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African language studies

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African language studies
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Collected papers in Oriental and African studies
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University of London. School of Oriental and African Studies
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Africa
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Collected Papers in Oriental and African Studies
1969

AFRICAN LANGUAGE STUDIES
VIII
School of Oriental and African Studies University of London
[Sole Agents: Luzac & Company, Ltd., 46 Gt. Russell St., London, W.C. 1) 1967
Price 50s. net


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COLLECTED PAPERS IN ORIENTAL AND AFRICAN STUDIES
AFRICAN LANGUAGE STUDIES VIII
Editor: Malcolm Guthrie
Assistant Editor : Hazel Carter




Collected Papers in Oriental and African Studies
AFRICAN LANGUAGE STUDIES
VIII
School of Oriental and African Studies University of London
[Sole Agents: Luzac & Company, Ltd., 46 Gt. Russell St., London, W.C. 1 ]
1967
Price 50s. net


© School of Oriental and African Studies University of London


CONTENTS
PAGE
A Survey of the Indigenous Scripts of Liberia and Sierra Leone : Vai,
Mende, Loma, Kpelle and Bassa, by David Dalby .... 1
Yankamanci—the comedian’s craft among the Hausa, by C. G. B. Gidley 52
Swahili Theological Terms, by J. Knappert . 82 \
The Style of a Tonga Historical Narrative, by A. M. Jones and H. Carter 93
Dahl’s Law in Thagicu, by P. R. Bennett 127
Genitival Phrases in Mande Languages, by G. Innes 160
Riddle Telling among the Berbers of Central Morocco—II, by J. Bynon . 168
NOTE
The continuation of the article in African Language Studies VII, 1A Boorii Liturgy from Katsina,’ by A. V. King, proved to be too long for inclusion in this number and has been issued as a separate monograph under the title of Supplement to African Language Studies VII.


BAGAM SYLLABARY co. 1910'


A SURVEY OF THE INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE :
VAI, MENDE, LOMA, KPELLE AND BASSA
By David Dalby
This paper is the first of two studies,1 devoted to the indigenous scripts of Liberia and Sierra Leone, the Vai, Mende, Loma and Kpelle syllabaries, and the Bassa alphabet. The Vai syllabary was devised in the 1830’s, and the other four scripts about a century later, in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The present paper consists of a survey of the available data on the individual scripts, and will be followed in a subsequent number of African Language Studies by a paper concerned with the detailed comparison of these scripts, and of the four other indigenous scripts of West Africa, including a discussion of their inspiration and development.
The recent appearance of these five distinct scripts—within a restricted geographic area 2—is of considerable interest, and raises a number of important questions. What inspired their inventors to devise new and exceedingly complicated scripts for each of their own languages, and what elements contributed to the design and construction of the individual scripts ? What encouraged the Vai in particular to make active use of their script as soon as it was invented, in spite of the greater simplicity of the roman script, and what factors have led to its widespread survival among the Vai for over 130 years ? Does the development of syllabic forms of writing among no less than seven 3 West African tribes reflect the fact that an alphabet—despite its economy of form—is perhaps less
1 Being the extended form of a seminar paper, presented at the School of Oriental and African Studies in June, 1964.
2 The more recent syllabary devised in 1956 for Bete, a Kru language spoken in the Ivory Coast some 250 miles further east, may be considered as forming an extension of this area. The account of the invention of this pictographically based syllabary and of the characters involved has been recorded by the African inventor himself, Frederic Bruly-Bouabre, and published by T. Monod, ‘ Un nouvel alphabet ouest-africain : le bete (Cote d’Ivoire) ’, Bull, de ri.F.A.N., T. XX, ser. B, n08 1-2, 1958, pp. 432-553.
Cf. the similar clustering of indigenous graphic systems in Eastern Nigeria and Cameroun : the Nsibidi contextual (non-linguistic) system of graphic symbols, used by the Igbo, Ibibio-Efik and Ekoi, the pictographic/ideographic and subsequent syllabic scripts of the Barnum, the syllabary of the Bagam (Eghap), and the ‘ Christian ’ Oberi Dkaime alphabet of the Ibibio-Efik. For Nsibidi see J. K. Macgregor, ‘ Some notes on Nsibidi ’, J. roy. anthrop. Inst., 39, 1909, pp. 209-219 ; E. Dayrell, ‘ Some Nsibidi signs Man, X/67, 1910 ; E. Dayrell, ‘ Further notes on Nsibidi signs’, J. roy. anthrop. Inst., 41, 1911, pp. 521-540 ; P. A. Talbot, In the Shadow of the Bush, London, 1912, pp. 305-309 and 447^-61 ; cf. also A. Mansfeld, Urwald-Dokumente, Berlin, 1908, Tafel IV/V and p. 67. For the Barnum scripts see the monumental work by A. Schmitt, Die Bamum-Schrift, Wiesbaden, 1963 (3 vols.) ; also I. Dugast and M. D. W. Jeffreys, L'ecriture des Bamum, Mem. de 1’I.F.A.N. (Cameroun), 1950. For the Bagam syllabary see L. W. G. Malcolm, ‘ Short notes on the syllabic writing of the Eghap— Central Cameroons ’, J. Afr. Soc., XX, 1920-21, pp. 127-129. For Oberi Dkaime see R. F. G. Adams, ‘ Oberi Dkaime : a new African language and script ’, Africa, 17, 1947, pp. 24-34.
3 i.e. Vai, Mende, Loma, Kpelle, Bete, Bamum, Bagam.


2
DAVID DALBY
suitable than a syllabary for the transcription and analysis of African languages ? 1 Is it coincidence that the four syllabaries of Liberia and Sierra Leone should have been devised for related Mande languages (in an area which is linguistically mixed), or has their development been encouraged by some traditional element in the cultures of the Mande-speaking peoples, such as the use of pictograms and ideograms ? 2 What factors in the modern development of West Africa stimulated the invention of five of the nine indigenous scripts within a span of about fourteen years, between the two world-wars ?3 An attempt will be made, in this and the following paper, to throw some light on these questions, although it must be emphasized that further field-research is urgently needed.
In addition to their interest for Africanists, the West African scripts have a wider palaeographic interest, since they provide us with modern examples of the development of writing, spanning the whole range of graphic symbols from pictograms to alphabetic characters and diacritics.4 In considering the development of writing in a continent which has been largely illiterate, however, it is particularly important that emotional judgements should be avoided. Such judgements have, unfortunately, entered into some of the earlier discussion of modern West African scripts, negrophobes tending to dismiss them as imitations of established scripts, and negrophiles tending to exaggerate their historical and cultural implications.
1 The question has pedagogic as well as linguistic implications. Would the progress of vernacular literacy in Africa be encouraged if the roman script were presented as a syllabary (by pairing consonants and vowels) rather than as an alphabet ? In the case of Vai, the particular suitability of a syllabary was asserted fifty years ago by F. W. H. Migeod, The Languages of West Africa, II, London, 1913, p. 274 : ‘ Further, yet another and no mean factor in its favour [i.e. of the Vai script], is the facility with which a hitherto uneducated native will learn to read and write it. It will take only a fraction of the time that it takes to learn to read with an alphabet, for each sound as uttered has a complete sign or character, whereas with an alphabet it has not. . . . ’ The possibility that a syllabary might prove superior to an alphabet for the transcription of African languages had in fact been voiced over a century ago, by the British linguist Norris (although his formulation of the problem now seems rather quaint) ; see F. E. Forbes and E. Norris, Despatch concerning the Discovery of a Native Written Character. . . with Notes on the Vei Language . . ., London [1849/50], p. 24 : ‘ We may, therefore, suppose that a syllabic alphabet is more suited to the ability, or, it may be, caprice of a negro, than our analytic alphabets ... it may admit of a question whether a syllabarium may not be better suited than our alphabets, to a language of so simple a syllabic structure as the Vei... ’ (Norris, p. 25, goes on to suggest that the Vai syllabary might be equally suitable for the closely related Bambara, Mandinka and Susu languages, with speakers numbering several millions.)
2 Cf. the use of pictograms and ideograms in the contextual graphic systems of the Bambara and Bozo (speakers of Mande languages, closely related to Vai) and of the Dogon (speakers of an isolated language, traditionally classified as 4 Gur ’). See M. Griaule and G. Dieterlen, Signes graphiques soudanais, Paris, 1951 ; D. Zahan, 4 Pictographic writing in the Western Sudan Man, L/219, 1950.
3 i.e. the Mende (1921), Loma (ca. 1935) and Kpelle (ca. 1935) syllabaries, and the Bassa (ca. 1920-25) and Oberi Jkaitne (ca. 1930) alphabets.
4 (see p. 3, opposite.)


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
3
Abundant material has been published previously on the Vai script, much less on the Mende script, and very little on the Loma, Kpelle and Bassa scripts. There has been no previous study of these scripts as a group. The tables accompanying the present paper represent critical reconstructions of each of the five scripts, utilizing published and (where available) unpublished sources. The individual characters of each script have been tabulated according to the phonology of the relevant language, grouping together variant forms recorded with the same phonetic value. Many of these variant forms arise from the fact that characters in all five scripts are sometimes inverted, reversed or half-inverted without any change in their value. In view of the predominantly CV structure of the languages involved, the majority of characters in the four syllabaries represent open (CV) syllables, and each character is therefore tabulated in terms of the (initial) consonant phoneme, in the relevant horizontal column, and the (final) vowel phoneme, in the relevant vertical column. The consonants have been arranged in approximate order of articulation, but the precise arrangement has been determined by the internal relationship of characters in each syllabary, and by the 4 mutational ’ relationship of certain characters in the Mende, Loma and Kpelle languages.1 The structure of the Mende syllabary involves the sequence of vowels i, a, u, and this sequence has been maintained in tabulating all the scripts, to facilitate comparison. It would appear that the memorization of at least three of the scripts is based on recitation of the characters in a set
(from p. 2) The following terminological hierarchy is proposed :
graphic systems
1. contextual (non-linguistic) systems : two-dimensional arrangement
2. textual (linguistic) systems or ‘ scripts ‘ linear arrangement
(а) non-phonetic
(i) pictographic/ideographic
(б) phonetic
(ii) syllabic
(iii) alphabetic (c) mixed
graphic symbols
1. pictograms/2. ideograms
(a) isolated
(b) as elements in a graphic system
3. syllabic characters
(a) primary characters
(b) secondary (derived) characters
4. alphabetic characters (consonantal or vocalic)
(a) primary
(b) secondary
5. diacritics (phonetic or tonal)
1 Mende p>w, mb>b, kp>gb, f>v, t/nd>l, s>j, nj>y, i)g>y/w, k>g : cf. G. Innes, A Mende Grammar, London, 1962, p. 7 ; for less frequent changes, see also F. W. H. Migeod, The Mende Language, London, 1908, pp. 50-54. Loma p/b>w, kp>b, f>v, t/d >1, s>z, z>y, k/g>y : cf. W. Sadler, Untangled Loma, United Lutheran Church in America, 1951, pp. 17-19, etc. Kpelle p>b, t>d, k>g, kp>gb, f >v, s>z, b>m, l>n, Y>p, w>ijw, y>ny : cf. W. E. Weimers, ‘ The phonology of Kpelle ’, J. Afr. lang., 1,1, 1962, pp. 69-93 ; also W. E. Weimers, Spoken Kpelle, United Lutheran Church in America, 1955 (multilithed), pp. 34-36. See also G. Manessy, ‘ L’alternance consonantique en Manya, Kpelle, Loma, Bandi et Mende ’, J. Afr. lang., 3, 2, 1964, pp. 162-178.
Note also the occurrence of nasal syllables in Vai, Mende, Loma and Kpelle, i.e. syllables composed of a nasal consonant and a nasal vowel. These syllables are arranged at the end of each table, following the oral (or mixed oral/nasal) syllables. The relevant vowels have been distinguished in the tabulation by a tilde, although the nasality of vowels following nasal consonants is not normally marked in the orthography of these four Mande languages.


4
DAVID DALBY
(non-phonological) order. This set order is preserved in recorded examples of the Mende syllabary and the Bassa alphabet, and the characters have been numbered accordingly in the tables of these two scripts. There is no provision for tonal distinctions in the Vai, Mende and Loma syllabaries, and only partial provision in the Kpelle syllabary—even though all four languages are tonal. The Bassa alphabet does include a full system of tonal diacritics, however.
The accompanying tables are of course provisional. They represent the first comprehensive tabulation of the five scripts, on a systematic phonological basis, but this very systematization is to some extent in conflict with the spirit of the original syllabaries,1 which were never completely systematized by their own inventors, and which appear to have owed their invention at least partly to intuitive talent. It is probable that none of the syllabaries achieved a perfectly consistent form in the hands of its inventor, and many further inconsistencies and fluctuations must have arisen in the course of usage. An additional source of inaccuracy and inconsistency has undoubtedly been the fact that many of the available copies and identifications of the scripts have been compiled by European observers, who have often had little or no knowledge of the relevant languages.
A map 2 is included to indicate the approximate geographic location of each of the five scripts, together with the other modern indigenous sc.ripts of West Africa. The Vai occupy the coastal area north-westwards from Monrovia, extending into Sierra Leone, and speak a Northern Mande language closely related to Mandinka and Bambara. The Mende occupy a large part of southern Sierra Leone, the Loma occupy land on both sides of the border between Liberia and Guinea, and the Kpelle are situated south of the Loma in Liberia and also in Guinea ; these three tribes speak closely related South-western Mande languages. The Bassa occupy the coastal area south-eastwards from Monrovia, and speak a Kru language.
A plate presenting examples from each of the five scripts is printed opposite.3
1 The Bassa alphabet is in a different category, having been devised on an analytical basis, see p. 32 below.
2 The map was drawn by my student, Mr. I. F. Hancock, to whom I am also grateful for assistance in preparing the accompanying tables for press.
3 The examples used for Vai, Loma and Bassa are short fragments of text. The examples used for Mende and Kpelle are sequences of characters from the two syllabaries.
I. The Vai Syllabary
1. Sources
See P. E. H. Hair, ‘ Notes on the discovery of the Vai script, with a bibliography ’, Sierra Leone Language Review, 2, 1963, pp. 36-49, for an extensive bibliography on the script, including manuscript sources. In compiling the present paper, particular use has been made of the following :


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
The Vai Svllabarv
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The Mende Syllabary
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The Loma Syllabary
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The Kpcllc Syllabary
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The Bassa Alphabet
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EXAMPLES OF THE SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE


6
DAVID DALBY
S. W. Koelle, Narrative of an Expedition into the Vy country of West Africa, and the discovery of a system of syllabic writing, recently invented by the natives of the Vy tribe, London, 1849.
F. E. Forbes and E. Norris, Despatch concerning the Discovery of a Native Written Character. . . accompanied by a Vocabulary of the Vahie or Vei Tongue (by Forbes), with Notes on the Vei Language and Alphabet (by Norris), London [1849/50].
S. W. Koelle, Outline of a Grammar of the Vei Language . . . and an account of the discovery and nature of the Vei mode of syllabic writing, London, 1854.
H. Steinthal, Die Mande-Neger-Sprachen, Berlin, 1867, pp. 257-266.
M. Delafosse, ‘ Les Vai, leur langue et leur systeme d’ecriture ’, L'Anthro-
pologie, Paris, X, 1899, pp. 129-151, 294-314.
H. Johnston, Liberia, London, 1906, II, pp. 1107-1135.
F. W. Migeod, ‘ The syllabic writing of the Vai people ’, J. Afr. Soc.. IX,
1909, pp. 46-58.
M. M. Massaquoi, ‘ The Vai people and their syllabic writing ’, J. Afr. Soc., X, 1911, pp. 459^466.
F. W. Migeod, The Languages of West Africa, II, London, 1913, pp. 266-281. A. Klingenheben, ‘ The Vai script ’, Africa, VI, 1933, pp. 158-171.1 University of Liberia, The Standard Vai Script, [Monrovia], 1962 (mimeo-
graphed).
I am deeply indebted to Mrs. Gail Stewart, formerly a teacher at Robertsport, Liberia, for having so kindly made available a manuscript chart of the characters most widely accepted by modern users of the Vai script, compiled by her in 1958. I am likewise indebted to Mr. J. Carnochan, of the School of Oriental and African Studies, for having allowed me to consult a further manuscript chart of the Vai characters, supplied to him in 1945 by Mr. H. Boakoi Freeman of Liberia, and to Dr. P. E. H. Hair, of the University of Liverpool, for consultations on the history and development of the Vai script.
2. Origin
The Vai syllabary was devised in about 1833 2 by Momolu Duwalu Bukele (died 1850) ; he appears to have been assisted in this task by a number of friends.
The existence of the script was first reported by two American missionaries, J. L. Wilson and S. R. Wynkoop, in 1834, but it was not until its rediscovery by F. E. Forbes, a British naval officer, that academic interest was aroused.
1 For a useful phonological survey of Vai, see A. Klingenheben, ‘ Vai-Texte Zt. f. Eingeborenen-Sprachen, XVI, 1925-6, pp. 58-133.
2 See Hair, op. cit., pp. 40-41. There does not appear to be any evidence for putting the date of Bukele’s discovery back to 1814 or 1816, as cited in University of Liberia, op. cit. [p. 1 ]. There are certainly no grounds for the assertion by Delafosse, op. cit., p. 306, that the script was devised at the beginning of the sixteenth century ; for a discussion of Delafosse’s paper, see Klingenheben, op. cit., pp. 159-160.


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
7
S. W. Koelle, later renowned for his Polyglotta Africana, received news of the script from Forbes in January, 1849, at the Fourah Bay Institution in Freetown, and within a week he had embarked on an expedition to Liberia, to find out more about the script. Koelle’s account of his adventurous search for the inventor of the syllabary, and of their dramatic meeting in the Liberian hinterland, has a ‘ Stanley and Livingstone ’ flavour.1 Having eventually found Bukele, at the town of Bandakoro, the German linguist collected a series of texts written in the Vai script, and was also able to compile an account of its invention :2
‘ Doalu Bukara [amended to Bukere in the 1854 ed.], now about forty years old, and living in Bandakoro, is the proper inventor of it, assisted by five of his friends. The first impulse to attempt it, he received in a dream, which he narrated to me in the following way. He said : About fifteen years ago, I had a dream, in which a tall, venerable looking white man 3 [in a long coat4] appeared to me, saying : “ I am sent to you by other white men. . . . I bring you a book ”. Doalu said : “ This is very good ; but tell me now, what is the nature of this book ? ” The white messenger answered : “ I am sent to bring this book to you, in order that you should take it to the rest of the people. But I must tell you, that neither you, nor any one who will become acquainted with the book, are allowed to eat the flesh of dogs and monkeys, nor of any thing found dead, whose throat was not cut; and to touch the book on those days on which you have touched the fruit of the To-tree (a kind of very sharp pepper) The messenger then showed Doalu his book, and taught him, to write any Vei words in the same way, in which the book was written. .. . “ Look, this sign (writing the sign with his finger on the ground) Doalu, means i (English e) Then he wrote close to it another sign, saying, “ and this means na. Now, Doalu, read both together ! ” Doalu did so, and was quite delighted, to have learnt to read the word ina, i.e. “ come here ! ” 5 In the same way the messenger showed him how a great number of other words could be written. At last Doalu asked his instructor concerning the contents of the book he had brought. But the answer was : “ Wait a little ; I shall tell you by and by ”. After this, Doalu awoke, but, as he told me in a sorrowful tone, was never afterwards informed of what was written in the book. In the morning he called his friends together, in order to tell them his dream, viz. his brother Dshara Barakora, and his cousins, Dshara Kali, Kali Bara,
1 See Koelle, 1849, p. 7 ff. ; republished, in shortened and slightly revised form, in Koelle, op. cit., 1854, p. 230 ff.
2 See Koelle, 1849, p. 21 ff. (1854, p. 235 ff.).
3 ‘ White man ’ presumably implies a European, but it should be noted that spirits appearing in dreams or visions are often conceived of in West Africa as being white.
4 The words ‘ in a long coat ’ were inserted by Koelle in the 1854 version.
5 The relevant characters from the syllabary would be i.e. i na (based on a
pictographic representation of ‘ come here ’ ?).


