Fasihi

Literature and readings on the past and the present as curated by Hiistoriya which focus on culture and history of the East African coast.

  • The Mysterious Kilua
    The kilua or kiluwa (pl. Vilua/viluwa) is a small fragrant magnolia-like flower found on the East African coast. The flower’s tree is known as mlua, mkiluwa or muuwa by the Swahili and mlua, mrua, mchilua, and chingade by the Digo1. They are quintessentially East African. Kilua flowers have six yellow-green tongue-shaped petals with purple highlights at their inner base. The petals alternate between two sizes along the rounded centre, forming a cup shape. The flower hangs upside down on the trees’ branches, hidden by leaves from the eyes and hands of curious women. If you would like to know just […]
  • Vidaka
    Vidaka/Zidaka (singular: kidaka/idaka)1 are small niches carved into the walls of stone structures.  Vidaka comes from the root word daka, which translates into niche or indentation. Daka is also the name for the front porch in Swahili stone homes, which were nooks by the main entrance where male guests were received. The prefix ki- is used in the singular form of the word, making it a diminutive, which reflects a kidaka’s small size. 
  • Limestone vs. Tiles: Changing Swahili Aesthetics Through The Eyes of Master Craftsmen
    Ahmed Yusuf Suleiman is one of the most sought-after Swahili plasterwork artists and a well-known building contractor on the East African coast. One afternoon in his hometown, Lamu, he gave me a tour of his ongoing contracts, describing the ancient methods that he’s mastered. The majority of his clients are wealthy European developers, some of who have made a hobby out of purchasing ancient upper-class properties and restoring them.
  • The Art of Swahili Cooking
    To master Swahili cooking, one must master Swahili techniques.
  • Was there ever a Kiswahili word for ‘Holy’?
    ‘The available evidence suggests that in the mid-nineteenth century, at the second coming of European-Christians to the East African coast, there was no lexical equivalent for ‘holy’ or its near-synonym ‘sacred’ in the spoken language of the Swahili people.’ Frankl, P. J. L., and Yahya Ali Omar (1999) When looking for Kiswahili words currently in use that come close to describing something divine or sacred, two words attempt to do that: -tukufu and -takatifu. The first word, ‘-tukufu’, comes from the root word -tukuza, which roughly translates into glorious in English. Examples of its use are as an adjective to […]
  • Mwana Darini’s Siwa
    A story on the Swahili royal horns that graced the East African coast for centuries.