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Tydskrif vir letterkunde

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The use of the Arabic script in northern Mozambique

L K Bonate

Abstract




Northern Mozambican Muslim population has been using the Arabic script for writing in KiSwahili and local African languages for centuries. Even today, many people continue using this script in private correspondence. Despite the abundance of the
documents in this script that are housed at the Mozambique Historical Archives as well as in private hands, these documents have never been addressed or researched either from linguistic, historical, cultural or religious vantage points. For the last seven years,
the Archives have been trying to draw attention of the scholars and obtain funds for the preservation and research of the documents. In this article two short letters from the collection of the Mozambique Historical Archives are transcribed and
translated with the help of a local shaykh who was educated within the regional historical Islamic literacy tradition. Then, the content and the protagonists of the letters were identified and analyzed with the reference to the historical context and the events
of the time. Besides serving as the evidence for historical occurrences, the letters also provide a general public with a unique opportunity of “hearing the voices” of the authors and in their own words (in first person).

Keywords: Mozambique, Islam,
KiSwahili, Arabic.

Tydskrif vir Letterkunde Vol. 45 (1) 2008: pp. 133-142



http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/tvl.v45i1.29825
AJOL African Journals Online