The Indian Ocean has been a contact zone for centuries, linking peoples around its rim in various fields of thought and endeavours including those of commerce, religion, governance, politics, and literature. The talk will explore the rich literary tradition that evolved out of such contact between the Swahili people of the East African coast and those of Arabia, Persia, and countries of the western side of the South Asian Sub-Continent. Swahili culture was enriched through these symbiotic relationships, not only by gaining a script, but also by generating a cosmopolitan outlook and an attitude of accommodation that forms the basis of Swahili identity. The talk will examine literary examples that reflect these characteristics.
Farouk Topan is an Associate Professor at AKU-ISMC. He holds a PhD from the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London, and has taught Swahili Literature and Culture at Dar es Salaam and Nairobi Universities, and at SOAS in London where he was Chair of the Department of Africa. He has published widely on various aspects of African literature, culture, religion and language, and is currently Series Editor of 'Exploring Muslim Contests', whose publications are jointly sponsored by the Aga Khan University and Edinburgh University Press. He is a former Interim Director of the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations of the Aga Khan University in London. Topan is also a playwright: two of his Swahili plays have been set books in Tanzanian schools.
Office of the Provost, Aga Khan University