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One Text – Many Forms:
A Comparative View on the Variability of Swahili Manuscripts

Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, Hamburg
21 - 22 April 2017


The aim of this workshop is to compare the variability in design, layout and phrasing found in manuscripts of wide-spread Swahili texts. Along the East African coast, there are a number of recurring Swahili texts, which scribes have rendered in quite different ways and styles in manuscripts. For instance, apart from the idiosyncrasies in the usage of Arabic script, the different arrangement of lines, the various marking of pauses, the insertion of glosses or interlinear translation account for a variability which has never been adequately considered. The workshop suggests a comparative perspective to explore and account for the variation in text and material design and their relation to performative practices, basically focusing on the early translations from Arabic into Swahili, which were not scribed on European commission, as for instance the corpus of narrative poetry, like the Chuo cha Herkal or the Qissat al-Yusuf, but also the hymnal Tabaraka, the Hamziyya or the Maulidi Barzanji.

Programme and Abstracts

Programme change: Workshop starts at 3.00 pm

Download programme and abstracts (PDF)


The workshop will be held at the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, Warburgstraße 26, Hamburg, Germany. How to find us


Participation is free of charge and vistors are welcome.
You may find the Hamburg Tourismus site useful for finding a suitable accommodation.
For more information please contact us.