In the world of literature, Tanzania stands tall. Over the years, as a country, we have produced some of the best writers who have won world acclaim. Have you ever asked yourself who can replace Shaaban Robert as the genius and father of Swahili literature?
Dr. Andrei Zhukov’s paper titled “Shaaban Robert in the Russian language” acclaims Shaaban as the equivalent of Alexander Pushkin in Russia, Goethe in German, and Shakespeare in the English cultures.
These are the names of pure genius writers, with work that has outlived them and has become a hallmark of the culture.
It is fascinating that 60 years after Shaaban Robert passed on, his work remains even more relevant today, the language, the beauty, and the prophetic messages.
One of his enduring works is Kusadikika (express an imaginary country), where the ordinary people cry for justice against established despotic authority.
Another writer, Muhammed Said Abdulla, gave the world Kisima cha Giningi (1968).
This novel looks at the murder of Mwana wa Giningi, and it’s one of the best Swahili investigative crime fiction. Perhaps, such books inspired Ben R. Mtobwa, who gave the world, Salamu kutoka Kuzimu (1987), a crime investigative novel where we see chilling murders and teaches us that crime does not pay.
There are many Kiswahili literature books, and I could go on and on to mention them.
Likewise, in the world of English literature, we are not left behind.
In 2021, Tanzanian-born British novelist and academic Professor Abdulrazak Gurnah won the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature, drawing attention to the world that he is our own writer born in our dear motherland. It was amazing since the prize is always considered the most prestigious in literature.
President of Zanzibar, Dr. Hussein Mwinyi, at a meeting with Professor Gurnah, told him he was a “national pride,” and his win was for “all of us-Zanzibaris, Tanzanians and Africans.”
He writes in English, and he has become an inspiration to young Tanzanian writers, that they can rise and stand tall in the world.
Who is the next Tanzanian or Tanzania-born writer to enter the world stage and get acclamation? We have Shafi Adam Shafi, a Swahili writer who has also won several awards and is internationally acclaimed. One of his books titled “Vuta N’kuvute” has been turned into a movie and might get great world attention.
The entry of “Vuta N’kuvute” for the Best International Film Award at the Academy Awards (Oscars) is a great win for Tanzania.
The Oscars are the world stage of the film industry, and such a win means global attention and acclaim.
The movie titled “Vuta N’kuvute”, is a romantic drama directed by Amil Shivji.
It has managed to be in the 14 Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) nominations.
Media reports indicate that in 2021, it was in the film festival category “Official Selection Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) (Canada).
I pray for the movie to win! If all goes well, this will be a win for Tanzania.
As we think about it, it is high time we aggressively promoted Tanzania-made content to go global. A lot of content on our TV stations is from other countries.
We have so many books for children and adults written by great writers, and all that work, or some of it, can be translated into films for local and international consumption.
The book, “Vuta N’kuvute” and its associated movie are a great lesson that we have rich content for our Kiswahili writers, so our filmmakers can proactively decide to make Tanzania content go global. We have so many Kiswahili literature masterpieces that can further be translated into other languages like English, German, Russian, French etc., and similarly can be converted into films.