Prison, Poetry, and Polyphony in Abdilatif Abdalla's Sauti ya Dhiki

September 2009
Research in African Literatures;Fall2009, Vol. 40 Issue 3, p129
Academic Journal
Literary Criticism
This article is a study of the prison poetry of Abdilatif Abdalla, one of the most talented twentieth-century Swahili poets. Abdalla penned his collection of poems Sauti ya Dhiki while serving a prison term for sedition during the Jomo Kenyatta regime in postindependence Kenya. Prison as a site for writing had tremendous influence on the form and content of his poetical productions. In this regard I suggest that, for the most part, the terribly unpleasant prison conditions that the poet experienced, enabled, and enhanced the occurrence in his poetry of a psychic or philosophical journey, which may or may not have been therapeutic, and the articulation of a whole range of "voices." I undertake a close reading of Sauti ya Dhiki, exploring the symbolic journey and the polyphony that characterizes Abdalla's reaction to his incarceration by what Achille Mbembe would call the "postcolonial potentate."


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