JAMAADAR - A SWAHILI
STORY TELLER AND TEACHER
POSSESS CHARM, SIMPLICITY
AND A DISTINCTIVE SWAHILI FLAVOUR
- - Ali Jamaadar (1925-2006), Swahili story teller and teacher,
was born in Mombasa on 5 January 1925, the son of Jamaadar Amir
mKilindini, fisherman and fishmonger, and his wife Maryam Juma.
was educated at the Arab School, Serani, after which he qualified
as a primary school teacher at the government teacher training
college in Zanzibar.
to the Kenya Protectorate he taught many generations of young
people, first at his old school and then at Khadija Primary
a correspondent to Coastweek has
already mentioned, Mu'allim Jamaadar did indeed help to maintain
the observation of the Swahili New Year in Mombasa.
the Swahili people have three annual holidays, of which two are
Islamic and follow the lunar year.
third is Siku ya Mwaka (the Swahili New Year), the date of
which is calculated according to the solar year.
Siku ya Mwaka was celebrated throughout the entire length
of Swahililand, including Zanzibar and Pemba, and beyond to
Ngazija (Grand Comore).
only a few Swahili towns observe the holiday.
in Mombasa the annual celebrations continue, due in part to
Mu'allim Jamaadar's efforts.
activities begin at dawn, at the reputed grave of the founder of
the town, Shee Mvita.
the past, Siku ya Mwaka was important for all the people of
the town, farmers, sailors, fishermen, chuo pupils and their
on this day the waMiji (the native inhabitants of Mombasa)
beseech the Almighty for his favour and protection during the year
waMiji constituted the overwhelming majority of the town's
population until the end of the nineteenth century, when the
British began building the port at Kilindini and the Uganda
Siku ya Mwaka is less a replica of the Iranian (Persian)
New Year, as has been assumed by some; rather is it a home-grown
product evolved by the Swahili themselves over uncountable
of the customs relating to Kibunzi (New Year's Eve) and to Siku
ya Mwaka have been discontinued during the past century.
example, the dawn procession no longer wends its way from Ngomeni
(Fort Jesus) along Ndia Kuu to Kwa Shee Mvita.
the core ceremonies remain.
to the successful efforts of Mu'allim Jamaadar and others today's
young people in Swahili Mombasa have the opportunity to hand on
these traditions to the next generation.
the end of the Siku ya Mwaka rites and ceremonies the gungu
(a dance for men) is performed on the greensward.
retain fond memories of Mu'allim Jamaadar participating in this
dance with skill and elegance, to the obvious enjoyment of several
far as language is concerned Mu'allim Jamaadar was a staunch
promoter of his beloved Swahili.
years ago, already in the wheelchair which was a consequence of
his diabetes, he was involved in a land case at the (new) Mombasa
began to address the court in kiSwahili, but was soon
interrupted by a young advocate who told him in an exceedingly
rude manner that the court should not be addressed in kiSwahili
but in English.
Jamaadar replied that he preferred to employ his mother tongue.
this point the magistrate intervened and compelled the advocate to
apologize for his rudeness.
apology was made, and Mu'allim Jamaadar continued to hold forth -
is for his storybooks, however, that Mu'allim Jamaadar will be
best remembered, the fruit of his teaching years.
zenye mafunzo (1973);
huwa mema (1978), with which is associated Alamin
M. Mazrui's Mwongozo wa 'Mui
huwa mema' (1981);
za wahenga (1982).
is also a set of three language primers Msingi
wa Kiswahili (with Aboud Mchangamwe).
storybooks reveal the man, for they possess charm, simplicity and
a distinctive Swahili flavour.
students have read, and continue to read, these publications with
profit and pleasure.
perhaps, they do not reflect the speech of mother-tongue speakers,
but employ the standardized language as taught in schools.
Jamaadar died at home in Mwembeni, Mombasa Island aged eighty-one,
and was buried amongst the waTangana of the three tribes
(the miji mitatu of Swahili Mombasa).
was twice married and is survived by three sons from his second
Jamaadar's life-long efforts to promote the Swahili language and
to keep alive the customs and traditions of his people should be