8
DAVID DALBY
Fa Gbasi, and So Tabaku,1 all of whom are still alive, with the exception of So Tabaku who died about three years ago. They were all exceedingly pleased with the dream, and quite sure that it was a divine revelation. A few days after, Kali Bara, as he himself told me, had a dream the reality of which, however, I doubt very much, in which a white man told him that the book had come from God, and that they must mind it well. . . .
4 Though Doalu had been well instructed in his dream, yet, as he told me, in the morning he could not remember all the signs which had been shown him by night. Therefore—these are his own words 2—he and his friends put their heads together, in order to make new ones. And on this ground we are fully justified in speaking of a real invention of the Vei mode of writing.
6 But all these six men were then still young, being all from twenty to thirty years of age. They were therefore afraid, people might not pay them proper attention. So they agreed to take 100 salt sticks, i.e. 100 parcels of salt. . . and to bring them to king Fa Toro, or Goturu, in Tianimani, in order to make him favourably disposed to their object. Their present had the desired effect. The king declared himself exceedingly pleased with their discovery, which, as he said, would soon raise his people upon a level with the Poros 3 and Mandingos,4 who hitherto had been the only book-people. He expressed the curious opinion, that this was most likely the book, of which the Mandingos (who are Muhammadans) say, that it is with God in heaven, and will one day be sent down upon earth.’
1 Contrast the names of the eight men given to Forbes (in 1848) as the inventors of the script ‘ ten or twenty years ago ’ : Duaroo-Kehloe-Kaie, Fargan-Zapoh, Duaroo-Boh-Kehlae [i.e. Duwalu Bukele, the only name occurring in both Koelle’s and Forbes’ account], Hhumdongloh-Wooloh, Duaroo Tamee, Bahee Behseh, Karnahmar, Kanlee fohloh [sic] ; see Forbes and Norris, op. cit., p. 3. University of Liberia, op. cit. [p. 1 ], lists six colleagues of Bukele : Momolu Duwau Wogbe, D. Tamia [cf. Forbes’ Duaroo Tamee], Jaa Zaawo, Zolu Tabaco [cf. Koelle’s So Tabaku], J. Belekole [cf. Koelle’s Dshara Barakora], and Kahnle Bala [cf. Koelle’s Kali Bara].
There is a close correspondence, on the other hand, between the names recorded in Koelle’s account, and the names of the associates listed in the Vai ‘ Book of Rora ’, from which Koelle probably obtained his list: Dshara Sau [an alternative name for Bukele’s brother Dshara Barakora ; see Koelle, 1854, p. 241], Dshara Kali, Solu Tabaku, Fa Gbese, and Doalu Gboru [Bukele’s ‘ book-name ’, lit. ‘ Doalu Book ’ < a misspelling of kporo/kpolo ‘ book ’ ; see Koelle, 1849, Appendix p. 2], and the author of the ‘ Book of Rora ’ himself, i.e. Kali Bara. The ‘ Book of Rora ’ (see p. 9, f.n. 3 below for details of this source) mentions also a certain ‘ Father ’ Doalu Worogbe, who appears to have stimulated work on the script by taunting Bukele and his friends about the superiority of Europeans, and their own inability to communicate with each other by letter. This is perhaps the Momolu Duwau Wogbe, mentioned in the University of Liberia account.
2 Koelle (on his first visit to Vai country) does not state whether he was conversing with Bukele in English, or through an interpreter, but it seems almost certain that Bukele could speak English.
3 i.e. Europeans (Vai poro < portu[gues] ?).
4 An islamized tribe, many members of which were (and still are) literate in Arabic.


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
9
Whether or not Duwalu Bukele was actually inspired by a dream 1 can of course never be resolved, and it is quite possible that the story of the dream may have been invented or elaborated in order to encourage the Vai people to adopt the new form of writing (just as the king was bribed with salt, to obtain his support for the teaching of the script). Koelle, on the other hand, offers a psychological explanation for the dream,2 which provides us with a valuable insight into Bukele’s previous experience and education. Koelle recounts that Bukele had begun to learn the roman script as a small boy, when he had worked for a white missionary for about three months. In working subsequently for various traders, he was much impressed by the way in which they were able to communicate by letter over long distances, and he became consumed with the idea that the Vai people should have their own form of writing. It seems almost certain that the main impetus behind the devising and popularizing of the Vai script was the desire to acquire the power and advantages which were seen to belong to the literate Europeans, Afro-American settlers and Mandingo Muslims with whom the Vai came in contact. Writing had reached the area from two different directions, and in two different forms. In both cases it was associated with revealed religion, with political and economic power, and with superior material civilization ; in both cases, it enabled verbal messages to be transmitted— apparently by supernatural power—on scraps of paper.
Further evidence that Bukele and his associates were inspired by contact with the roman script in particular is provided by the ‘ Book of Rora ’,3 a short autobiographical and aphoristic work compiled in the Vai script by one of Bukele’s cousins, Kali Bara, whose ‘ book-name ’ was Rora (or Rore). At the very end of his text, the author recounts how work on the new script began after contact with
1 Cf. the reference in S. R. Wynkoop, M.S. journal, 1834 : ‘ It [the script] was commenced about a year since. . . . An old man dreamed that he must immediately begin to make characters for his language that his people might write letters as they did in Monrovia. He communicated his dream to some others and they began the work *—see extract published in O. Bates (ed.), Varia Africana I {Harvard African Studies I), Cambridge, Mass., 1917. Wynkoop’s ‘ old man ’ conflicts with Koelle’s assessment of Bukele’s age (by which he can have been only about 24 at the time of the invention). This ‘ old man ’ may be the mysterious ‘ Father ’ Doalu Worogbe, mentioned in the ‘ Book of Rora ’ (see p. 8, f.n. 1 above).
2 See Koelle, 1849, p. 23 (1854, p. 236). Cf. also Migeod, op. cit., 1909, p. 48, on the subject of Bukele’s dream : ‘ Dreams, I might mention, play a rather important part, seemingly, in influencing the actions of the Vais. A Vai man once permitted me to make extracts from a manuscript book he had [i.e. in the Vai script] which contained specifics to meet all descriptions of dreams.’
For similar traditions that the Mende, Loma and Kpelle scripts and the Barnum script of Cameroun were inspired by dreams, see pp. 20, 26 and 29 below, and A. Schmitt, Die Barnum-Schrift, Wiesbaden, 1963, I, p. 18-19.
3 For the text and translations of the ‘ Book of Rora ’, see Koelle, 1849, in an appendix of Vai texts (‘ for limited circulation ’) added to some copies only (in London, the S.O.A.S. and Royal Commonwealth Society copies have this appendix, but not the British Museum copy) ; and Steinthal, op. cit., p. 280 ff. Steinthal’s word-for-word translation (in German) is to be preferred to Koelle’s free translation (in English).
B


10
DAVID DALBY
a European named ‘ John ’, then living at Dschondu, had made them realize the need for a script of their own.1 The ‘ Book of Rora ’ also provides evidence of the way in which the Vai script was regarded as a revelation rather than an invention, even by the men who devised it. The author maintains strongly that it was God who made the book he was writing, and his aphorisms begin regularly with the set phrase gboru ye ro [in Koelle’s transcription], i.e. ‘ the book says ’.
The fact that Bukde and his friends were stimulated by contact with the roman and arabic scripts does not detract from their remarkable achievement. They did not produce a mere alphabetic imitation of the foreign scripts, but hit upon the idea of a syllabary,2 cumbrous in form but well suited to a language with a predominantly CV structure. The use of diacritics may have been suggested by the arabic script, and a few characters may have been copied from roman capitals and arabic numerals (although used in the syllabary with quite different values).3 The vast majority of the Vai characters appear to be original, however, and it is important that the imagination, intellect and enterprise of the inventor of the Vai script should not be underestimated. Bukele’s achievement was all the greater for having taken place against the background of a previously illiterate society, still torn by inter-tribal wars. Koelle and Bukele were both men of genius, and they developed a close friendship during Koelle’s short stay in Vai country in 1849. According to Buttikofer,4 writing forty years later, Bukele was a member of the Vai aristocracy, and father of the (then) chief of Mendo. Koelle described Bukele as ‘ a very interesting man . . . distinguished from his countrymen, not merely by a greater intelligence, but by an altogether nobler spirit. . . . Doalu is an open, upright, and honest man. . . . His mind appears to be frequently engaged with high and divine things ’. That Bukele did not stand alone among his countrymen, however, as Koelle suggests, is indicated by the widespread interest which his invention at once aroused among his people, and by the way in which the syllabary has continued to flourish in Vai country until the present day.5
1 An attempt needs to be made to identify this 4 John perhaps an American missionary.
2 It is most unlikely that the concept of a syllabary would have reached Liberia from Ethiopia, but it may possibly have been suggested by the Cherokee syllabary, through the medium of American missionaries (although there is no overall resemblance between the characters employed in the Cherokee and Vai syllabaries). Dr. Hair is at present exploring the possibility of a connection between the two syllabaries, and has pointed out (personal communication) that the Cherokee syllabary—invented by a native Cherokee in 1821—gained the support of the American Board of Foreign Missions during the 1820’s. The Board was active also in Liberia, and it was their agent there, J. L. Wilson, who first reported the invention of the Vai syllabary (see p. 6 above). This first account of the Vai syllabary was published in 1834 in the Missionary Herald, an American journal which had published material on the Cherokee syllabary in 1827 and 1828.
3 Cf. the very much more extensive use of roman characters, with syllabic values unrelated to their normal alphabetic values, in the Cherokee syllabary.
4 See J. Buttikofer, Reisebilder aus Liberia, Leiden, 1890, II, p. 243.
5 Cf. Migeod, 1909, p. 49 : 4 That the Vai people originated a system of writing as their own points to the fact that the nation at that time was going through a phase of mental activity, and acquiring a considerable amount of wealth. This might be accounted for by their being


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
11
At this point, it is necessary to touch briefly upon the question of whether the inspiration for the syllabary arose not only from contact with foreign scripts, but also from possible traditional usage of isolated pictograms and ideograms. There is insufficient evidence to indicate that this was definitely so, but there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that such an influence may have played a part in the inspiration and formulation of the Vai syllabary. This question will be dealt with in the second of these two papers, devoted to the comparative discussion of the scripts.
3. Usage
According to Koelle,1 the Vai king Fa Toro requested Bukele and his associates to teach the new script in Dshondu, where they lived. They accordingly set up a school-house, equipped with benches and wooden writing-tablets, where men and children, and even women, learned to read and write the script.2 People began coming to Dshondu from other towns, to become acquainted with the ‘ new book ’, but after about eighteen months the town was captured by the neighbouring Gola 3 and destroyed by fire, together with all the manuscripts it contained. As a result of this setback, the Vai ‘ book-men ’ were scattered throughout the country, but in about 1844 many of them collected together and built the town of Bandakoro. Koelle relates that the majority of male adults in Bandakoro seemed more or less literate in the script when he was there in 1849,4 and that there were also individuals in most of the other Vai towns around Cape Mount5 who could ‘ spell their country-book ’. Unfortunately, Bandakoro later suffered the same fate as Dshondu, and when Koelle returned to Liberia in 1850 6 he found that Bukele had died some months before, apparently of sleeping-sickness,7 and that his town
the middle-men ... in the slave-trade. . . . With raiding and trading the necessary mental stimulus was given to the nation to enable it to produce such a man as Doalu, and what is more to the point, for it to have acquired sufficient intelligence to recognize a good thing, and to keep it.’
1 See Koelle, 1849, p. 24-25 (1854, p. 237-238).
2 At this period, the Vai wrote with reed pens and with ink prepared from leaves ; op. cit., p. 19.
3 Speakers of a Mel language, and traditional enemies of the Vai.
4 If Koelle’s impression was correct, then the literacy rate in Bandakoro was higher than in many contemporary communities in Europe, or than in most African communities to-day.
The reference to ‘ male ’ adults reflects the fact that writing—not surprisingly—was considered to be an exercise for men rather than women. J. Buttikofer, loc. cit., states that the Vai script was taught to boys but not to girls.
5 It was at Cape Mount in 1848 that an inscription on the wall of a house first drew Forbes’ attention to the existence of the Vai script (for a reproduction of this inscription, see Forbes and Norris, op. cit.). Forbes subsequently met a man at Bohmar, near Cape Mount, who possessed a Vai manuscript and who was able to provide him with further information on the script (op. cit., p. 3).
K See Koelle, 1854, p. 240.
7 Cf. Johnston, op. cit., p. 1114.


12
DAVID DALBY
had subsequently been taken in war, burnt, and its population scattered. Bukele’s brother and collaborator, Dshara Barakora, had been killed while defending the town. Koelle does not tell us whether fear or jealousy of the new script played any part in the sacking of Dshondu and Bandakoro by the enemies of the Vai, but such a motive does not seem unlikely.
We have seen already from Koelle’s account that initiation into the script was associated from the very beginning with specific tabus, inspired no doubt by the traditional tabus attendant on initiation into ‘ secret ’ societies, and perhaps also by the religious ‘ tabus ’ associated with Islam and Christianity (and hence with the arabic and roman scripts). The new ‘ book-names ’, adopted by the early writers in the Vai script, may likewise be compared to the adoption of postinitiation ‘ society ’ names, or of new Christian or Muslim names on conversion to one or other religion. A further tradition on the ritual use of the script is recounted by Massaquoi : 1 ‘ Tradition says that, in sending Dualu Bukelle to reveal this writing to the Vais, the Spirit distinctly forbade that anyone should accept money for teaching these characters and that the only fee for tuition should be one bottle of palm wine, a portion of which must be poured on the ground in the name of the Spirits of the book party. Upon the completion of the study a single fowl of white plumage should be given to the teacher—“ Freely ye have received, freely give ” 2—in order that the teaching of the Spirit might go on.’ Massaquoi states that a Vai may charge a large sum for writing the script or for doing other literary work, but that he will charge nothing for actually teaching the script: ‘ The present writer has taught more pupils in Vai than any other living man in his country, and he has not yet received a penny for tuition. Many Europeans, with plenty of money at their disposal, have passed through his hands in Vai studies, but who first will violate the law of the great Spirit teacher ? ’
The script was first established in the Tombs section of Vai country, from which it received the name of the ‘ Tombs book ’ or ‘ Tombs characters ’.3 Among early manuscripts compiled in the script were autobiographical and aphoristic texts, traditional tales, and translations from the Koran and the Bible.4 There appears to have been a subsequent dearth of original writing, however, with the exception of private correspondence.5 Letter-writing seems to have been the major application of the script throughout its history, as appears to be the case also with the other indigenous scripts of the area.
Tuition in the Vai script6 is based traditionally either on the memorizing of
1 Massaquoi, op. cit., p. 465. Momolu Massaquoi was a Vai ‘ prince ’, later to be the Liberian Consul in Hamburg, who had met Koelle—by then an old man—in London in 1895.
2 A quotation from Matthew 10, 8.
3 See Massaquoi, op. cit., p. 464.
4 For examples, see Koelle, 1849 (Appendix), 1854, p. 242 ff. ; Steinthal, op. cit., p. 267 ff. ; Massaquoi, 1911, p. 459.
5 See Migeod, 1913, p. 274 ; Hair, op. cit., p. 45, note 24 (6).
6 See Migeod, 1913, p. 273 ; Delafosse, op. cit., p. 301.


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
13
isolated words or passages, written in the script, or on the recitation of the entire syllabary in a set order (cf. the similar procedure used for the Mende and Bassa scripts). This set order does not appear to have been recorded, at least in print, but the first four characters in the sequence are known from the title A-ja-ma-na, used as an alternative name for the Vai script.1
By 1899, the West African agent of the B.F.B.S. was able to report that ‘ most of the Vai can read their own characters ’ and that Momolu Massaquoi was already engaged in translating the Gospel of St. John ; Massaquoi, then teaching at the St. John’s Mission in Robertsport (Cape Mount), had already introduced the study of the script into the school curriculum.2 He attempted to stabilize and simplify the conventions of the Vai script by publishing a phonetic chart of the syllabary, published in 1900,3 and this Massaquoi version forms the basis of the modern ‘Standard Vai Script’.4 Minor modifications, including provision for sounds foreign to Vai, were introduced in 1926 by Massaquoi and Dr. (afterwards Professor) Klingenheben, whom Massaquoi had first met while he was in Hamburg ; in 1954 by Klingenheben and Zuke Kandakai ; and finally in 1961 by Klingenheben and ‘ a group of Liberian scholars ’.5 In recent years the University of Liberia has taken an interest in the standardization of the Vai script, under the direction of Professor F. Fahnbulleh-Massaquoi, Director of the African Studies Program and daughter of Momolu Massaquoi.
The script continues to be used widely among the Vai of Liberia, mainly in correspondence, as well as surviving to a lesser extent among the Vai of Sierra Leone.6 Vai scribes appear to have been employed also by the Kpelle and other neighbouring tribes in Liberia, although it is not clear whether they wrote in Vai
1 See Delafosse, loc. cit.
2 See Hair, op. cit., p. 44 ; University of Liberia, op. cit. [p. 2]. Massaquoi’s manuscript of St. John Chap. 4, in the Vai script, is preserved in the B.F.B.S. Library, London. The script was apparently reintroduced to the school-curriculum at the St. John’s Mission (by S. Jangaba Johnson), between the years 1929 and 1931.
3 See Massaquoi, op. cit., p. 462 ; Hair, op. cit., p. 49. For Migeod’s objections to Massaquoi’s ‘ reform ’ of the Vai script, see Migeod, 1913, p. 273.
4 As published in mimeographed form in 1962 by the University of Liberia, op. cit.
5 See Hair, op. cit., p. 45, note 24. Massaquoi also introduced punctuation marks, including
* (full-stop), a (comma) and (question-mark).
6 It is true that little has actually been published in the Vai script, but D. Westermann and M. A. Bryan (Languages of West Africa, London, 1952, p. 35) are unjustified in stating that the script ‘ has hardly been used for literary or educational purposes ’.
Mrs. Gail Stewart investigated the current use of the Vai script in Liberia at the end of 1966, and a note of her findings is to be published in a forthcoming number of the Sierra Leone Language Review. In addition to its principal use in correspondence, Mrs. Stewart observes that the script is also employed by the Vai for keeping records (i.e. of births, marriages and deaths, of wills and contracts, of meetings, and of clan-histories and biographies). She notes that the script is sometimes used even to record Arabic, as an aid to memorizing passages from the Koran, and she estimates that up to 25 per cent of Vai-speakers (mainly men) are literate in the script.


