The Customs of the Swahili People: The Desturi Za Waswahili of Mtoro Bin Mwinyi Bakari and Other Swahili Persons Compiled in Memoriam with Notes and Studies by Various Makerere Colleagues, African, American, Asian, British and European - J. W. T. AllenBerkeley, Los Angeles & London: University of California Press, 1981, Hardback in Dust Wrapper.
Condition: Very Good — in Good Dust Wrapper. Unlaminated dust wrapper heavily tanned, more so at the spine. Text complete, clean and tight.
Contains: Tables; Maps to the endpapers and blanks; Frontispiece;
From the cover: “The Desturi stands as a major cultural document for all of Africa in that period of critical transition from the nineteenth century to the twentieth century, at the very moment when Africans received the full impact of Western colonialism. It is an account of the life and religion of the Swahili people in all its colourfulness, when it was already centuries old, and had its own literature, philosophy, and values — a confluence of indigenous African elements with long established contacts across the Indian Ocean to Arabia, India, China, and beyond. A profoundly autochthonous yet cosmopolitan culture that brought together the riches, for instance, of African Traditional Religion and Islam.
The present work began as a new edition of the Swahili text byj. W. T. Alien, using modern orthography and developments in Swahili philology since the turn of the century (1903), when the volume was first published. It is complete and unabridged, except for the omission of a summary of the Law of Islam on certain matters.
The Africans who wrote the Desturi were “pure Swahili persons” around the town of Bagamoyo in Tanzania, directly opposite Zanzibar Island. In the 1890s they were asked by Dr. Carl Velten, a German linguist, to write down the traditions and customs of their people, which they did in Swahili, using Arabic script. From his introduction to the volumes he published in 1903, it is clear that Dr. Velten was the compiler, and that a good part of the material was written by a master of Swahili prose, who had also reworked the whole and given it homogeneity and distinction of style. This master was Bwana Mtoro bin Mwinyi Bakari of Bagamoyo, who is recorded by Dr. Velten as being Lektor at the Oriental Seminar in Berlin, where he taught Swahili.
Notes were prepared by Noel Q. King to make the material useful to the general reader and to illumine the intricate interweaving of African Traditional Religion and culture with Islam, both components of Swahili civilization. There are also contributions by J. de V. Alien and Jan Knappert.
J. W. T. Alien (Oxford) was an educator, editor, translator and author of many books, articles, and reviews. Beginning in 1929 he served in the Education Service in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). From there he went to Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, and also spent some years in Arabia. He died on April 6, 1979.
Noel Q. King, who is of Pakistani origin and received his higher education in Britain (Oxford, Nottingham), came to the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1968 to help start Merrill College after performing the same service in education in Britain, Ghana, and Uganda.”