Shaaban Robert : toward an Ecopoetics of Languages Kongamano ka Swahili la 34 : "Kumuenzi/Celebrating Shaaban Robert"

Intervenant : Xavier Garnier

Programme : Cartographie écopoétique des littératures africaines

Université de Bayreuth (en ligne)

All readers of Shaaban Robert’s poetry know the verse that punctuates his famous poem on Kiswahili published in 1960 : "Titi la mama ni tamu, jingine halishi hamu" (The mother’s breast is soft, no other can bring satisfaction). By comparing the mother tongue to a nourishing udder, this image recurs like a refrain throughout the forty-three stanzas of the poem, bringing an imaginary which I would like to question from an ecolinguistic perspective. Putting language in relation to the needs of the body is a good way to defend a living space for the Kiswahili which is not yet truly recognized as a major language on a global scale, despite the efforts of the colonial administration to make it the unifying language of East Africa. Through this famous poem, we can analyze how Kiswahili exists and develops in contact with moving bodies, in relation to environments and in permanent interaction with other languages.