14
DAVID DALBY
or in the relevant tribal language.1 Migeod mentions the use of the Vai script by the neighbouring De, speakers of a Kru language, although it is again not clear whether they wrote in De or in Vai.2 Klingenheben, however, reports that in 1927 at Gene (in Liberia, on the frontier with Sierra Leone) he saw Mende people ‘ trying to learn the characters of the Vai script in order to write their own language ’ 3 (although this was about six years after the invention of the Mende script4).
The late Professor Klingenheben had a set of Vai-script type prepared in Germany,5 but this does not appear to have been used for printing.
4. Form {see Table I, pp. 40-43 below)
The Vai syllabary, in its modern form, has a total of up to 212 characters,6 and is written from left to right (in the 1840’s it was sometimes written also from right to left, or from top to bottom).
Table I, below, lists both the modern forms of the Vai characters, as recorded by the University of Liberia 7 and Mrs. Gail Stewart, and the original forms, as recorded by Koelle and Forbes. Mrs. Stewart’s characters, being those most widely accepted by users of the script in 1958, correspond fairly closely to the ‘ standard ’ forms of the University of Liberia (1962), and are included in brackets only where they diverge from these.8 The identification of Koelle’s and Forbes’ forms is by no means straightforward, however, since Forbes had little idea
1 Cf. D. Westermann, Die Kpeile: ein Negerstanun in Liberia, Gottingen, 1921 : 4 Diese Schrift ist nicht nur unter den Vai weit verbreitet, sondern ist auch bei anderen Stammen, so den Kpelle, ein Mittel des offentlichen Verkehrs geworden. Viele Oberhauptlinge haben an ihrem Hofe einen Vaischreiber, der den Briefwechsel mit der liberianischen Regierung und mit benachbarten Stammeshauptern zu besorgen hat ’ [although correspondence with the Liberian Government was presumably in English, in the roman script].
2 See Migeod, 1913, p. 270.
3 See A. Klingenheben, letter on ‘ The Vai script ’ in ‘ Notes and News Africa, VII, 1934, p. 97.
4 See p. 19 below.
5 See Hair, op. cit., p. 45, note 24 (c).
G Excluding characters introduced this century to represent foreign sounds : see f.n. 7 below.
7 i.e. the ‘ Standard Vai Script ’, based on the standardizations and modifications of Momolu Massaquoi and subsequent scholars. This ‘ standard ’ script excludes the extra characters introduced during the last sixty years for the representation of foreign or abnormal sounds (normally formed from existing characters by the addition of diacritics). The only example of such extra characters, retained in the ‘ standard ’ version but excluded from the present table, is the ‘ wh ’ series, formed from the w series by the addition of an extra hook. This series may have been added to the script in order to represent the rare ‘ voiceless w ’ in Vai, described by Klingenheben as occurring only in ideophones (see Klingenheben, op. cit., 1925-6, p. 68).
8 Mr. Freeman’s 1945 version of the syllabary is also reasonably close in form to the ‘ standard ’ version. Divergences in this version (not included on the present table) relate mainly to the formation of secondary characters.


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
15
of phonetic representation, and since even Koelle’s phonetic values have proved to be far more erratic in his study of Vai than they are generally in his Polyglotta Africana. He had difficulty in distinguishing many of the phonemic contrasts in the language, as in the bilabial/labio-velar series b, 6, mɓ, kp, mgb, gb, and many of the values listed by him in his ‘ Vei Syllabarium ’ 1 are consequently inaccurate, or at least untrustworthy. Koelle’s and Forbes’2 forms have been listed beneath specific modern forms of character, wherever they can be provisionally identified with these.3 Other characters recorded by Koelle are listed in the extreme right-hand column, with his phonetic identification cited in quotation marks (pending their re-identification in precise phonetic terms) : about half of these unidentified characters represent mixed oral/nasal syllables, which do not appear to be represented by individual characters in the modern ‘ standard ’ version of the script. There are also numerous forms of character, recorded around the turn of the century (e.g. by Delafosse, Johnston and Migeod), which diverge from both the original and modern versions of the script. These variant forms, which have been excluded from the present table, reflect the considerable fluctuations which appear to have taken place in the forms of the Vai characters during the nineteenth century, prior to its standardization by Massaquoi.4 Migeod comments as follows on the unstable state of the script at the beginning of this century : 5 ‘. . . the writing is now somewhat different from what it was when first originated. Many of the old characters are not now understood, except by a few of the more learned, the remark being made when such a one is met with that it is “ old writing ”. . . . It is not infrequent for a native to say of another’s letter when reading it, that such and such a syllable is incorrectly written. Errors constantly repeated are apt to become popularized, and therefore it can be readily seen that any one syllable will in time possess several forms, some of which will become obsolete while others survive. With the creation of new characters based on error it can be seen that the compilation of a standard syllabary is a matter of great difficulty.... Iam frequently coming across new signs, without, unfortunately, always having the means of assigning them a value.’ The situation was further complicated by the development of special cursive forms, as may be seen from the specimens of Vai handwriting reproduced by Johnston.6
A detailed comparison of all the extant versions of the Vai syllabary is at present being undertaken jointly by Dr. P. E. H. Hair and Mrs. Gail Stewart,
1 See Koelle, 1854, p. 253 ff. ; see also his ‘Alphabet of the Vei written language’, Koelle, 1849, p. 35 ff.
2 As recorded in Forbes and Norris, op. cit.
3 Variant forms, recorded by Koelle and/or Forbes, are shown in brackets.
4 Koelle, 1849, loc. cit., describes at least three forms as ‘ obsolete ’, only sixteen years after
the invention of the script, i.e. 6e (‘ ba ’) Q , n^e (‘ nde ’) , ke (‘ ka ’)
5 See Migeod, 1909, p. 50-51. 6 See Johnston, op. cit., p. 1126 ff.


16 DAVID DALBY
and it is to be hoped that the results of their research will soon be available.1
The majority of items in the Vai syllabary consist of primary (underived) characters, but just over one-third of the modern characters are derived from other (primary) characters by the addition of diacritics, mainly points or strokes.2 These additional elements serve to indicate variations of consonant, rather than variations of vowel as in the Mende syllabary. A notable feature of these derived characters is that most of them represent variations in the form of consonantal articulation, at the same point of articulation, as in the characters cu, nju and yu, derived from the primary character ju. This feature is firstly of interest because of the phonetic sophistication which it implies, and secondly because many of the unvoiced/voiced or oral/nasal distinctions involved are precisely those which occur in the mutational systems of several Mande languages of Liberia and Sierra Leone. Strangely enough, although a Mande language, Vai does not appear to operate such a mutational system,3 and it must remain a matter of
1 In the meantime, Dr. Hair has been kind enough to communicate the following note for inclusion in this paper : ‘ Mrs. Stewart and I have been comparing all the printed versions of the syllabary (1849-1962), to investigate the development of the script with regard to (a) number of characters, (Z>) graphic form of characters, and (c) phonetic equivalence of characters. The only firm conclusion reached so far is that previous comments on these points have been misconceived, since they were based on the simple comparison of the printed versions, without regard for the fact that almost all the versions were prepared by non-speakers of Vai, who, however well they collected the characters, failed to distinguish all the sounds they represented, and therefore gave alternative versions for allegedly a single syllable (e.g. Koelle conflated gb and kp). Some of the errors can be easily corrected : others can only be traced if the material from which the printed versions were constructed is reanalysed. Mrs. Stewart is now examining the surviving material used by Koelle (principally the ‘ Book of Rora ’), and is drawing up a syllabary as presumably used in the 1840’s. With regard to the number of characters, it is beginning to look as if it has remained more or less consistent. The “ alternative ” characters recorded by Koelle and other early authorities are wrong, and arise from their confusion of syllabic values. With regard to graphic form, the difficulty has to be faced that only one original manuscript now appears to be extant : the printed versions represent redrawings, sometimes at second-hand, of the original shapes. However, as far as can be judged, the majority of shapes have remained unchanged throughout the period, or have changed only within certain limits which seem to be consistent—e.g. becoming more cursive, or being reversed in direction or upturned. On phonetic equivalence, Mrs. Stewart has not noted any radical changes ; she has, however, noted several changes in the conventions of syllabic division—which may indicate either variations in personal judgement or diachronic changes in the language. She further believes that phonological contraction has sometimes taken place during the last century or so. A more general tentative conclusion is that, despite the publicising of the script by a few educated Vai, particularly the Massaquoi family since 1890, there has been no alteration of the script to meet outside scholarly interest, apart from acknowledged would-be reforms, e.g. the attempt to invent characters for non-Vai sounds for writing loan-words and foreign names by Massaquoi, and attempts since 1926 by Professor Klingenheben (in collaboration with native scholars) to introduce minor logical modifications—all of which seem to have been firmly resisted by users of the script.’
2 These diacritic points and strokes should not be confused with the points or strokes which form an integral part of many of the primary characters in the syllabary.
3 A very limited mutational system does occur in Manya, however, a Mandinka ‘ dialect ’ of Liberia, closely related to Vai ; cf. G. Manessy, ‘ L’alternance consonantique en Manya . . . ’, J. Afr. lang., 3, 2, 1964, p. 162 ff.


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
17
conjecture whether the inventor of the Vai syllabary was acquainted with, and perhaps influenced by another Mande language. It would seem, however, that the same primary character was sometimes used in the original version of the script to represent two or more related syllables, for which the modern characters are distinguished by the presence or absence of diacritics. This may be seen from a comparison of the more limited range of 1849 characters with the modern 1962 characters on Table I ; note, for instance, the absence of many characters in the v, z, c and y series in the 1849 version. Massaquoi’s refinements to the syllabary appear to have included the extension of the system of diacritics, to eliminate ambiguities in the original version.
The sets of related characters in the syllabary are frequently broken by intervening primary characters, unrelated to any others, but the general patterning of related characters may be seen clearly from Table I, in which the relevant consonants have been grouped together. The pairing or grouping of characters, for syllables with an identical post-consonantal vowel, occurs frequently within the following pairs or groups of consonants : p/b, 6/mɓ, kp/mgb/gb, f/v, t/d, l/4/n<, s/z, c/j/nj/y, k/pg/g.
There are no special characters in the Vai syllabary for numerals, these being represented by the full syllabic spelling or by arabic numerals.1
The pictographic element in the four syllabaries (arising from traditional pictograms or from the inventors’ imagination ?) will be discussed in the second of these two papers, but the following may be quoted here as examples of syllabic characters in the Vai script with a possible pictographic/ideographic origin : 2
fu o-5o cf. fu ‘ blossom, flower ’
fe cf. it1 to blow ’
so
ji
ja JZ
mo O 2


cf. soo/sowo ‘ horse ’ (an inverted pictogram, or representing head with mane ?)
cf. ji6 water ’
cf. ja 6 eye ’
cf. mo 4 person ’ (note also the similar character mo in the Mende syllabary, with the same meaning of ‘ person ’, this being one of the few characters occurring in two different scripts with similar shape and syllabic value)
1 Cf. Migeod, 1913, p. 278 f.
2 The investigation of possible pictograms and ideograms is a hazardous operation, the imagination of the investigator not necessarily being in line with that of the original inventor.


18
DAVID DALBY
ni
ny°
cf. nii ‘ cow ’ (representing horns ?) cf. nyo 6 same, like ’ ; also the com-
pound nyomo ‘ sibling ’
Note also the use of special non-syllabic characters to represent certain polysyllabic personal names, in the 1849 version :1
Bill AA
Seli
Ssdiya
Taro <5
5. Postscript Note
At the time this paper was about to go to press, Dr. Hair and the present writer succeeded in tracing an original mid-nineteenth century manuscript in the Vai script, consisting of two pages of text. This document had been collected in Vai-land by Forbes, and was enclosed with a letter which he sent in January, 1851, to the Secretary of the British Museum. The letter and Vai manuscript are preserved in the British Museum, but the manuscript had remained unknown until 1967, owing to an inadequate reference in the catalogue of manuscripts. This appears to be the earliest known original manuscript in any of the indigenous West African scripts, and we propose to edit it at an early date.
1 See Koelle, 1849, p. 35 IT.
II. The Mende Syllabary
1. Sources
Use has been made of the following published material :
A. T. Sumner, ‘ Mendi writing ’, Sierra Leone Studies, O.S.YJ, 1932, pp. 29-33.
R. Eberl-Elber, West-Afrikas letztes Ratsel, Salzburg, 1936, pp. 73-75.
J. Friedrich, ‘ Zu einigen Schrifterfindungen der neuesten Zeit ’, Zt. der dt. morgen landischen Gesellschaft, 92 (N.F.17), 1938, pp. 189-208.
S. Milburn, ‘ Kisimi Kamara and the Mende script ’, Sierra Leone Language Review, 3, 1964, pp. 20-23.
David Dalby, ‘ An investigation into the Mende syllabary of Kisimi Kamara ’, Sierra Leone Studies, N.S.19, 1966, pp. 119-123.
In compiling the accompanying table of the Mende script, use has also been made of unpublished examples of the syllabary collected by the present writer in


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
19
1965,1 and of a further manuscript example of the syllabary collected in 1952 2 by my colleague Dr. Gordon Innes, to whom I am indebted for the use of this source.
2. Origin
The Mende syllabary was devised in 1921 3 by Kisimi Kamara (died 1962) : he appears to have been assisted in part of this task by two or three friends.
Kisimi Kamara, born around 1890, was a native of Vaama, a small village in Bari chiefdom, five miles north-east of Potoru (Kpotolu) in south-western Sierra Leone. When I visited Vaama in 1965,4 1 discovered that the inhabitants of the village, although now all Mende-speaking, are mainly Mandinka in origin, not Mende, and that Kisimi Kamara had himself been able to speak Mandinka and Vai (two closely related Northern Mande languages) as well as Mende (a Southwestern Mande language).5 He had apparently visited Vai country, and it seems certain that he was acquainted with the Vai script. In a passing reference to the inventor of the Mende script, Mosere 6 has already noted that 6. . . Kisimi Kamara, the cleverest man in Barri, continued the teaching of his Mende characters which he invented after a long persevering effort upon his return from Vai country, where he was much impressed by the writing of the Vai language ’.7
Kisimi Kamara, a tailor, is said to have first discussed his ambition to devise a Mende script with the three Sanoh brothers of Vaama, Alpha Salu and Momo, both tailors, and Ansumana, a weaver.8 I was able to meet Ansumana, the only one of the three brothers still alive, and he described how he and his brothers had suggested to Kisimi a way in which the Mende characters could be constructed on lines similar to those of the arabic script, i.e. using consonantal characters
1 Being papers of the late Kisimi Kamara, the inventor of the syllabary, which were kindly supplied to me by his family at the village of Vaama. The original manuscripts are now deposited in the Library of Fourah Bay College, Freetown.
2 As copied out by a clerk who was keeping records in the script, at Segbwema, Sierra Leone.
3 See Dalby, op. cit., p. 122.
4 I had planned to visit Kisimi Kamara in 1962, but was prevented from doing this when I was involved in a severe motor accident in Sierra Leone. When I eventually reached Vaama, three years later, it was to learn that Kisimi had actually died in 1962.
5 Kisimi Kamara’s name is in fact Mandinka, r not normally occurring in Mende. It is interesting to note that a character for the non-Mende syllable ra is included in his syllabary, presumably in order that he might spell his own name.
G See S. Mosere, ‘ The Barri Native Administration School, Potoru ’, School Notes, 9, Education Dept., Freetown, 1945, p. 36.
7 The Mende, who are neighbours of the Vai, are generally aware of the existence of the Vai script, known in Mende as tombs goloi, i.e. ‘ Tombe book ’ (cf. p. 12 above) : this name has subsequently been applied also to Kisimi’s Mende script. See also p. 14 above, for a report of Mende people ‘ trying to learn the characters of the Vai script ’.
8 Cf. the participation of a weaver-tailor in the devising of the Loma syllabary : see pp. 25-26 below.


20
DAVID DALBY
supplemented by vocalic diacritics.1 After a number of characters had been devised by them jointly in this way,2 Kisimi Kamara is said to have shut himself up alone in his house at Vaama until he had completed the whole syllabary. The story of his seclusion has already been recorded by Milburn,3 although the length of the seclusion as told to Milburn by Kisimi himself (two months and fifteeen days) is almost double the time as told to me by Ansumana Sanoh (one month and ten days) : contrast the 3| months as recorded in Sumner’s account as the time required for the completion of the script. Kisimi’s son, Mr. S. B. Kamara, insists that his father told him he had invented the syllabary unaided, although the structure of the syllabary itself seems to confirm Ansumana’s story that it was invented in two stages.4
It is perhaps not surprising that a supernatural element should be included in the tradition of the Mende script, and Kisimi Kamara is said to have been inspired in his undertaking by a dream or vision. I could not obtain any clear account of this ‘ revelation ’, which may be compared nevertheless with the accounts of dreams associated with the invention of the Vai, Loma, Kpelle and Barnum scripts.5 Kisimi appears to have had a widespread reputation for ‘ second-sight ’, and Milburn 6 has remarked that ‘ Kisimi Kamara . . . was particularly anxious to hear from me what assistance science was giving in solving the problem of spirits and their interference with human affairs ’. Both Eberl-Elber (in 1935) and Milburn (in 1942 or 1943) visited Kisimi in Potoru, and questioned him on the origin of his script, but the answers they received were not too helpful. Eberl-Elber 7 reported : 6 Es ist von Kisimi Kamara nicht zu erfahren, ob diese Zeichen seine eigene Erfindung sind, oder ob er sich bemiiht, eine alte, auBer Gebrauch geratene Schrift der Mende neu zu beleben. Auf meine wiederholten Fragen, die ich an ihn richtete, um mir Klarheit zu schaffen, gab er mir immer wieder mit den namlichen Worten einen Bescheid, der gedeutet werden konnte, wie man eben wollte ’ ; contrast Milburn :8 61 formed the impression that Kisimi Kamara would admit to no inspiration from any outside source. He claimed that he had invented his syllabary out of his head.’
3. Usage
The Mende syllabary is known by the name of Ki-ka-ku, based on the first three characters in the set order of the script.9 Kisimi’s system of teaching
1 Kisimi Kamara, like the Sanoh brothers, was a Muslim and was literate in Arabic. The fact that the Mende syllabary is written from right to left, unlike the other four scripts, is further indication of an influence from Arabic.
2 Cf. the account in Sumner, op. cit., in which Kisimi is said to have approached his two 4 brothers’ [i.e. cousins ?] for assistance in devising the script ; after they had declared themselves unable to help him, he set about the task on his own.
3 See Milburn, op. cit., p. 22. 4 See p. 23 below. 5 See p. 26 below.
G loc. cit. 7 See Eberl-Elber, op. cit., p. 74. 8 See Milburn, op. cit., p. 23.
9 It should be noted that the first two characters in the script correspond to the initial
syllables of Kisimi Kamara’s name.


