding romance between two young Kenyan women and the social and political pressures they face. And on YouTube, learn Swahili from Patricia Geni and stream East African radio from Tanzania, Kenya, and other countries.
- Culture — Learn about East African architecture, history, Swahili food, comedy, and music (African Hip Hop as well as traditional vocal and instrumental music).
- Books — Find books in Virgo with a focus on African commerce, history, language, and literature, and books for young people from sources like Africa Access, providing annotations and scholarly reviews of Children’s Africana Book Award winners.
- Articles — Discover scholarly articles in English and Swahili on the web from sources such as “East African Journal of Swahili Studies” and “Eldis – Africa South of the Sahara”, as well as in JSTOR, Project Muse, and other resources in the UVA Library A-Z databases list.
- Newspapers — Get African perspectives on the world from a variety of open news outlets such as “All Africa”, “BBC Swahili”, and “VOA Swahili”.
- Dissertations and theses — Find dissertations and theses pertaining to Swahili language and culture in ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. Searching the keyword “Swahili,” for instance, yields topics as varied as “Swahili-English bilingual conversation: A vehicle for the study of language ideology” and “Between Africa and Islam: An Analysis of Pre-Colonial Swahili Architecture”.
If you’re interested in further study of the Swahili culture and language which borrowed from Arabic, Persian, and European languages as it became the language of trade from the Indian Ocean to what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, please consider these courses offered through UVA’s Department of African American and African Studies:
- Swahili 1010 Beginners’ Course
- Swahili 2010 Intermediate Course
- Introduction to Swahili Cultures
- Independent Study
The Swahili Studies guide was developed by Dr. Anne Rotich in partnership with Katrina Spencer, UVA’s Library liaison for African American and African studies.