Nobel Laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah to deliver keynote speech at BARAZA Swahili studies conference

2021 Nobel Prize winner for Literature and Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah will deliver the keynote speech at the SOAS BARAZA Swahili studies conference on 29 October 2022.  

Abdulrazak Gurnah has been associated with academic activity at SOAS for many years, he has collaborated with SOAS academics at international conferences both here and in other institutions and countries, he has also been an external examiner on SOAS degree programmes, in addition to delivering the Centre for African Studies Lecture in 2013. We are honoured to welcome him back to SOAS for the Baraza conference.  

We are also excited to announce that the conference will host the launch of Peponi, the Swahili translation of Professor Gurnah’s novel Paradise which has been undertaken by Dr Ida Hadjivayanis, SOAS Senior Lecturer in Swahili. This is the first translation of any of Professor Gurnah’s works into an African language and will be published by Mkuki na Nyota publishers from Tanzania. 

Commenting on the process of translating Paradise, Dr Ida Hadjivayanis said:  

“Translating Abdulrazak Gurnah is an act of bringing the work home; the setting, the language and the environment are all very familiar. Yet, it is also a world that is evoked through such refined English that whilst translating, I often needed to re-read entire passages to understand exactly what Gurnah was saying. 

When Mkuki na Nyota publishers approached me with the proposition of publishing the translation for the Swahili speaking public.  I did not need to be convinced as it is important for East Africans to see themselves in literature.”  

BARAZA is an annual one-day conference addressing any aspect of the language, literature, translation, culture, philosophy, or diaspora of the Swahili speaking peoples of the world. The aim of the meeting is to foster academic interaction and exchange about new or emerging research, developing ideas and interests for mutual benefit among Swahili scholars and students. 

This year’s main theme is ‘Indian Ocean networks’ looking at the past and present realms of networks and trajectories around the ocean impacting on Swahili language, literature, culture and civilisation. Conference sessions will explore issues on cosmopolitan Swahili culture and society, changing aspects of Swahili language and linguistics, as well as the historical trajectories of Swahili literary and cultural writings and other forms of expression. 

The Baraza conference takes place on Saturday 29 October, both in person and online. Visit the event page to sign up and find out more information.