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
21
involved the recitation of almost 200 characters by rote, in a more or less fixed sequence, so that the syllabic value of each character could be learned by ear while its graphic form was learned by eye. He and his pupils employed reed-pens and ink prepared from leaves, as used also in Koranic schools and by the early users of the Vai script.
Kisimi gave instruction in the script to both adults and children at Potoru, where he enjoyed the patronage of the local paramount-chief. As a result of his teaching the syllabary appears to have achieved a limited degree of popularity among the Mende during the 1920’s and 1930’s, being used especially in personal correspondence. Its usage declined rapidly from about 1940 onwards, however, with the advent of the Second World War and with the introduction of the Protectorate Literacy Bureau’s Mass Literacy Campaign, employing the roman 4 Africa ’ script for the writing of Mende.1 Milburn recounts that Kisimi’s two small sons had been taught at school to write Mende in the 6 Africa ’ script, in the early 1940’s, but that they were unable to write the Mende script invented by their father. On the other hand, Milburn noticed that the names of several prominent men in Potoru had been engraved over their doors, using characters from the syllabary, and he also came across one or two weavers and carpenters, in the Sierra Leone Protectorate, who were using what appeared to be Kisimi’s script for recording patterns and measurements. In 1965, I found that Milburn’s visit to Kisimi, over twenty years before, was still well remembered in Potoru. Kisimi’s disillusionment at the decline of interest in his syllabary must have been intensified when Milburn (then Director of Education for Sierra Leone) reminded him of the inability of his own two sons to write his script, and of the superiority of the roman alphabet over his syllabic characters.2 This situation in the 1940’s contrasts strongly with the relative flourishing of Kisimi’s script, and his consequent pride and ambition, less than ten years before.3
The Mende syllabary has continued to be used by a few individuals, such as the clerk whom Dr. Innes met at Segbwema in 1952, but is by now probably close to extinction as an actively used script.4 * This was brought home to me
1 See Milburn, op. cit., p. 23 ; P. E. H. Hair, ‘ A bibliography of the Mende language ’, Sierra Leone Language Review, 1, 1962, p. 44, note 10. In 1945, Professor Raymond Firth found that the script was very seldom employed, and was known only to a few individuals, among the population of Bo (the largest Mende town) : see D. Diringer, The Alphabet, London, 1947, p. 181.
2 See Milburn, loc. cit.
3 See Eberl-Elber, op. cit., p. 74 : ‘ Kisimi Kamara . . . nimmt seine Sendung sehr ernst und betrachtet sich als Reformator seines Volkes. Mit Genugtuung erzahlte er mir davon, daB schon eine betrachtliche Zahl von Eingeborenen seine Schrift zu schreiben versteht. Der Austausch von Botschaften des Oberhauptlings von Bari mit den Hauptlingen und Dorfverste-hern erfolgt nur mehr in den Zeichen des Mende-Alphabets ’.
4 The syllabary is apparently still used by some old and middle-aged men in the Segbwema
and Bandajuma (Yawei) area of eastern Sierra Leone, incl. Mr. Mogboi Lobia at Bandajuma,
who uses the syllabary to keep the records and accounts of local self-help societies, and the records of dowry assessments. Inscriptions in the syllabary can still be seen on older houses in


22
DAVID DALBY
forcibly in 1965, when I was unable to find a single person in Kisimi Kamara’s own village who could remember the whole syllabary. Even the older men who were proclaimed as ‘ experts ’ on the script, including Ansumana Sanoh, one of Kisimi’s original collaborators, were unable to identify all the characters. Kisimi’s relatives kindly agreed to search for the many papers he was said to have left, but after a long search through his former belongings we were able to collect a total of only fifteen pages written in the script, already badly decayed by damp and damaged by cockroaches in the three years since his death.1 These pages include copies of the syllabary, and fragmentary notes, but resemble ancient, crumbling papyri rather than records of a modern script. Remembering the destruction of the early centres of the Vai script, one could not help reflecting that Africa has not lacked its men of invention and genius, but that the traditional social environment and tropical climate have been scarcely conducive to the establishment or preservation of their ideas and inventions. The older men at Vaama spoke of Kisimi as a man of great intellect and energy, and an impression of his character may have been suggested by the dignified bearing of his surviving brother at Vaama, a tall, apparently introspective man, with deep-set, piercing eyes. Kisimi’s house is still occupied by his family, but is no longer decorated with characters from his syllabary. The only writing on the walls in 1965 was where children had chalked up the names ‘ Paris ’ and ‘ Hollywood ’.
4. Form {see Table II, pp. 44-45 below)
The Mende syllabary has a total of up to 195 characters, and is written from right to left.2
Table II, below, has been compiled from a detailed comparison of the following versions of the syllabary :
(i) The copy given by Kisimi to Eberl-Elber in 1935, with Kisimi’s own identifications added in the roman script.3
this area. For this information, I am indebted to Mr. P. J. Kuyembeh of Bandajuma, who considers that the script may have been brought to his area along the produce trade-route, returning from the coast through Potoru, and that it has survived in this remoter part of Sierra Leone by avoiding the active discouragement of the syllabary by educational authorities, as apparently took place in the Potoru area.
1 I was told that most of Kisimi’s papers, including a ‘ book ’ in the Mende syllabary, had been taken away from Vaama by his former pupil Bokari Mansaray, a tailor. The bad state of the roads at that time (in the middle of the rainy season) prevented me from reaching the village where Mr. Mansaray was then staying.
- Not left to right, as stated by Sumner, op. cit., p. 30.
3 Only isolated characters from this version were quoted by Eberl-Elber in his original account, op. cit., but he afterwards published the full copy of the syllabary in Umschau, 41, 1937, pp. 819-822. Eberl-Elber’s version was republished with a full scholarly discussion by Friedrich, op. cit. ; subsequently also by H. Baumann, R. Thurnwald and D. Westermann, Volkerkunde von Afrika, Essen, 1940, p. 377 (French version, 1948, p. 443) ; and (after being redrawn to occupy fewer lines) by D. Diringer, The Alphabet, 1947, p. 180, together with three short phrases in the script collected by Professor R. Firth.


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE 23
(ii) The copy given by Kisimi to Milburn in 1942 or 1943, with Kisimi’s own identifications.1
(iii) The unpublished copy, with identifications, collected by Innes from a clerk at Segbwema in 1952.
(iv) The unpublished copies, without identifications, collected by the present writer at Vaama in 1965.
Variations in the shape of individual characters have been included on the table within round brackets, but in general these are of a minor nature and do not present the problem which arises from the variations of shape in the Vai syllabary. A greater problem in the comparison of the different versions has arisen from variations in the phonetic identifications of specific characters, resulting from Kisimi’s uncertain knowledge of the roman script as employed for Mende,2 and probably also from inaccuracies on the part of the clerk at Segbwema. These variations have been largely resolved from a comparison of the three sets of identifications, although it is possible that a few inaccuracies may still remain. That the accompanying table is on the whole accurate, however, is indicated by the fact that most of the characters have a one-to-one relationship with the various CV structures actually occurring in Mende.3 Errors in one or other of the original identifications are often obvious, in that they involve an unnecessary duplication of characters at certain points, with resulting blanks elsewhere. It should be noted, however, that there is a constant duplication of certain characters representing syllables in the w and mb series : the reason for this duplication is not apparent.
All the versions of the syllabary preserve throughout, with minor variations, a set (largely non-phonological) order of characters. The discrepancies in the ordering have been resolved from comparison of the different versions, and the resulting numerical order of the characters is indicated in the table. Most of these discrepancies occur towards the end of the syllabary, where even Kisimi seems to have been a little inconsistent in his ordering, and some versions omit certain characters towards the end. The Segbwema version, with a total of 186 characters, includes three which do not appear in Kisimi’s own versions : these have been included on the table within square brackets, numbered 193-195 (following Kisimi’s characters 1-192).
The syllabary falls into two clear parts, consistent with the tradition that it was devised in two stages.4 Characters 1-42 are semi-alphabetic, representing
1 Published by Milburn over twenty years later, op. cit.
2 i.e. as used with diacritics, prior to the establishment of the ‘ Africa ’ script.
3 The absence of characters for the nasal consonants plus e and o may be accounted for by the fact that these vowels do not normally occur in Mende after a nasal consonant. The phoneme r does not normally occur in Mende (except as a dialect variant of 1), but for the isolated character ra, see p. 19, f.n. 15 above.
4 See p. 20 above.


24
DAVID DALBY
fourteen sets of three characters each, based consecutively on the consonants k, w, m, b, zero, d, s, 1, t, j, y, f, n, h. (Divergent arrangements also occur, in which the d set is placed after the 1 set, or in which the positions of the j and f sets are reversed.) The first character in all but the last of these sets represents the relevant consonant plus i (e in the h set), and the second and third characters are formed from the basic character by the addition of one or two diacritics respectively, to represent the relevant consonant plus a and u (a and o in the h set).1 The characters from 43ija onwards, however, are phonologically in haphazard sequence, the majority of these being primary characters, with no clear relationship to any other character in the syllabary. Occasional semi-alphabetic characters, based on the initial sets 1-42, are scattered about among these primary characters, apparently at random : cf. for example 45wo, 55te, 78fe and 117ne. Note also the use of a rectangle as a common element in three characters of the & series. How Kisimi arrived at the strange ordering of his characters must be a matter for conjecture, but one may suppose that the first part of the syllabary was constructed on a theoretical basis, while subsequent characters were added at random as he thought of them, or when he realized that a particular syllable was not yet catered for.2
In addition to the use of diacritics to indicate variations of vowel after the same consonant, suggested apparently by the system of vowel-marking in the arabic script, there are scattered examples also of the use of diacritics to indicate variations of consonant before the same vowel, as in the Vai syllabary : cf. for example xki, 90gi, 155ijgi ; 35fa, 185va ; 149nje, 109ye ; 65ke, 190ge, 115ijge ; 48ko, 12Ogo ; 141yo, 134njo. As will be seen from some of these examples, consonantal diacritics and vocalic diacritics have sometimes been employed with the same basic character : cf. 90gi, 155rjgi, as consonantal variations of xki; and 2ka, 3ku, 65ke, as vocalic variations of xki. The majority of related characters with an identical vowel involve consonants which stand in a mutational relationship with one another in Mende,3 and it is strange that Kisimi should not have made a more regular use of such related characters, which would have proved ideal for the writing of Mende. We thus have the extraordinary situation that the system of related characters in the Mende syllabary is less suitable for the Mende language than the corresponding system in the Vai syllabary would have been, whereas the system of related characters in the Vai syllabary would have proved more suitable for the Mende language than for Vai.
1 There seems to be no obvious reason for the irregular pattern in the h set. The irregularity does not arise from a corruption, since it is attested by both Eberl-Elber’s and Milburn’s versions, and was also confirmed to me at Vaama by the older men who could still recite the first part of the syllabary.
2 Although the ordering of some primary and derived characters indicate that the original order of invention is probably not preserved throughout, cf. 134njo < 141yo, and B6gba < 93gbe.
3 See p. 3, f.n. 1 above.


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE 25
Numerals are represented in the Mende syllabary by the characters of their initial syllables, with additional diacritics where necessary.1
The following may be quoted here as examples of syllabic characters in the Mende script with a possible pictographic/ideographic origin :
mbo y x cf. mbo ‘ to dig ’
mbo cf. mbowa ‘ knife ’
gbu © cf. gbu ‘ all night ’ (representing night-sky ?)
fo cf. fo ‘ to reach, pass through ’
lo cf. lo ‘ to stand ’
ndo cf. ndo ‘ child ’
hou cf. hou ‘ to hold ’
mo FQH cf. -mo ‘ person ’ (suffix) (for the similar
Vai character see p. 17 above)
1 See Eberl-Elber, op. cit., p. 74.
III. The Loma Syllabary
1. Sources
The only published sources available have been :
J. Joffre, ‘ A new West African alphabet used by the Toma,2 French Guinea and Liberia ’, Man, XLIII, no. 85, 1943, pp. 108-112 (with appended note by T. Monod).
J. Joffre, ‘ Sur un nouvel alphabet ouest-africain : le Toma ’, Bull, de VI.F.A.N., VII, nos 1—4, 1945 [publ. 1949], pp. 160-173.
1 am indebted to Mr. ‘Patrick D. K. Akoi, of Cuttington College, Liberia, for information on the use of the Loma script by his late father.
2. Origin
The Loma syllabary was devised in the 1930’s by Wido Zo6o : he appears to have been assisted in this task by a weaver,3 and perhaps also by a woman. Wido, who had previously been employed on the Firestone plantation in Liberia, was a native of Boneketa (Liberia). After a trip to Dulukolo (i.e. Monrovia) to
2 ‘ Toma ’ is an alternative name for Loma, employed especially in Guinea.
3 Cf. the invention of the Mende syllabary by a tailor, assisted by two other tailors and a weaver : see p. 19 above.
c


26
DAVID DALBY
buy thread, Wido is said to have visited his friend Moriba, a weaver, to ask him to make a garment for him (Moriba was therefore also a tailor). As they talked, Wido complained that God had not permitted the Loma to have a system of writing of their own, with which to send messages over a long distance. As he was sleeping the following night, Wido dreamed that he was in the presence of God, whom he accused of leaving the Loma in ignorance. God replied that he was afraid to give them the power of writing, lest they should cease to respect the beliefs and customs of their tribe and become over-proud. Wido swore that the Loma would continue to live as in the past, and that they would respect the ‘ secret of initiation ’. God accepted these conditions, and agreed to ‘ give writing ’ to Wido if he would promise never to teach it to a woman.1 He instructed him to make ink the next day by pounding and boiling the leaves of a certain type of creeper. Wido did this, and then undertook the devising of the Loma characters in conjunction with Moriba, the weaver.
The tradition that the Loma script was inspired by a dream is reminiscent not only of the traditions concerning the Vai, Mende and Kpelle scripts,2 but also of the Cameroun tradition that King Njoya was inspired by a dream to start work on the Barnum script.3 Schmitt (apparently unaware of the Mende and Loma scripts) considers that the inventors of the Vai and Barnum scripts were encouraged in their efforts by actual dreams, resulting from their previous reflections on the subject. It seems perhaps more likely, however, that the inventors in question were shrewd enough to appreciate the attitude of their own peoples, and that they therefore preceded the introduction of their scripts with stories of revelation and accompanying tabus. They are likely to have appreciated the much greater respect which would attach to their discovery, and to themselves, if the creation of their scripts were presented as spiritual revelation rather than as intellectual invention.4 Compare the traditional ‘ revelation ’ of the Obsri Dkaims secret
1 Although a variant tradition omits the tabu relating to women, and tells of a woman, named Koita, who assisted in the subsequent devising of the syllabary. The two traditions are not necessarily in conflict, however, since an individual woman often plays a prominent role— at least in this part of West Africa—in rituals or societies which are tabu to women in general. The references to a respect for ‘ beliefs and customs ’ and for the ‘ secret of initiation ’ would seem to reflect a general attitude among the Loma and neighbouring tribes, who (as Mr. T. Mercer has kindly pointed out) have a widely felt fear that writing may be used to record the oral secrets of the Poro and other traditional societies.
2 See pp. 7 and 20 above, and 29 below ; note also Kali Bara’s (bogus ?) dream, p. 8 above.
3 See A. Schmitt, Die Bamum-Schrift, Wiesbaden, 1963, I, p. 18-19.
4 The presentation of the scripts as divine or spiritual ‘ revelation ’ would of course be in harmony with the passive attitude towards writing, adopted frequently by illiterate communities. Writing is commonly regarded in such communities as a blessing or gift, rather than as something to be invented or acquired by individual effort.
See M. J. and F. S. Herskovits, Suriname Folk-lore, New York, 1936, p. 83, for details and illustration of undeciphered writing revealed to a Paramaribo negro while in a state of possession by his winti or ‘ familiar spirit ’ (which was reputed to have come from ‘ Demakuku ’ [in Dahomey ?] and to have been in his family for at least five generations).


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
27
language and script by ‘ Seminant ’ (i.e. the Holy Spirit), in Eastern Nigeria ;1 compare also the air of mystery which the inventors of the Mende and Kpelle scripts appear to have achieved by their almost ritual seclusion at the time they were devising their characters.
3. Usage
According to Joffre, the syllabary soon became established among the Loma in Liberia, and to a lesser extent among their kinsmen in Guinea. It was used for personal correspondence, and was also used by Loma foremen on the Firestone plantation to record the names of their workers. An important factor in the propagation of the Loma syllabary appears to have been the requirement that everyone learning the script should swear to his teacher that he would afterwards teach the script to whoever wished to learn it.
In 1965, Mr. D. Raiche of the Holy Cross Mission at Bolahun, Liberia, informed me that a Loma pupil at the mission-school, Patrick D. K. Akoi, had recently written an essay mentioning the use of the Loma script by his father, and regretting that he had never learned it himself. I have subsequently corresponded with Mr. Akoi, now a student at Cuttington College, who has informed me that his late father, Kutu Akoi, kept a business diary and financial records in the script, at the small town of Zawodamai, northern Liberia (where he also gave instruction in the script). Kutu Akoi’s papers are in the possession of Mr. Patrick Akoi’s uncle at Zawodamai, but few men there have retained any interest in the script, and most of Kutu Akoi’s former pupils have now forgotten how to read or write it. Mr. Patrick Akoi has very kindly sent me some short extracts in the script, from his father’s papers.
4. Form, (see Table III, pp. 46-47 below}
The Loma syllabary has a total of (at least) 185 characters, and is written from left to right.
Table III, below, has been compiled from the lists of characters quoted by Joffre (1943 and 1945), the phonological arrangement being based on the analysis of Loma phonology by Sadler.2 Joffre modestly admits his lack of linguistic training, and emphasizes the tentative nature of his phonetic identifications. He is, however, to be congratulated for the clarity with which he presents the syllabary (1945 edition), supplementing it with a short text and word-list in the script. The analysis of this text and word-list, in terms of known Loma forms, shows Joffre’s identifications of individual characters to be generally accurate. This analysis has also enabled most of the values of Joffre’s (non-standard) phonetic orthography to be established with certainty, and has also enabled a few additions and amendments to be made to his list of characters and phonetic
1 See R. F. G. Adams, ‘ Oberi Dkaime... ’, Africa, 17, 1947, pp. 24-34.
2 See W. Sadler, Untangled Loma, United Lutheran Church in America, 1951.


