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An Intimate “Range of Elsewhere”: Sensuous Imaginaries of the Indian Ocean in Precolonial Swahili Poetry

An Intimate “Range of Elsewhere”: Sensuous Imaginaries of the Indian Ocean in Precolonial Swahili... The Swahili poetry of the master poet Fumo Liyongo, which dates between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, draws much of its imagery from the Indian Ocean, and in a particularly sensuous way: the poems paint baroque tableaux of Swahili material culture, evoking multiple elsewheres. They conjure the Indian Ocean through tastes, scents, and views of its rich interiors, which delineate a distinctively coastal world implicated to different degrees in the vaster oceanic region. Borrowing from aesthetic theories, the article explores the poem’s sensuality as a productive way of “thinking” about Indian Ocean relations, namely as a continual reemergence of cycles of sensation, questioning the clear-cut dichotomy of the “exterior” world and “intimate” notions of irreducible personhood as well as notions of local and cosmopolitan. Zeroing in on the betel quid, which has turned into a “mythological” cultural node of Swahili identity as well as a prominent rhetorical topos of Swahili love poetry, this article explores its imaginative productivity. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Comparative Literature Duke University Press

An Intimate “Range of Elsewhere”: Sensuous Imaginaries of the Indian Ocean in Precolonial Swahili Poetry

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Copyright
Copyright © 2022 by University of Oregon
ISSN
0010-4124
eISSN
1945-8517
DOI
10.1215/00104124-9594800
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The Swahili poetry of the master poet Fumo Liyongo, which dates between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, draws much of its imagery from the Indian Ocean, and in a particularly sensuous way: the poems paint baroque tableaux of Swahili material culture, evoking multiple elsewheres. They conjure the Indian Ocean through tastes, scents, and views of its rich interiors, which delineate a distinctively coastal world implicated to different degrees in the vaster oceanic region. Borrowing from aesthetic theories, the article explores the poem’s sensuality as a productive way of “thinking” about Indian Ocean relations, namely as a continual reemergence of cycles of sensation, questioning the clear-cut dichotomy of the “exterior” world and “intimate” notions of irreducible personhood as well as notions of local and cosmopolitan. Zeroing in on the betel quid, which has turned into a “mythological” cultural node of Swahili identity as well as a prominent rhetorical topos of Swahili love poetry, this article explores its imaginative productivity.

Journal

Comparative LiteratureDuke University Press

Published: Jun 1, 2022

References