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Said Ahmed Mohamed Khamis

Said Ahmed Mohamed Khamis (who publishes his literary works under his actual name, Said Ahmed Mohamed) was born in 1947 in Zanzibar and is one of Tanzania's most renowned contemporary Swahili authors. Having studied at the University of Dar es Salaam, he obtained his PhD at former Karl Marx University in Leipzig, (East) Germany in 1984, and returned to Zanzibar where he was appointed as a Director of the Institute of Swahili and Foreign Languages, nowadays part of the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA). He then moved to Kenya where he lectured at Moi University, Eldoret, and the University of Nairobi before he was appointed professor at the University of Foreign Studies in Osaka, Japan. Since 1997 he has been Professor of Literatures in African Languages at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. Under the name Said A. M. Khamis, he has published widely in the domains of Swahili linguistics and literature. His unpublished Master of Arts and PhD theses dealt with the novels by his fellow Zanzibari author Mohamed Suleiman Mohamed and with a dialectological study of Pemba Swahili varieties, respectively. He has published dictionaries and a great variety of linguistic and literary studies reference books for both university and school audiences. Since the middle of the 1990s, his publications concentrate on new developments in Swahili literature, especially the novel, as well as research in Taarab music, lyrics and performance. He is currently teaching Literatures in African Languages with a wide scope covering the whole discipline. As a fictional writer, Said Ahmed Mohamed is renowned as an astonishingly prolific and highly creative writer who feels at home in all `classical' genres, i.e. novels, short stories, drama, and poetry. His poetry, published over more than two decades in Sikate Tamaa ("Don't You Despair"; 1980), Kina cha Maisha ("Depth of Life"; 1984) and Jicho la Ndani ("Inner Eye"; 2002), aims at a reconciliation between the conflicting aesthetic camps of `traditionalists' and `revolutionaries' in Swahili poetry. His plays Pungwa ("Exorcism"; 1988) Kivuli kinaishi ("Living Shadow"; 1990), Amezidi ("Exaggeration"; 1995), Kitumbua kimeingia mchanga ("Something Has Gone Wrong"; 2000), and Posa za Bi Kisiwa ("Lady Island's Dowry"; together with Kitula King'ei; 2007) are widely read in both Tanzania and Kenya. Especially Amezidi has attained major attention by both academia, and the general reading audience, being acclaimed as the first piece of Swahili theatre of the absurd. Besides these works, Said Ahmed Mohamed is most widely known for his more

than thirty-year long and very diverse novel writing. Starting out with Asali Chungu ("Bitter Honey"; 1977), he became both acclaimed by literary critics and very popular with a broader readership. One of the main reasons was that he was perceived as a very `authentic' and, especially language-wise, extremely gifted writer who made use of a mother-tongue speaker's Swahili rich in vocabulary and rhetorical devices, engaged in conserving, reviving and being highly innovative, all at the same time. His further novels were Utengano ("Separation"), Dunia Mti Mkavu ("The World a Dry Tree", both 1980), Kiza katika Nuru ("Darkness within Light"; 1988), and Tata za Asumini ("Yasmin's Ambiguities", 1990). While some of his earlier novels dealt with the injustices and atrocities of Zanzibar's colonial history, he later pronounced an outspoken political critique of postcolonial elites. Another recurrent theme of his fiction is gender relations with a special focus on female characters. In his later novels Babu Alipofufuka ("When Grandfather Came to Life Again"; 2001) and Dunia Yao ("Their World"; 2006), he joined in the efforts of creating a `new' or postmodern Swahili novel blending different genres, interrogating and ardently criticizing (neo)colonialism and globalisation from an (East) African view. In his latest published novel Nyuso za Mwanamke ("Faces of Woman"; 2010) he returns to a predominantly realist mode of narration, concentrating on the complex individual psyche of a successful Zanzibari business woman striving against all odds and conventions, and trying to cope with persistent and grave inner conflicts.

(Lutz Diegner)


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Microsoft Word - Said Khamis Profile.doc