28
DAVID DALBY
identifications. It is possible that the syllabary is not recorded by him in its complete form, however, as indicated by the absence of characters to represent syllables commencing in kp (except kpe), and other essential syllables such as fs, no, etc. It should also be noted that there is only irregular provision for distinctions of vowel length, although the textual items quoted by Joffre indicate this to be a probable defect of the script itself.1 The present table is of course tentative, and will need to be revised in the light of any further material which Mr. Patrick Akoi is able to make available. The few short extracts which he has already provided are not accompanied by any transcription or identification, and the characters used by his father show hardly any variation in form from those recorded by Joffre.
Loma operates a mutational system,2 like its sister-languages Mende and Kpelle, but there is scarcely any reflection of this in the construction of the syllabary. Possible exceptions are the pairs of characters fe/ve, faa/vaa, da/la and ye/ge. The Loma syllabary stands in contrast to the other three syllabaries in being composed almost entirely of primary characters, little or no use having been made of diacritics as a means of deriving secondary characters.
The following may be quoted as examples of syllabic characters in the Loma script with a possible pictographic/ideographic origin :
pe LU cf. p£ ‘ all ’
ba cf. 6a ‘ no ’
da ® cf. da ‘ to place ’/‘ place ’ (noun)
do tLt cf. do ‘ to go in, put in ’
sa P cf. sa ‘ female ’
see cf. see ‘ elephant ’ (representing tusks ?)
soo i> V cf. soo ‘ horse ’ (representing horse’s head ? for similar Vai character see p. 17 above)
ze cf. zee ‘ arm, hand ’
kai cf. kai ‘ seed ’
The labio-dental voiced plosive in Loma is represented on the accompanying table by ’v.
The symbol + is used in the Loma script (as also in the Bassa script) as a punctuation-mark, corresponding to both a comma and a full-stop.
1 In a few cases, however, Joffre may have recorded long vowels as short : this would explain the occurrence of two or more different forms of character for wi, wo, bu, ve, etc., and the absence of any characters for wii, woo, buu, vee, etc. Joffre’s identification of diphthongs and of oral consonant/nasal vowel combinations also needs checking, in terms of the actual phonological possibilities in Loma. 2 See p. 3, f.n. 1 above.


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE 29
IV. The Kpelle Syllabary
1. Sources
The only published source available on this script has been :
A. Lassort, ‘ L’ecriture guerzee ’/ Premiere Conference Internationale des Africanistes de 1’Ouest, 1945, Comptes rendus, II, 1951, pp. 209-215.
The critical study of the syllabary is facilitated, however, by the fact that Lassort lists the characters recorded in two independent versions of the syllabary, collected by him in different areas. The earliest reference to the Kpelle script (but with no details provided) appears to be :
J. Friedrich, ‘ Schriftgeschichtliche Betrachtungen ’, Zt. der dt. morgen-landischen Gesellschaft, 91 (N.F.16), 1937, p. 331.1 2
I wish to express my sincere thanks to Professor W. E. Weimers, of the University of California, Los Angeles, for having provided me verbally with further valuable information on this script.
2. Origin
The Kpelle syllabary appears to have been devised in the 1930’s by Gbili, then paramount-chief of Sanoyea,3 Liberia. Lassort was told that Gbili had died in about 1940, but this was denied by his two other informants. Professor Weimers, who recently met (ex-chief) Gbili, has confirmed that he was still alive in 1966.
Gbili is reputed (in Lassort’s account) to have fallen victim to an unknown illness, which remained with him for seven years : some people thought that he had been poisoned, others that he had been bewitched. At the end of seven years he is said to have emerged from his confinement in the Bong Hills with his completed system of writing : ‘ Ce n’etait pas une maladie qu’il avait, c’etait l’ecriture... ’. Gbili had reputedly been working on the script during this long period, and had produced his set of characters unaided. In conflict with this tale is the simpler version given to Professor Weimers by Gbili himself—that the script had been revealed to him in a dream one night, by an angel.
Lassort places the date of Gbili’s invention (or its completion) at not more than five or six years before the date of his own paper, compiled probably in 1944. Friedrich’s scholarly reference to the script in 1937, however, must put the date of its invention back to 1935 or earlier.
1 ‘ Guerze ’ is an alternative name for Kpelle, employed especially in Guinea.
2 ‘ Nach freundlicher Mitteilung Klingenhebens sollen auch die Kapelle [sic] nordlich der Basa eine eigene Schrift besitzen, uber die allerdings noch gar nichts bekannt ist.’
3 Corresponding to ‘ Hanoye the northern Kpelle form of the same place-name (as recorded by Lassort).


DAVID DALBY
30
3. Usage
Gbili is said—by Lassort—to have given up his position as paramount-chief after his sickness, in order to devote himself to the propagation of his script.1 (Professor Weimers informs me that Gbili was actually deposed.) The script appears to have gained some measure of popularity in the Kakata-Sanoyea area of Liberia, and had reached the Kpelle-speaking parts of Guinea by 1942. Nevertheless, it does not seem to have been mastered by more than a very small minority among the Kpelle, either in Liberia or in Guinea, and Lassort found that the form of the individual characters varied considerably from one area to another. Professor Weimers confirms that the script is now very rarely used.2
4. Form (see Table IV, pp. 48-49 below)
The Kpelle syllabary, as recorded by Lassort, has a total of 88 characters. The direction of writing is apparently from left to right.
Table IV, below, has been compiled from the two versions of the script collected by Lassort. The second version (Version A) appears to be the more consistent and complete, and characters from this version have therefore been quoted first, followed in brackets by any variant forms in the first of Lassort’s versions (Version B). The phonological arrangement of the table has been based on the analysis of Kpelle phonology by Weimers.3 The many lacunae indicate that the syllabary is incomplete, and there also appears to be no provision for the distinctions of vowel-length in Kpelle. The absence in both versions of any representation for the same potential syllables suggests that the script was perhaps not perfected by Chief Gbili at the time of its original invention (and hence that he is unlikely to have spent the long period of seven years in devising it). If the script was defective from the outset, then this would account for the excessive fluctuation and imaginative additions to the syllabary which Lassort observed among its users. A critical comparison of the two versions, however, has made it possible to eliminate a number of internal discrepancies arising from Lassort’s presentation (including a few obvious misprints in the phonetic identifications).
A notable feature of the syllabary is that it makes regular provision for the mutational system in Kpelle, employing the same character for both syllables in each mutational pair.4 In this respect, the Kpelle syllabary may be compared to the Vai and Mende syllabaries, to which it is superior in making better use of mutational characters in the written system (and thereby achieving a considerable economy in the number of characters employed).
1 For the use of the Vai script among the Kpelle, before the introduction of Gbili’s script, see p. 14, f.n. 1 above.
2 Although Professor Weimers has drawn attention to a recent application of the script by a Kpelle cook, who used it to compile a recipe-book while in the employ of an American missionary.
3 See p. 3, f.n. 1 above.
4 Involving prefixed low tone in the second member of each pair.


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
31
Similar characters for some syllables with the same consonant but different vowels (cf. the Mende syllabary) are used in the i and e series. The characters pi/bi and pe/be (in Version A), Bi/mi and Be/me, li/ni and le/he are distinguished by the presence or absence of diacritics, and the characters pi/bi and pe/be (in Version B), fi/vi and fe/ve, yi and ye, wi and we, are represented by identical characters (through the loss or duplication of original diacritics ?). Diacritics (in the form of additional hooks or strokes) are also used for occasional distinctions outside the regular mutational pairs, e.g. pi/bi and kpi/gbi (in Version A), É“e/ihs and kpe/gbe, hu/ju and po/bo. Note also the use of a diacritic to distinguish ye/nye and ye/iiys (in Version A).
The alternative forms for 6o/riio, kpe/gbe and ke/gt, in Version B, look suspicious, as though they may have been based on cursive roman or arabic writing, the informant perhaps having forgotten the exact form of the original character.
Professor Weimers has provided a valuable piece of supplementary information on the form of the Kpelle script, relating to the use of a point (or small circle) to distinguish low-tone elements from non-low. The diacritic is placed immediately after a syllabic character in the case of syllabic low-tone, and immediately before a syllabic character in the case of prefixed low-tone. Since Lassort makes no reference to this tonal diacritic, it may represent a subsequent addition to Gbili’s original script (suggested perhaps by the tonal diacritics of the Bassa alphabet).
The following may be quoted as examples of syllabic characters in the Kpelle script with a possible pictographic/ideographic origin (such characters being less common, or at least less obvious, than in the other syllabaries):
pa te J cf. paa ‘ to kill ’ cf. tee ‘ to cut ’
so cf. soo ‘ horse ’ (for similar Vai character see p. 17 above)
ko cf. koo ‘ leg, foot ’ (representing two legs ?)
pa cf. Ba ‘ eye ’ (representing two eyes ?)
V. The Bassa Alphabet
1. Sources
For information on the Bassa alphabet I am deeply indebted to Mr. Abba G. Kamga of Radio Station ELWA, Liberia, to Miss June Hobley of the Liberia Inland Mission, and to Mrs. Gail Stewart, formerly a teacher at Robertsport. In 1965, Mr. Karnga kindly sent me a traditional account of the invention of the script, as compiled by him, together with a duplicated chart of Bassa characters


32
DAVID DALBY
with their approximate English equivalents. Mr. Karnga had also supplied a copy of this information to Dr. W. J. Pichl, who has subsequently published a summary of Mr. Karnga’s material, with a few additional notes :
W. J. Pichl, ‘ L’ecriture bassa au Liberia ’, Bull, de I'LF.A.N., XXVIII, ser. B, nos 1-2, 1966, pp. 481-484.
Through the very kind offices of Mrs. Stewart, I have also obtained two duplicated pamphlets on the Bassa ‘ Vah script ’ (8 pp.), and on the ‘ Bassa Vah Association ’ (7 pp.), both produced in Liberia [1966 ?] by the Bassa Vah Association.
A few isolated words or characters in the Bassa alphabet have been included in :
H. Baumann, R. Thurnwald and D. Westermann, Volkerkunde von Afrika, Essen, 1940, pp. 380 and 426 (French edition, LesPeuples et les Civilisations de I’Afrique, Paris, 1948, pp. 446 and 492).
C. A. Diop, Nations negres et Culture, Paris, 1955, p. 213.1 An early reference to the Bassa alphabet is contained in :
Graham Greene, Journey without Maps, London, 1936 (Pan Books ed. 1957, pp. 221 and 253).
In the course of this travelogue, the author mentions that he acquired a fragment of the Bassa script during his travels in Liberia in the early 1930’s. I corresponded with Mr. Greene in 1964, but he wrote to say that he could no longer trace the fragment.
2. Origin
The Bassa alphabet dates probably from the 1920’s, and appears to have been invented by Dr. Thomas Flo Lewis, a Bassa, who began teaching the script on his return to Liberia from medical training in the United States. The accurate tone-marking system employed in this alphabet contrasts with the absence of any tonal elements in three of the four syllabaries, and strongly suggests that the script had been devised by someone with a Western analytical training. Modern Bassa tradition, as recorded by Mr. Karnga, suggests that the modern alphabet may have been derived from a more complicated, pre-alphabetic script, with a longer history. There does not appear to be any documentary evidence of the prior existence of such a script among the Bassa, and it is possible that the tradition is a camouflage for the derivation of their alphabet from the Vai syllabary.2
1 Diop gives no bibliographical references, apart from mentioning Westermann and ‘ Jeffrey ’.
2 Cf. Graham Greene’s comment, in the early 1930’s : ‘ It is the pride of the Vai people that they have the only written language in Africa, but the Bassa are imitating them, and I found a piece of their script stuck, perhaps as a charm, in the roof of my hut ’ (op. cit., p. 221). In my own article on the Mende syllabary (Dalby, op. cit., p. 120) I stated that the Bassa script was devised in the nineteenth century ; this should be corrected, since there is in fact no firm evidence to support this.


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
33
It would be valuable to know whether the Vai syllabary has ever been used by the Bassa to write their own language,1 and in this respect it may be mentioned that one of the original collaborators in the devising of the Vai script (Kali Bara) was Bassa on his father’s side, and maintained contact with Bassa country.2 The Bassa alphabet is known by the Bassa themselves as the ‘ Vah ’ script, and it may be that this title is related to the name ‘ Vai ’.3
The tradition of origin for the Bassa ‘ Vah ’ script, as recorded in English by Mr. Karnga, was compiled by him from information from various Bassa elders,4 and from Paramount Chief Barsi Geah. Quite apart from its relevance to the present theme, this account forms a delightful piece of narrative, and a quotation at length is justified :
‘. . . The VAH was first introduced to the Bassas by Mr. Dirah, a Bassa man who was later sold to Cuban and Portuguese slave traders. Mr. Dirah was a professor of this Bassa code. The signs of VAH included bent arms, cupped palms, etc., indicating “ go ”, “ wait ”, “ eat ”, “ drink ”, etc.5 These signs were learned mostly by wives of the Bassa chiefs, who misused this wonderful code by communicating thereby with their “ learned ” lovers, thus being unfaithful to their husbands. Even Professor Dirah himself was reported in love with Madam Toeman, the head-wife and medicine-wife of King Blogbee, king over all the ancient Bassa chiefs. When King Blogbee heard of the unfaithfulness of his wife, he wasted no time in getting rid of Professor Dirah, and sold him to Cuban and Portuguese slave-traders, whose settlement was on the coast in the area now known as Lower Buchanan. Old Dirah eventually landed in the United States, and as a slave there he kept on with the Bassa symbols. His work attracted some Americans, who wished to learn the code from him. As many people were already learning it from him, they could see at once how easy and important it was. They asked Professor Dirah what he wanted them to pay as a school-fee, and he requested that his girl-friend Toeman, for whom he was sold into slavery, might be brought to the United States. The Americans did not hesitate, but collected money and gave it to the same traders to come and buy Madam Toeman.
‘ It is said that when the traders came to Lower Buchanan, Toeman had
1 Cf. use of the Vai script by the De, neighbours of the Bassa and speakers of a closely related Kru language : see p. 14 above.
2 As recorded in Bara’s autobiographical text, the ‘ Book of Rora ’ : see p. 9 above. Although the phonemic systems of the two languages differ, it would nevertheless have been an easy matter to adopt the Vai syllabary for Bassa use, since Vai has a larger phonemic inventory.
3 The name ‘ Vah ’ is used also by Mr. Karnga to describe the other indigenous scripts of Liberia, which he considers to have developed out of the Bassa ‘ Vah ’.
4 i.e. Flodyoo William Nynakpe, Hwieh, Paye and Paye Doe.
5 This may be a reference to the possible traditional use of isolated pictograms or ideograms among the Bassa, as distinct from (or in addition to) any use of a pre-alphabetic script. Cf. the Bassa Vah Association pamphlet on the script, which suggests that it had evolved ‘ from special signs of communication cherished for generations by the Bassa people ’.


34
DAVID DALBY
already been cast out by her husband and treated as “ Kpoodeeh ” (a deserted wife), on account of her love-affairs with Professor Dirah. For King Blogbee to get rid of her was a simple matter, and she was the first person to be sold to the traders.
‘ It was a wonderful time for Professor Dirah and Madam Toeman when she arrived in the States. No doubt the people were happy and perhaps many Bassa songs were sung in the welcoming ceremonies. Both of them lived happily afterwards in the States and to them a lovely boy child was born. He was named Jenni Dirah. In his home, the child had every opportunity to learn about his original homeland, the condition of its people, their education, economy and ways of life. He learned from his parents the cause of their presence in a country where they were somewhat restricted to farm-work. At the same time, both parents faithfully taught their child their only means of communication besides speech, the VAH. As the only thing he had to learn, the VAH was soon eaten up by the lad.
‘ In the course of time, the frail body of the old professor succumbed to the hard farm labours. Young Jenni Dirah stepped into his father’s footprints with all the vigour of youth. He expanded the VAH as much as was possible, in the face of all sorts of odds.
‘ Prominent leaders of the Bassa tribe who used the VAH script both before and after the Liberian Declaration of Independence have been gleaned from among the Bassas. During Colonial days in Liberia, the Bassas used the VAH tremendously to the safety of the Colonists and the Colony. Chief Bob Gray, who lived on the shore of the St. John’s river, was a true friend of the Colonists in 1822. When various tribal groups made several attacks on the newly established Colonists during the Forth Hill and Crown Hill attacks in 1822, it was Bob Gray who by the help of the VAH forewarned the Colonists of the attack, and therefore they were forearmed... ?
‘ Nevertheless, the production of the VAH as a definite scientific script remained to be undertaken by another better prepared for the task, the famous Dr. Thomas Flo Davin Gbianvoodeh Jidah Lewis. Dr. Lewis was a Bassa man, born in Hodoahzon, Seahn Section of Grand Bassa County, between 1870 and 1875. He attended the Grand Bassa Government School, and after completing the studies offered there, he left for the United States with Mr. Tukpa, a missionary, for the purpose of acquiring higher education. Besides other studies, he took up industrial chemistry, and was especially interested in drugs and medicine. While in the States, Thomas Flo Lewis and Tukpa were greatly happy to meet Jenni Dirah. While on the island [?] with
1 The first settlement of freed slaves from the United States was established on the Liberian coast in 1822. In view of the dominant position in Liberia which the Americo-Liberian descendents of the Colonists still hold, it remains politic for the indigenous tribes to recount ‘ traditions ’ of how they gave support to the early Colonists.


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
35
Jenni Dirah, Dr. Lewis learned from him the VAH in its improved but unpublished stage. Having mastered and written down the VAH code, Dr. Lewis published it. As neither Professor Dirah nor his son Jenni published the improved VAH code, and as it was first published by Dr. Lewis, the credit for the invention of the VAH code can be safely given to Dr. Lewis. He taught (or rather presented again) the VAH in its reduced form to the people in his immediate environment.
‘ Having completed his course of study, Dr. Lewis returned to his native land to be of benefit to his people. It is widely held that he was one of the best doctors Liberia could then afford. Many serious cases which doctors had pronounced absolutely fatal were taken over by Dr. Lewis for his eventual treatment....
‘ Dr. Lewis had begun an institution in Bassa country for teaching the VAH in its advanced stage. He asked assistance from Chiefs Gleeder, Kpawredyu, Gblozio, Dyuntakpuah, David, Duah, Boojin, Bruah and Swi. The chiefs refused, believing that their wives would be attracted to love affairs once they knew the writing. Bassa men, however, from all over Bassa County came and learned it from Dr. Lewis. He taught hundreds of people the VAH script, and translated into Bassa many valuable literary selections, including several chapters of the Bible.... For this invaluable contribution, Dr. Lewis will never be forgotten by the people.
‘ One of the students of Dr. Lewis was my uncle Barni Cheevehn who taught me this Bassa “ book ” in 1942. His classmates included such prominent government officials of Bassa County as Counselor at Law Jacob B. Logan, the late Senator Morgan and the late Representative Thomas H. Greeves.
‘ While people were learning this Bassa script in Liberia, it was seen by some missionaries, who arranged the alphabet for the printing press. When these missionaries went home [to the United States ?] they sent the printing press to Dr. Lewis. Some type from the printing press is still available in Liberia.
‘ The VAH script is widely used among the Bassa tribe.... About 25 per cent of the letters which we receive in the Bassa Language Department of Radio Station ELWA are in the VAH script.’
Assuming that Dirah was an historical character, and that he was sold into slavery during the early nineteenth century, it is perhaps just possible that Dr. Lewis could have met Dirah’s son in the States at the end of that century (presumably by chance). It seems very much more likely, however, that the tradition in its modern form represents the conflation of an older, imaginative tradition, relating perhaps to the use of an earlier (Vai ?) syllabary, and a recent, more reliable tradition, relating to the introduction of the modern Bassa alphabet. The reference to an ‘ improved VAH code ’ and to ‘ the VAH in its reduced form ’ indicates that two different levels of script may be involved in the tradition.


36
DAVID DALBY
The tradition that the alphabetic script was introduced by Dr. Lewis on his return from America is reflected also in other sources. Baumann, Thurnwald and Westermann 1 note that ‘ als Erfinder der Basaschrift wird ein noch lebender aus Amerika eingewanderter Neger angegeben Mrs. Stewart (personal communication) has recorded the tradition that the ‘ Bassa book ’ was brought from ‘ England ’ by a Bassa man, Dr. Lewis, in about 1925. (If Mr. Karnga’s estimate of Dr. Lewis’ birth-date is correct, however, he would by then have been about fifty years old.) In the recent pamphlet on the script, prepared by the Bassa Vah Association, Dr. Lewis is said to have ‘ arranged and modernized the VAH . . . while studying at Syracuse University in the U.S.A. ’, and to have started teaching the script when he returned to Liberia in the 1910’s. Pichl2 notes that the script, according to some Bassa, was not introduced until 1930. Klingenheben,3 writing in 1933 or early 1934, states that the Bassa script was ‘ invented a few years ago ’ by a ‘ learned Basa native ’ (this information having been received from a missionary in Liberia). From these various brief reports (as well as from the references to the script by Graham Greene),4 it seems that the Bassa alphabet was devised—or at least introduced—by Dr. Flo Lewis soon after the end of the First World War, probably during the 1920’s.
Although no tradition of spiritual revelation is recorded for the Bassa script (unlike the four syllabaries), there is nevertheless a suggestion by the Bassa Vah Association that the alphabet was divinely inspired : 6 ‘To the Bassa man’s knowledge, God gave many gifts to the human race but the greatest... is the ability to read and write. Hence the Bassas supplicated God for equal knowledge to comprehend and utilize the blessing. And God honored their prayers by raising up Dr. Thomas F. D. G. Lewis who arranged and modernized the “VAH”. . . ’
3. Usage
For the usage of the alphabet, since its introduction by Dr. Lewis, see the last part of Mr. Karnga’s account above. The reference to translations into the Bassa script, and to the setting up of a printing-press for the special characters, is supported by scholarly references elsewhere,6 although no bibliographical
1 op. cit., p. 426 (French version, p. 492 : ‘ l’inventeur de l’ecriture des Bassa serait un jeune Noir venu d’Amerique ’). The implication that the inventor was an American negro would seem to be unfounded. Friedrich, op. cit., 1937, p. 328, f.n. 2, goes even further, dismissing the Bassa alphabet as the invention of European missionaries (on account of its form).
2 op. cit., p. 484.
3 Letter on ‘ The Vai script ’, Africa, VII, 1934, p. 99.
4 op. cit.
5 In their pamphlet on the ‘ Vah script ’. See p. 33, f.n. 5 above.
’ Cf. Friedrich, loc. cit. : ‘ Diese [Basa-Schrift] wird bisher in keiner Schriftgeschichte erwahnt, doch habe ich Proben von ihr (Leseubungen und einige Kirchenlieder), die in Liberia gedruckt sind, durch die Freundlichkeit Klingenhebens erhalten.’ Cf. also Baumann, Thurnwald and Westermann, loc. cit. : ‘ Es gibt in dieser [Basa-]Schrift Druckwerke, darunter eine Anlei-tung zum Lesenlernen.’ The calligraphic form of the characters reproduced by Baumann,


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE 37
details or examples of printed material have yet been traced by the present writer.
The Bassa Vah Association (known also as the ‘ Bassa Dialect Program ’) was established in Liberia in 1959, with the aim of promoting the use of the script and the production of Bassa texts. The Association has produced duplicated pamphlets on the actual script and on its own somewhat elaborate constitution.1
4. Form {see Table V, p. 50 below)
The Bassa alphabet has a total of twenty-three consonantal characters, seven vocalic characters, and five tonal diacritics, and is written from left to right. From a purely practical point of view, it is markedly superior to the syllabaries, being phonetically more sophisticated and simpler in form. As an invention, however, it involves less imagination and ingenuity than the other four scripts.
Table V, below, has been based on versions of the alphabet in duplicated form, as received from Mr. Karnga and from the Bassa Vah Association pamphlet (both with ‘ English ’ equivalents), and in manuscript form, as received from Miss Hobley (with phonetic equivalents) and from Mrs. Stewart (without phonetic equivalents). The consonantal characters have been arranged in the table below according to the phonological division between lenis and fortis.2 The first (or only) form quoted for each character is as recorded by Mr. Karnga, the Bassa Vah Association, and Miss Hobley (the forms in these three versions being identical throughout3) ; variant forms have been quoted in brackets, wherever these occur in Mrs. Stewart’s version or in the examples quoted by Baumann, Thurnwald and Westermann or by Diop. Mr. Karnga’s and the Association’s 4 English ’ equivalents and tonal terminology are not always clear, and the identification of the characters and tonal diacritics has been based
Thurnwald and Westermann, and by Diop, indicates that these were probably obtained from printed material (the style being reminiscent of Hebrew characters). The Bassa Vah Association pamphlet mentions 4 VAH printing machines ’, brought by Dr. Lewis from the United States 4 in the 1910s
1 The declared purposes of the Bassa Vah Association are as follows : 4 a. To set up a literacy program for translating works from English and/or other languages into Bassa . . . ; b. To re-introduce teaching of the BASSA VAH Script. . . ; c. To contribute to the social and cultural programs of the Nation ; d. To promote the natural ability of the people in self-expressions [sic] through the writing of pamphlets and leaflets or even booklets, for the preservation of our richly idiomatic expressions.’
2 For the dichotomy between lenis and fortis consonants in Bassa, and its tonal implications, see J. Hobley, 4 A preliminary tonal analysis of the Bassa language ’, J. West Afr. lang., 1, 2, 1964, p. 53.
3 Reflecting recent standardization of the script by the Association ?


38
DAVID DALBY
primarily on Miss Hobley’s equivalents.1 It should also be noted that Miss Hobley’s identifications of the characters appear to be more complete, in that the phonemes gm, 6, dy and ny (missing from Mr. Karnga’s and the Association’s charts) appear to be accounted for by the existence of three characters with dual oral/nasal values, i.e. gb/gm (the Association’s gb), b/m (the Association’s m), and dy/ny (the Association’s y).2 Miss Hobley’s 4 corresponds to the Association’s 1 (dialect variants, or allophones ?), but the r recorded in both their identifications (and by Mr. Karnga) does not appear to be a normal phoneme in Bassa.
The consonantal characters are numbered in the table to indicate the set order in which they occur, this order being identical in all versions of the complete alphabet. The vowels are not included in this numbering, as they form a separate group in each case, arranged more or less in phonological order. An interesting feature of the alphabet is that the consonantal characters have names composed of the relevant consonant plus a vowel, while the vocalic characters have names composed of a repetition of the relevant vowel with a consonant between. The names of the consonantal characters are as follows, in their set sequence :3 1 (n)ni, 2 ka, 3 se, 4 fa, 5 mi, 6 ye, 7 ga, 8 di, 9 kpa, 10 ja, 11 xwa, 12 wa, 13 zo, 14 gbu, 15 1 The five tonal diacritics (in the order in which they are recorded on the table below) are interpreted as follows by Mr. Karnga and the Bassa Vah Association : 4 high ’ or 4 acute ’ ; 4 low ’ or 4 grave ’ ; 4 middle-raise ’ or 4 mid-high ’ (‘ not acute or grave 4 raise voice from low ’); 4 drag ’ or 4 mid-low ’ (‘ slant the word ’) ; and 4 double ’ or 4 twin ’ (‘ high and low ’). Miss Hobley (in her personal communication) has interpreted these, respectively, as 4 high ’ ; 4 low ’ ; 4 mid ’ ; 4 low-high glide ’ ; and 4 high-low glide With the exception of the 4 low-high glide ’, these represent the (four) basic tonemes of Bassa, as described by Hobley, op. cit. The 4 low-high glide ’ is an allotone of high, although the corresponding tonal diacritic in the script (-) is interpreted differently by the Association, i.e. as 4 mid-low ’, an allotone of 4 low ’. These 4 low-high ’ and 4 mid-low ’ glides are mutually exclusive, however, the former occurring only after fortis consonants, and the latter only after lenis consonants. An examination of the small amount of textual material available in the Bassa script has yielded eighteen examples of the relevant tonal diacritic, sixteen of which are used after a lenis consonant (thirteen in the syllable me/6e) and two of which are used after a fortis consonant (gb and g). The most regular application of this diacritic thus appears to be 4 mid-low glide ’ (allotone of 4 low ’), but it appears to be used also to represent4 low-high glide ’ (allotone of4 high ’). The 4 mid ’ diacritic (:) is probably used also to represent4 low-mid glide ’ (allotone of4 mid ’ after fortis consonants), as reflected in the Association’s 4 raise voice from low ’. Pichl, op. cit., p. 483, would seem to be incorrect in describing the 4 low ’ tone-mark (5) as 4 ton moyen ’.
2 Cf. the much more extensive system of characters with dual consonantal values in the Kpelle syllabary.
3 As recorded in the Bassa Vah Association pamphlet, but retranscribed (as far as possible) in phonetic characters. The Association does not record the names of the vocalic characters, but the names of three of these are included in Mrs. Stewart’s material: ede (for e), aga (for a) and ogo (for 0).


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
39
consonantal characters of the Bassa alphabet with the corresponding syllabic characters of the Vai syllabary. Although there is no striking similarity between the forms used in the two scripts, there is nevertheless a vague resemblance in the case of some items.1
An alternative name for the ‘ Vah ’ script is Nni-ka-se-fa, based on the names of the first four consonantal characters, a feature which may be compared to the use of A-ja-ma-na, Ki-ka-ku and A-ka-u-ku as names for the Vai and Mende syllabaries and the 1910 version of the Bamum syllabary, respectively (cf. also ‘ alphabet ’ and ‘ ABC ’).
The structure of the Bassa script is of course much less intricate than that of the syllabaries, and there appear to be only two cases in which one character has been derived from another by the addition of a diacritic, namely kp from p, and s from c. It will be seen from the table that tonal diacritics are regularly placed within individual vocalic characters, as illustrated by the series of diacritics used with the character i. Nasal vowels are represented by placing the consonantal character for n after the relevant vocalic character.
The symbol + is used in the Bassa script (as also in the Loma script) as a punctuation-mark, corresponding to a full-stop.
1 Cf. for example the first four characters in the Bassa alphabet, n(i), k(a), s(e), f(a), with the corresponding characters in the Vai syllabary, ni, ka, se, fa :
Bassa 3 /\ Hi 3 Vai H HI §
[For Conclusion see p. 51 below]


Table I The Vai Syllabary
• 1 a u e e o o NASAL VOWELS UNIDENTIFIED (1849)
1962 / \ *•(») < OrrO (°T7°) s
P 1849 "GO [?] A T iA) P] H(©
1962 A? o o o 'lutA) <• osso AM s
KJ 1849 o o o [?] t= z Pl 2 < . 9 b a i ^lflp
1962 & 8n> q. IC GK)
KJ ([?] ofas) M^) ?(?) IC (©) i(«J 6 A 4)
mB 1962 8* n; 8^ |:C •—•
1849 [ Bi ?] FI (Cl) Bu ?] e K P Bo?] !<-â– )
kp 1962 @ A T T 1 o—o 1 <>(□) kpa ((S')
1849 [?] A (A) [?] 'Tb P] + 0—0 1 (O o) □ © (®)
mgb 1962 A (T) i •o-
1849 [ kpa ?] [?] [ Kbe?] [?] pi A
gb 1962 * B i T T tA ,&o a
1849 t 6 [?] A T X(x) 2. (rp) p (g) fcbon-^
DAVID DALBY


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
41
I - fj (A © «M «M } A L iyi r f § ‘a I- *o- £ S 3 'g | ‘g 3 * * ? ? ? * •§ -§ r ft ) >

L 0- r—i cu 0 ■—Li L? k_>> c £ 1 r° 2 * £ r 3-1 oo oo
4° ex o>< 44 dO LU LLJ L±J 2 Lf J} 2 cu1 « «M I—J <£ F po oc| s >- >- X rJvjvw' T g HH cu1 Cd n L_J
OH x© OH cu1 45 l__l A g r—1 f- f - ZZd g = • • • -“- CU1 © 0) lL
§ o rLn rrr< LO n_n CqO JL L HE $- T Zv->— 11 ji_ E J. g £ g •s’ g ¥ g 98 3d
1962 CD o S 33- CM O {j- o 5 (N o L cm >o o 0+3 l1 • CM O ■ o s •: e> >o O CB Is cm £7 LJ O s <£ CM >O O s V' 3 o 5^ gtf
«H > -p 'd 5 r-4 fl N
D


Table I The Vai Syllabary (continued)
• 1 a u e £ o o NASAL VOWELS UNIDENTIFIED • (I*»)
c 1962 H D X© P
18« AQ [= Ja ?] [ - ju ?] [ je ?] [ Je ?] b J» P] [ jo ?]
j 1962 T lA—> <2_Q^ p(e) •1' O'O *(18011**
1tLQ) (Y) H—3 GuD M©) •IL
nj 1962 W-D t=? M^) P (8) II ('ll
1849 [=Ji ?] t=- Me?] [ - jo ?] [= jo ]
y 1962 A 1849 [Ji ?] Mu?] [=nje ] [ je ] [ jo ?] [ = jo ?]
lr 1962 6 M 0 Y £ 'ka’ 2q
A 1849 <9 (©) o b—> (-> ^) 5(e) t? (•£?) «. _, (?>— ka (o- gg &M $ ? A T(t) ‘M’ T
1849 A ki ?] ~T ' [ ku/gu ?] & [ke/ge ?] [?]^(^) PM 'kun'V
g 1962 . . CO it ? 4+ M ■6«
1849 [?]^3 Z(x) ? (?) u(+u) T :o:
DAVID DALBY


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
43
P 1«J A & J 'fi Jt
g tri & U 5< n IZ) 1 I 2 so KC5 u3
S g 3= g ! I
s cl? o * i—i § I—1 o & £ £ £ r—i CU O 45 il i_i ?w r = g 3) a 1 r—i CU 3 1—1
g r to1 g UP 1 i
CL? a & i—i r * N /N £L }< r-i £ 1’ i—i *0 cu1 l—l E3 2 3 p Orr Q~r ;e3 1 3- £ g £ I—I I—I f £ r 2 1 ? 3 g CL? ?ct p 1—J
g o 5? s'-1 & o Ilf <> u 5 —' CM >O Cb £ M cCP 2 o e-O3 O' co rJ o O' co o* s T QS-> 2 O' § UTU |rJn fa C4 'O O' g CM O O o co cm *o o o 5
4 £ U) S3 z>: (Z) >45 f 4 p 4 & p 1 1


Table II The Mende Syllabary
• 1 a u e e 3 o ua ci OTHER VOWELS
p 68 W ”vM “W) 01 , X w "MM 66 cz8(§=i) 102 z X
w 'OM) 50fcl) *3 (J) 126 11W) 114
61 ©—o L1’M 139
mb 145 122 aM Am “MM 105
'Mm " % 161 172 , x 174 H-
b "mm ’’3® 12 3 m 150m ’7 A i138 , X ; H (© 103 / , s MW)
kp 132 CHH-O 92 vx (M) 74 © (s) 44 CH—O 108 , n. 158 r°K 112
gb 124 X ”x( f 34 © 35 36 78®(@) w 88 c^s^-C 0^*0 133 > 1°1 «o
V 180 o 185 &(@f) ’©(•o) 85 mm A-M
t “r(ri ”F(F) M m ”f(f) 69 H=H
1 22 (=n= ’rVfe) 24 ;; , (driz) VM <*) '" IM m (?) 110 n 1 o
nd 123 ••• 129 XW (**) 125 (<=£© 191 ( \ 119 t X ’’A, “w
d 16 17 cfc> 18 rfto 89 (—) 178 i
DAVID DALBY


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
45
SI II? >sg
gTL sS 0 f'' m
7 g g Otto g 0 "S co
s JOT £ m s 22 =3 3 4 LO I 1 3 4> Y I h" £ g O' t''. 3 vO s sfr 3 CM g 'o^ a°\ "Y X co 'T 1—1 m —7— o 2 *^-J "± £ IO £ 4> m $ T O' O' >o g 4 'O
116 -Ul_(c-Up) 1 = lts W UU § ’ so co 'y? „£ ■’T m O' 1 ED sO O i— o o IQ <-{SH m 'Y o to v° 4 2 £ co O' $ s hoh +o
162 -hho^t^-o) I 157 rM A < o 3^4 £ « O' to 1 1 s o> £ 3 LO so e £ 4 sO 1 IO < cC* 04 1—J CO
s $ rs w o co w 3lf r-i £ Sb ro co g ■kr P4 CO X J vO £ 3 co £> _ll_ m 10 £ £ CO O' •A o co £ gf
20 77) w •UJ B 152 c"Y-/^vQ4) CM co 111 2S (45 4 £ £ 04 ■e £ 10 g oX co CO •A CO co xj- CO m FfF J •’T
s oi w „w (N 3- £ LT) 5?: A £ £ 7 vO r- co IH cU co m 'Y A r-. m < ■«r sO £
(A a b£ P &0 45 1 NASAL SYLLABLES i£ s 0 & p 1


Table m The Loma Syllabary
O\
• 1 a u e e 3 o NASAL VOWELS LONG VOWELS DIPHTHONGS
p w •r m ■I- UJ F(P#) ^(t) pec poi /tHI
w 2 (W mn') [ u ] H(X~) X * M m(£) we wu N(h) woi
b 6 oAo(o^o) •p (b) 8(B) X (X X) V (c^) WA (■WSZ w) olo) (X be <7 bii -“—C baa T(TT) bee G= boo bue boi V
* -inr^1 (ihndl) V~oH «) Bai 0:0 [?]6ai$®) Bue 0—H

kp ^(S
gb Ul Tf J£ cj: ( *v T Y
f 6*(d< 'dy) AA(aa) IF (n= in) s GW faa (C ))
V e-e(ee) (fe c (e^-) odtib T z 8 (®®oo) • vaa ))
t («) w(w) •i- X(«) tie c/^ tui (£p
lea 5 (?) lui (-+-) luo (t?- lue no
1 w O K (T V in(ipi) Y (P P) — lee W m
d 0^0 ® ic (cc) 4- uf V W dio M diu T duo^n(E^)
DAVID DALBY


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
47
o 0 M g .8 § N N —'X> ►» S’fcS •M -H 0*0 -H 0 •H hfi DIPHTHONGS 2 / io a 7 T v0 l-H 0
rt « 0 4 0 0 (A n cr 2 4 £ 0 & in 2o > HH $•?• 'a '1 H a a a ^AZ- /VZT b) *8 0 0 10 0
‘8 *8 i to ho *& B u£ d$ Hi -d
2 •NS <1 X 0—o 2 IO n
g G) i! -X ■q • Q. Qj> IO ft >
s X A7 • T T1 4 O IU •£? g
£7 i_j q5 3i © <5? **g i i-e 10 p- i £- 1 [
A D 1 1 > 10 2 °So g L
i-Qh / b 2 yy XX c -e 10 Jo % J s X' x> X
c g X X3 S X e> M > g *5 ’a
« N >• hO ho 0 1 in jS

00
Table IV The Kpelle Syllabary
• 1 a u e e 3 o -
p/b pW) 6 X TM
B/m -p + M T
kp/gb -x X
f/v Wp) /VH [—fl/vi ] § 70)
t/d c3-O") csrx) h(p) IPO ■wx — 7C V
1/n r(») w pop
h(s)/j(z) T(H) m 7" I"(eb) r O)
y/ny P (P) W) «Ml (0)
DAVID DALBY


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
49
SYLLABIC NASAL 2
§ o
2 P o » IO § °X)
f? 2 tc. g J- iu XQX s
s 5 i 0 r—i •H >*> H r—i •H II 1—1 k IO ¥ £ £ <3lZ_ 5? 1—1
I '^3' — O P " " sb 10 £ jSl ll
IS t J“ $ T o o ^sz — k p 4 f* 4 P* II i—i 10 °v «S3 rQ? g A: -3
1 s T 4 2 u u <7 ?» |H 2 s k \
bJD 44 I /—s

* 0

V) s >s 4 p


Table V The Bassa Alphabet
CONSONANTS VOWELS AND TONES
LENIS FORTIS HIGH MID LOW MID-LOW HIGH-LOW
p 22 7(1 ?) b 19 • 1 ?(?) J
kp gb/gm 14
mB 51. n(w)
f V Ml
t aM d 8 3- u cnM
n 3 <* dy/ny ‘ (Tfer (,} e
<1(0 etc.
r 23&ra <
s 3m z c*
c 16 z j 10 3 â– 6
k 1 Atnu") e 7 S(S~) (Tg'E.-e.) etc.
w Mm h 11 z (h) O o
xw Mm hw 17 v (a) etc.
DAVID DALBY


INDIGENOUS SCRIPTS OF LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE
51
Conclusion
The overall comparison of the scripts of Liberia and Sierra Leone will be dealt with in the second of these two papers, within the framework of the whole group of West African scripts. One general point should be made here, however, concerning the inter-relationship of the Vai, Mende, Loma, Kpelle and Bassa scripts.
Although each of these five scripts is largely original in the form of its characters, it is nevertheless clear that the prior existence of the Vai syllabary must have been a decisive factor in the development of the other four scripts. The Vai script hqd been in existence for ninety years before the devising of the first of the neighbouring scripts, and the stimulus to other tribes would seem to have commenced not with the original invention of the Vai script in the 183O’s, but with the standardization and propagation of the ‘ modern ’ Vai script by Momolu Massaquoi during the early decades of the twentieth century. The inventor of the Mende script is known to have been inspired by the Vai script; the invention of the Loma script followed a visit to Monrovia by the inventor, where he probably came into contact with the Vai script; the inventor of the Kpelle script was a chief, and it is known that Vai scribes had previously been employed by Kpelle chiefs ; the Bassa alphabet would seem to have been evolved from a pre-existing syllabary, most probably the Vai script. The inventors of these twentieth-century scripts will have been conscious of the cultural and economic superiority of the Vai over their own tribes, and will have associated this—at least in part—with the existence of the Vai script (which has in fact played an important role in enhancing the status and reputation of the Vai). The period from 1920 to 1940 was ideal for the development of further indigenous scripts : the Sierra Leonean and (to a iesser extent) the Liberian hinterlands had been pacified, and the need for a form of writing, especially in correspondence, had made itself felt before there was adequate provision for vernacular literacy teaching in the roman script. The Vai syllabary suggested a more appropriate form of orthography for West African languages than the mere adaptation of the roman alphabet, and it also provided a form of writing which was unintelligible to the non-Vai authorities in Liberia and Sierra Leone, or to members of other tribes. This advantage of secrecy, together with feelings of tribal pride, no doubt led to the devising of totally different characters in each of the subsequent scripts ; even where the exact form of a Vai character appears to have been copied in a later script, its phonetic value is normally unrelated to its original value in Vai.
There are few areas in the world in which so many individual scripts have been invented and put into use, within such a short period of time, as have been devised either in West Africa as a whole, or in Liberia and Sierra Leone in particular. The conception and elaboration of these scripts, and the practical use to which they have been put, remain one of the cultural achievements of Africa.1
1 The writer will be most grateful to receive any additional information on the West African scripts, or to receive details of any other modern indigenous scripts in Africa (apart from the well-documented Somali script).


’YANKAMANCI—THE CRAFT OF THE HAUSA COMEDIANS By C. G. B. Gidley
One form of Hausa entertainment which has so far not been studied in any detail is ’yankamanci, i.e. the activities of the ’yankama (sg. dankama),1 Hausa minstrels who traditionally specialize in comedy. A study of the craft of the ’yankama throws fresh light on words, phrases, and sentences which are deeply embedded in Hausa culture, and on various aspects of Hausa life in general.
For three generations at least ’yankama have been welcome, but the content of their performances, loosely described as ban dariya 4 amusing ’, is fully known only to Hausa audiences. Some outside observers may have to rely entirely for their knowledge on the sort of tales found in Magana Jari Ce,2 where the minstrels are represented as knaves known for their shakiyanci and ja’irci, commonly translated 4 shamelessness ’ and 4 disrespectfulness ’. The notion conveyed by the Hausa name may indeed once have been 4 villainy ’, then 4 brazen effrontery ’, but in the context of ’yankamanci today it now corresponds to 4 satire ’ as that word is popularly used in our society—or perhaps 4 lighthearted disregard for convention ’.
The word ’yankamanci, indicating the craft as practised by minstrels throughout the years, is not in any dictionary, nor is another word kamanci, meaning a minstrel’s craft. This omission is not significant because the ending -anci may indicate the craft, status, and characteristics, including the language, of a particular category of people, and words with this ending are not always listed as lexical items. There are two relevant glosses : firstly, in 1934, Bargery 3 described dankama (pi. ’yankama) as 4 a minstrel who catches his reward, thrown from a distance, in his mouth ’ ; secondly, in 1949, Abraham 4 described the same item as 4 a minstrel who catches in his mouth the largesse thrown from afar ’, and he added that his epithet is Jarmai 4 brave man Today ’yankamanci needs new description because of the unique range of comical language which it has accumulated in its tradition, not merely because ’yankama perform in the broadcasting studio.
This study has three aims : firstly to reveal the full content of ’yankamanci for the first time in perspective ; secondly to illustrate it with authentic material ; thirdly to prove that local audiences appreciate a brand of 4 satire ’ performed
1 The standard orthography is used in this study.
2 Alhaji Abubakhar Imam, Magana Jari Ce, Zaria, 1960, Vol. 2, p. 136. For other tales see F. Edgar, Tatsuniyoyi Na Hausawa, Lagos, 1913, Vol. 1, p. 74. Also Alhaji Baba Ahmed, Ban Dariya, Zaria, pp. 18-19.
3 Rev. G. P. Bargery, A Hausa Dictionary, London, 1934.
4 Major R. C. Abraham and Malam Mai Kano, The Dictionary of the Hausa Language, Government of Nigeria, 1949. dankama appears under kama.


’YANKAMANCI—THE CRAFT OF THE HAUSA COMEDIANS
53
according to standards which have become traditional. Today ’yankama have a reputation as high—or as low—as comedians anywhere. They have never customarily used habaici ‘ hurtful innuendo zambo ‘ provocative speech and song and batsa ‘ indecent remarks ’ to the extent that some other marofia (sg. marofti1 ‘ mendicant minstrel ’) have done. They have been welcome because their performances are skilful and genuinely designed to amuse men, women, and children, and in this they are very successful. Although there may be passers-by who are critical of their frivolity, the local audience does not look at them askance. These circumstances have not attracted the interest of trained observers ; perhaps, being frivolous, ’yankamanci may seem at first to be beneath academic attention. Nevertheless the craft is worthy of serious study, both in view of the response which the performers’ skill calls forth, and also for the special modes of expression which are of interest from a linguistic point of view, and for the way in which they illuminate Hausa life.
The study is arranged in two parts. The first part introduces the ’yankama and in particular gives a first-hand account of performances by Haji Katsina, a popular entertainer of over forty years ago. The second part describes features of the craft and contains a representative selection of illustrations ; it also includes an account of the themes and practices of the comedians during the last ten years and discusses the standards by which performances are judged by Hausa audiences. The aim is to consider ’yankamanci as far as possible from a Hausa. rather than from a European standpoint.
Part I—The Comedians
Haji Katsina
It is appropriate to begin a study of present day ’yankamanci by looking at an account of performances by Haji Katsina, a comedian who visited Keffi, Lafiya, and Wamba,2 over forty years ago. No outstanding merit is claimed for him, except that he had the gift of making people laugh. This result was partly due to his skill in expressing himself, and partly due to his skill in pantomime. A Hausa essay, composed in 1928 by the present Emir of Abuja, Alhaji Sulaimanu Barau, O.B.E., O.N.N., well illustrates the characteristics of comedians of the period.3
1 Bargery described maro&i as a professional beggar or cadger, often very far from being in ' a necessitous condition, who gets a living by panegyrising (with or without a musical instrument) patrons and those whom he happens to enlist as such, but vilifying such as refuse to be generous to him.
2 Places situated in the north of Benue Province. They are headquarter towns. For information about the area see S. J. Hogben and A. H. M. Kirke Greene, The Emirates of Northern Nigeria, London, 1966.
3 Abuja Emirate is west of Keffi. I am grateful to the Emir for allowing me to use his essay here. He has told me that about 1928 his essay was accepted for his college magazine. The Emir is a learned man, educated at Katsina Training College, with many other eminent leaders of Nigeria and persons of importance in the North. He became 67th Emir of Zazzau and the


54
C. G. B. GIDLEY
In this essay Haji Katsina is referred to as practising roRo (‘ mendicancy cf. maroRi ‘ mendicant ’) ; the fact that he was a mendicant does not detract from his reputation as an entertainer, and entertainers of this type were often persons of some substance. The Emir’s account, given below, vividly portrays him as a maroRi of considerable verbal, musical, and dramatic talent.
Zuwan ÆŠankama Haji Katsina
Tun da na ke ganin ’yankama ban taɓa ganin mai azanci da ba mutane dariya irin Haji Katsina ba. Kome rashin dariyar mntum, in Haji Katsina ya yi wasa a gabansa, ba zai san sa’an da dariya za ta kubce masa ba. Yaran makarantar Keffi kullun ba abin da su ke so irin Haji Katsina ya kawo masu wasa.
Ran Juma’a da safe muna zaune, muna tadi, sai muka ji motsin gangarsa a Rofar gidanmu, nan da nan sai muka fashe zuwa Rofar gida don mu gan shi. Kuma kowane yaro da jin gangar sai ya sheko a guje, kamar ana yi masa Raimi, zuwa Rofar gida. Aka taru aka yi mar zobe. Da fari muka jefa masa aninai ya cafe kamar yadda gwanin wasan kurket ke cafe Rwallo, don sauri ma har da baki shi ya ke gamawa. Muka ce muna so ya yi mana rantsuwa da aradu in zai iya cafe dukkan aninai in mun jeho mar. Sai ya ce ‘ Na rantse da abassama, kunkuniya ta fada kaina.’ Kome dabon da ka yi ba ya yarda ya rantse da aradu.
Da ya gama rantsuwa sai ya dau karatun Alkur’ani, ya jawo wani kundi, na irin littafan nan da Turawa ke yarwa, daga aljifu, ya gyara murya, ya yi ta nasa surkulle.
Da gama wannan sai ya dau wa’azi. Ya fara da irin gyaran muryan nan da mahardata ke yi in baki ya shige masu duhu, ya kuwa Ri cin gaba sai da kowannenmu ya jefa masa aninai. Daga nan sai ya soma da wasu wake wake masu ban dariya, kana ya ce 6 Wazantakunna, maigida kar ka je yawo, zauna a zuba ma taka miyar, mace mai barin miji ba karya kumallo ta ɓata, ranar cin kasuwa ta rasa cefane, ranar tashin kiyama Walakiri da lawashi zai yi mata duka a duwaiwai, mu tabbata gida biyu, idan dai ba mu tabbata a kasuwa ba mu tabbata gidan buki, duniya gidan dadi, lahira gidan karfi. Malamai, reniya haramun ce, kyaun mutum abin da aka ba shi kar ya rena. Da kana jin ana fadan Haji Katsina, ba wani ba ne, ni ne. Don takamar tsoron Allah ba ni magana da mata da rana ko rana ta fadi, sai ko in hannuna ya yi batan kai in yi yafuce.’
Da ya gama wa’azi sai nan da nan ya sauke ganga ya zame mana alaro, ya dauke ta da Ryar ya aza a ka yana ta kirari. Suka yi tsada da mai kaya, bayan ya tantambaye shi irin kayan, ko haja ce, ko goro ko kuwa kwalli. Ya ce a ba shi hujin kudin ci ya bar wa matarsa. Da suka shirya da mai kaya, bayan ya yi ta kawo ’yan amaja iri iri dabam dabam, sai ya dau ganga da Ryar sai ka ce wani kaya mai nauyi, ya ce ‘ Ba wani ba ne, ni ne rungume daji, da aka yi sufurina in dauko hauren giwa, sai da na kawo hauren akwiya dari tara. Aka yi sufuri na Jos in dauko gishiri arbaminya, ban dauko ba sai na iso da gishiri arbaminya a wanke.’
6th Emir of Abuja in 1944. I am also grateful to Alhaji Ahmed Joda, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information in Kaduna, for his assurance that my use of the Emir’s composition would not cause embarrassment to anyone, and for tapes and documents illustrating ’yanka-manci. I also wish to thank Professor Arnott for his help and kind advice.


’YANKAMANCl—THE CRAFT OF THE HAUSA COMEDIANS
55
Muka tambaye shi ko ya iya hoto, sai ya ce mana 6 Ni ba ɗan hoto ba, amma a kan sake kama ’. Ya tu6e rigunansa, ya jajjanye wando, ya ya da ’yar ganga, ya fito da ’yar garma wadda aka yi da sakaina, ya fara taken ’yan hoto. Ya yi ta waka amma fa duk abin da ya ke fadi dabam ne da na ’yan hoton gaske, ya kare da cewa 6 Noma aka fi ni ba shiga rumbu ba. Sai ni ka da gumba, gaba maki magani. Sai ni gwani mai-a-kara.’
Da ya gama wadannan abubuwa duk sai ya cika mana da kiran salla amma fa wadancan na baya sun fi ban dariya, don haka sai mu bar kaza cikin gashinta. Amma ga wadansu labarai nasa nan guda biyu wadanda suka fi ban mamaki da kuma dariya.
Haji Katsina ya ji labarin alheri da karimci da sarkin Wamba ke yi wa baki. Samun sarki mai son mutane da malamai irinsa da wuya cikin sarakunan ama na Binuwai. Shi dai iyayensa da kakaninsa ba su gaji kome ba sai mushrikanci da tsafi. Amma shi Allah ya zaɓe shi, ya shiryad da shi, ya musulunta, kuma ya zama mai son mutane. Ba fatan da ya ke irin garinsa dai ya cika da Musulmi.
Haji Katsina ya yi shiri. Ya rataya gangarsa da takobinsa na ice cikin kube, ya sayi rawani da malafa, da kandiri, da takalma, ya sa matarsa a gaba, suka tashi daga Keffi suka nufi Wamba. Ran da za su shiga, ya bulbula rawaninsa, ya kima nadi irin na malamai, ya sa riga da bujen wando, ya kawo sambatsai ya zuba, ya dosana malafa a ka, ’yar gangarsa kuwa ya rufe da hannun riga, wanda duk ya gan shi sai ya rantse da Allah wani babban malami ne. Shi ke nan, ya kama hanya zuwa kofar fadar Sarkin Wamba.
Da ya isa sai fadawa suka zaci wani shehun malami ne, suka shiga maza suka yi mar iso gurin sarki. Sarki nan da nan ya fito, suka gaisa. Ya sa a kai shi masauki mai kyau, kuma ya ce a kula da shi.
Da azuhur ta yi, sa’an da sarki ya gama salla ya fito, sai ya aika ya zo su gaisa. Sai dankama ya sake yin irin shigar malamai ya zo gaban sarki. Sarki ya karama shi, ya ce ya guso su yi hannu. Nan da nan da sarki ya mika masa hannu, sai ya ki, ya noke ya yi farat ya jawo ganga daga cikin riga ya kada. Shi ke nan sai sarki da jama’arsa suka kyalkyale da dariya kamar za su suke. Suka yi ta al’ajabin abin. Sarki ya kawo riga da kudi, ya sallame shi.
Ga yadda suka yi da Sarkin Lafiya na da. Sarkin Lafiya mai mutuwa mutum ne mai sarauta, yana da kamewa da hakimcewa, da daure fuska. Samun ya yi dariya da wuya. Fadawa da mutanen gari ba su ganin dariyarsa. Da Haji Katsina ya ji labarinsa, sai ya tashi takanas ya tafi gare shi yin roko. Ya saukad da shi.
Wata rana da yamma sarki ya fito kofar gida, fadanci ya cika sai Haji Katsina ya fito da gangarsa yana kida da wasa mai ban dariya a gaban sarki. Dukkan fadawa sun yi ta dariya sai sarki. Ana nan yana cikin wasa sai ya hangi wani babban basaraken sarki, jarmai, irin mayakan nan da sarki ke alfarma da su gun yaki, ya doso fada da mutane dii a bayansa, sun daho mar. Da ya tunkaro gaban sarki sosai, sai Haji Katsina ya zaro takobinsa na ice, ya ya da gangarsa, ya ko tasam ma basaraken nan da takobin. Basaraken yana zato takobin kirki ne, sai ya banko da gudu da ya ga dankama ya gabato shi. Daga nan da sarki ya fara dariya sai da ya yi kamar zai mutu. Ya ga basarakensa, wanda ya ke takama da shi, wanda ya ke zato ko bindiga ba ta ba shi tsoro, ga shi ya zo ya guji takobin ice. Sai sarki ya kawo kyauta ya ba Haji Katsina.


56
C. G. B. GIDLEY
Translation
The Arrival of the Comedian Haji Katsina
‘ In all my experience of watching comedians, I have never seen one who had so much good sense and who was so entertaining as Haji Katsina. However glum a person might be, when Haji Katsina performed in front of him, he would involuntarily burst out laughing. The boys of Keffi School liked nothing so much as Haji Katsina performing for them.
On Friday morning we were sitting down talking, when we heard the sound of his drum at the gate of our compound. At once we dashed to the gate to see him. All the boys seemed spurred to the entrance at the sound of the drum. People formed a circle around him. At first we threw him coins to catch like an expert fielder catching a cricket ball,1 and to keep up with us he even caught some in his mouth. We said we wanted him to swear by thunder, to say he could catch all the coins when we threw them to him. 41 shall probably swear by the thing above ’, said he, 6 soot may fall on my head ’. No matter how much you pressed him, he would not agree to swear by thunder.2
After taking the oath, he took up a 4 Koran ’, a wad of discarded magazines of the kind which Europeans throw away, which he drew from his pocket. He then started his own kind of nonsense. After this performance he delivered 4 admonition beginning with those hums and haws which those learning to recite the Koran by heart habitually resort to when they cannot remember the text, and he refused to go on until we had all thrown him a coin. Presently he began singing comical songs—4 And talk of you ’, he intoned, 4 Master of the house, do not go for a walk, sit down for your soup to be poured out; a woman leaving her husband without any breakfast will go astray ; on market day she will lack ingredients for soup.3 On the day of resurrection Walnakir 4 will beat her on the behind with an onion top.5 Let us be well established in two houses ;6 when we are not established in the market,7 then let us be well established at a feast; the world is a mansion of pleasure, the next world a mansion of strength. My learned friends, despising something is contrary to Mohammedan precepts.
1 Cricket was played at Katsina College.
2 Villagers were taught by Mohammedan preachers that swearing by forbidden things, for instance thunder, would result in lightning striking the culprit dead. The instruction is placed in the context of the domestic scene with the danger of soot falling from the roof.
3 A husband always goes to market for these, see Edgar, Vol. 1, Tale 127.
4 The Punishment of the Grave. Two angels, Munkar and Nakir (Walnakir) interrogate the dead man according to Mohammedan belief.
5 The onion top instead of a rod. Guilty Mohammedans are chastised by the angels in their graves.
6 Duniya ‘ the world ’ and Gidan Gaskiya ‘ the House of Truth in Heaven ’. The nonsense here appears to be a rough imitation of hadisi ‘ traditions ’, examples of which are given in Edgar, Vol. 2. It also copies gargadi and wa’azi ‘ warnings ’ and ‘ admonitions ’, see p. 259 in Labaru Na Da Da Na Yanzu, Zaria, 1931, and especially Cap 10.
7 In comedians’ traditional imagery the market is the immediate human environment.


’YANKAMANCI—THE CRAFT OF THE HAUSA COMEDIANS
57
A good man does not despise what he is given. When you hear Haji Katsina, it is I and nobody else.1 Because of my pride in my fear of Allah, I do not speak to women by day, nor after sunset, except perhaps when my hand veers off course and I beckon to them ’.2
After his 6 admonition ’ he quickly laid down his drum and became a porter for us.3 He raised it with difficulty and put it on his head, shouting his own praise. Then he bargained with a customer. He repeatedly asked him what kind of load— cloth, colanuts, or antimony 4—then he said he required an advance of money to leave for his wife. When a bargain was struck, and after a series of lame excuses for inaction, he lifted the drum as if it were a heavy weight. ‘ It is not just anyone ’, said he. ‘ It is I who can clutch the whole Bush to my chest. When I was hired to carry elephant tusks, I brought nine hundred goats’ teeth. When I was hired as we are at Jos to carry four hundred sacks (literally “ 400 salt ”), I arrived with four hundred empty ones ! ’
We then asked him if he could imitate the country dancers who entertain and work on the farms. ‘ I am not a dancer ’, he told us, ‘ but one’s appearance can sometimes change ’. He took off his robes and hitched up his trousers ; then he threw down his drum, took out a hoe made of a piece of gourd and started the dancers’ rhythm. He sang a song but, mind you, all he sang about was quite different to what real dancers sing about. He ended by proclaiming, ‘ I am only bested when it is a question of farm work, not when it is a matter of going into the corn store. There is no one except myself who can lay low pounded bullrush millet, I am the opposition against which no charm is effective. There is no one in the same class as I am, I am the expert at asking for more ! ’
He concluded his performance for us with the call to prayer, but the turns which I first described were more amusing, so we had better not let out any more secrets. Meanwhile here are two more amusing and laughable stories.
Haji Katsina heard news of the kindness and generosity which the Chief of Wamba showed to strangers. It would have been hard to find a Chief like him, who had such consideration for ordinary people and learned men, among the pagan Benue Chiefs. His fathers and his forefathers had just not inherited anything except the worship of idols and fetishes ; however, notwithstanding, he had been chosen by Allah, his feet had been set upon the path,5 and he had become a Mohammedan—and furthermore he had become a philanthropist. His one wish was to see his town filled with Mohammedans.
1 A challenging proclamation of one’s presence (kirari), often used to draw attention to one’s prowess.
2 No respectable gentleman (dattijo) in those times would be seen stopping to talk with a woman in public.
3 For the characteristics of porters in general and especially their preference for light loads, see H. Karl Kumm, The Sudan, London, 1907, p. 84. In fact there was great esprit de corps among porters, some of whom were the salt of the earth.
4 Antimony as the heaviest load.
5 The Hausa text literally refers to him as being tidied up like scattered papers.
E


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Haji Katsina made ready. He slung on his drum and his wooden sword in a scabbard ; he bought a turban, a widebrimmed hat, a staff-, and sandals ; then, with his wife in front, he set out from Keffi in the direction of Wamba. On the day they were to enter the town, he made his turban bulge from his head, and tied it as large as learned men generally do ;1 then clad in a gown and large baggy trousers, he produced ornamental sandals of rank, slipped them on, and perched his wide hat on the top of his head. His little drum was hidden up his sleeve. Anyone seeing him would have sworn he was learned and distinguished. He made straight for the entrance of the Chief of Wamba’s compound.
On his arrival the courtiers thought he was a famous mallam. They quickly retired and announced his arrival to the Chief. The Chief emerged without delay, and formal greetings were exchanged. He instructed that Haji should be conducted to a good place to stay, and that notice should be taken of him.
About two in the afternoon, when the Chief appeared after prayer, he sent a messenger to ask Haji to come and see him. Haji once more clad himself in scholarly attire and appeared before the Chief, who received him in a kindly manner, and invited him to approach and shake hands. Just as the Chief put out his hand, Haji declined it. He hung back, and with a sudden movement produced the drum 2 from inside his gown. Then he beat his drum. That was that. The Chief and his retinue rocked with laughter—it was as if they would become exhausted. They were astonished by what had happened. The Chief brought a gown and money and sent Haji home.
This is what happened with the previous Emir of Lafiya.3 The deceased Emir was a regally minded individual, reserved, aloof, and stern faced. He hardly ever laughed. Courtiers and townspeople never saw him laughing. When Haji Katsina heard about him he went to him especially to practise mendicancy. The Emir gave him a place to stay.
One day in the evening, the Emir was outside the entrance of the palace, the courtiers were all there, when Haji Katsina brought out his drum and started drumming and performing in front of the Emir. All the courtiers laughed but the Emir was not amused. After a while, in the middle of his performance, Haji caught sight of one of the Emir’s noblemen, a valiant man,4 the kind which the Emir was proud of in battle, making straight for the palace with his retinue streaming close behind him. At the very moment the nobleman arrived, Haji Katsina drew his wooden sword, threw down his drum, and went at him with the sword. The nobleman, thinking it was real, beat a hasty retreat as soon as he saw the comedian confronting him. Presently the Emir started to laugh, and then he laughed as if he would pass away. He had seen his nobleman, whom he
1 A practice from Arabia prevailing in Hausaland.
2 The drum’s appearance is always accepted as an excuse for the performance provided the ɗankama does not overstep the limit permitted by public opinion.
3 Probably Abdullahi, 1918-1926.
4 Jarmai, an ancient warrior title, also the epithet of a tfankama.


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was proud of, whom he had assumed not even a gun would alarm, and there he was, on arrival, put to flight by a wooden sword. The Emir gave orders that a present should be brought and given to Haji Katsina.’
There is no trace of Haji Katsina today. In November, 1965, a search was made in Katsina,1 Daura, Batsari, Ingawa, Kankara, and Funtua without success. His name was an impossible Hausa name and obviously assumed ; and since there is no news of him in Benue either, it seems that he went there on a visit using an assumed name and in disguise.
Summing up the features of Haji Katsina’s performances before going on to modern ’yankamanci, the main ingredients of his style of comedy (wasan kwaikwayo mai ban dariya—literally ‘ a performance of imitation giving laughter ’—the translation of comedy given in the Hausa Language Board’s dictionary) were wake wake masu ban dariya ‘ comical songs ’, wa’azi ‘ admonishment ’, surkulle ‘ nonsensical patter ’, which no doubt included addu’a ‘ prayer ’ as it does today, comical kirari ‘ shouting of personal slogans ’ and shameless burlesque, parody, and caricature.
Impersonation was also a salient feature. In those days before the spread of even local knowledge, illiterate people were easily taken in by ’yankama on itineration ; successful practical jokes were a subject for gossip ; the comedians were the bearers and creators of news and their jokes had an educative as well as a recreational effect. Nowadays the spread of general education, assisted by modem media such as wireless and television, has spread general knowledge so that opportunities for impersonation on the grand scale are few and far between. Such wireless programmes as ZaBi Sonka ‘ Listeners’ Choice ’ make popular songs well known to a wide listening public, with the result that the parody of popular songs has become the main ingredient in the performances of modern comedians ; otherwise, except for the constantly changing topical allusions, the main features and themes appear to be still as they were in the past.
Alhaji A. Dama
To turn from Haji Katsina’s day to more recent times, it must be remembered that during the second world war the cinematograph enlivened many camps where Nigerian troops were stationed, and travel on active service widened the outlook of many a Northerner who, until then, might have been classed as kifin rijiya ‘ fish of the well ’, i.e. an untravelled person, once an epithet for an inhabitant of Zaria. Whereas as late as 1921 even the telephone would have seemed miraculous in Katsina,2 since the war modern forms of entertainment have tended to distract the attention of ordinary people from ’yankamanci
1 By the Ministry of Information at my request.
2 See Alhaji Mohammadu Bello Kagara, Sarkin Katsina Alhaji Mohammadu Dikko, C.B.E., 1865-1944, Zaria, 1951, p. 30.


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performances. ’Yankamanci has thus suffered a decline. Nevertheless it is happily still in evidence to be studied and enjoyed, ably performed by such modern comedians as Alhaji A. Dama, though no longer with the elaborately prepared practical jokes of former times.
Alhaji A. Dama, whose professional name is a phrase a dama meaning 4 let it be mixed ’ (sc. fura 4 flourball in sour milk ’) is the son of a famous ɗankama from Gaya in Kano Emirate. He was once a full-time professional comedian but is now a business contractor who gives comical performances (ban dariya) from time to time to display his skill and obtain reward. Examples from his performances, kindly supplied by correspondents and by the Ministry of Information, are used in the second part of this study to illustrate some of the themes discussed there.
Part II—The Craft
1. CONTENT
Modern ’yankamanci, like Haji Katsina’s performances, consists of a mixture of so-called wa’azi 4 admonition ’, addu’a 4 prayer ’ together with comical songs, often linked by surkulle 1 4 nonsensical patter ’. Each of these features will be discussed in turn and illustrated by appropriate examples. It may be noted that these performances often contain allusions to religious matters, which might appear scandalous, but which are generally acceptable in the context of these performances as explained in section 4 below.
(i) Wa’azi
Wa’azi is the normal term used for admonition which, in the context of ’yankamanci, embraces imitations of gargadi (warnings about how to live a good life), which are held in deep respect. ’Yankamanci, however, often includes a humorous imitation of such wa’azi, making play on serious admonition by means of hybrid Hausa Arabic words, for which it is convenient to use the traditional term macaronics. In the same way Haji Katsina prefixed his admonition by intoning wazantakunna, as if the utterance was a learned Arabic invocation. This is in fact a combination of Arabic forms before and after a Hausa word : wazantakunna then consists of wa (Arabic 4 and ’), zanta (Hausa 4 converse ’), and kunna (Arabic 4 of you ’ feminine). Examples of such nonsensical macaronic invocations are intoned as a preface to most ’yankama wa’azi in present day ’yankamanci. ’Yankama usually perform as a group of three comedians ; in wa’azi one comedian often intones a succession of macaronics in a bleating voice, while a second responds with an interpretation in brusque Hausa. It may be
1 Surkulle, besides referring to patter specifically, also refers to the whole performance of a tfankama and may be translated as ‘ nonsense Surkulle also means a magic rigmarole and a daft person.


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added that they always pose as learned men and dress accordingly, the interpreter appearing to be more important while the other merely recites by rote. All the while both comedians remain solemn and act with complete decorum.
The following, supplied by the Ministry of Information, is a typical example of wa’azi.
Wa-ya-tuwo-kum,
Wa-saka-kum,
Ya-wa-saya-kum,
tuwon shinkafa ya damu da romo, a sa mini mara tara ni katfai, sayen nama ya wajaba ga maigida,
Wa-ya-manuni-a-manuni, ya nuna tiɓis ke nan.
Et-O-Votre-tuwo, Et-placing-de vous, O-et-buying-de vous, Et-O-the forefinger, Sur the forefinger,
tuwo 1 of rice is mixed with broth, place nine large helpings just for me alone, buying meat is incumbent on the householder, that means it is nicely cooked.
The first macaronic is a mixture of Arabic wa ‘ and ’, ya ‘ Oh ’, and kum ‘ of you ’ (m.) with Hausa tuwo ‘ cornmush ’ ; similarly, in the second example, the Hausa verb saka ‘ to place ’ provides the nonsensical middle element. The third line is a mixture of ya, wa, and kum with the Hausa verb saya 6 to buy ’, followed by the response of the second comedian. The fourth line is a play upon the Hausa verbs nuna ‘ to be well cooked ’ (with tone pattern low high) and nuna 4 to show ’ (with tone pattern high low). It is also said to be a play on the Hausa saying kowane allazi da nasu amanu, meaning each person has his own part to play ; the tone pattern may also be distorted to suggest further allusions. The reference to the forefinger suggests that it is prodding the joint of meat to feel if it is tender, but the whole is wrapped up in a piece of Arabic persiflage. The original wa’azi would perhaps refer to the necessity of laying in guzuri ‘ provisions ’ by good deeds and abstinence in this world, with promise of future enjoyment in the next. The parody continues as follows :
Sai uwargida ta zakutfa waje tfaya, aikinta ya kare,
Sai maigida ya jawo kujera majlas, ya zauua,
Wa-gauraya-kum, ya motsa tukunya da kansa,
Wa-tsama-kum, ya rika tsama guda guda har ya yi sau biyar,
Wann an shi ne hamsus salawatu a tukunyar miya,
Ka san salla sau biyar a ke yi kulluu,
Watau ka yi maganiu mantuwa,
Eowace salla ka raka ta da tsoka guda.
The wife must make way, her work is done,
The master must draw up a chair and sit in state,
1 Tuwo, the staple food of most tribes of the North. It is made from the flour of cereals and eaten with soup or gravy.


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Et-mixing-de vous, the master stirs the pot personally,
Et-extracting-de vous, he keeps on extracting one piece at a time until he has five, This means five daily prayers in the gravy pot,
You say prayers five times a day,
Therefore this prevents you forgetting,
Accompany each prayer with a piece of meat.
(ii) Addu’a with Surkulle
Wa’azi as described above is often followed by so-called addu’a ‘ prayer ’ which follows the pattern of serious prayer but introduces a whole array of incongruous subjects. The prayers are usually linked by long streams of patter (surkulle). The following example, one of a series sent to me by the Ministry of Information, starts with a short prayer followed by patter.
Allah ya kwaɓe mana fashin girki. Allah ya kwaBe mana ciwon cikin aljihu, watau gari ya waye mutum ya shaJa aljihunsa ya ji babu kome sai hus. 6a shi kuwa yana bako a garin da ya je, bai kuma san kowa ba. Ya tsinci kwabo guda, garin karambani sai ya ci kosan bebiya na kwabo biyu, ta kuwa rike shi, ta tara masa mutane....
Allah ya kwa6e mana dingila, watau dingila dingila ita ce a dama fura a ajiye a koma don daukowa sai a tarar kaji sun kifas da ita. Allah dai ya kiyashe mu.
Allah ya kwaBe mana makuwa, watau a dauko kwanon tuwo za a kawo maka sai a yi tuntuBe tuwon ya kife__
Allah ya kwaɓe mana tsautsayin dare, watau ya zamana gidanka ba a yi tuwo ba sa’an nan ga yara ci-ma-zaune, sa’an nan dakinka na yoyon ruwa_
May Allah defend us against failure to put the pot on the fire. May Allah protect us from malaise of the pocket, that is to say someone feels in his pocket in the light of dawn and can only feel fluff, and there he is, a stranger in a strange town, with no friend to go to, he finds a penny, picks it up, and attempting the impossible, eats tuppence worth of cake sold by a deaf mute lady. She captures him and attracts everyone’s attention....
May Allah defend us from a second rate situation, and by a second rate situation I mean one in which the flour ball with milk has been prepared,1 put down, and when one comes back to pick it up, the hen has overturned it. May Allah preserve us.
May Allah defend us from losing our bearings, I mean someone picking up the bowl of tuwo and bringing it to you, and then stumbling and upsetting the lot....
May Allah defend us against disaster at night, I mean the position is there is no tuwo at home, moreover there are your helpless offspring, and furthermore your roof is leaking ... etc. etc. etc.
1 Fura, balls of cooked flour usually mixed up in sour milk.


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(iii) Wake wake masu ban dariya
The comedians’ performances very often also contain parodies of well known serious songs, accompanied on drums in such a way that the rhythm and chant bear a close resemblance to the original. Once again the whole performance is comical but without the vestige of a smile.
The following may be taken as typical examples, though the parody, which depends so much on rhythm and tune, cannot be demonstrated without a much more detailed analysis than is possible here.
(1) Serious song
Mala’ikun Alkiyama ba su dadin gamo,
Sun jingina manya manyan sanduna sun tsaye.
The Angels of Resurrection are not pleasant to meet,
They prop up their huge rods and are adamant.1 Parody
Kunun daka ya kori nika har waje,
Fate fate sha zamanka ba za mu dauke ka ba.
The pounded gruel has driven the gruel from grinding out,
Cakes remain there ! We shall not remove you.2
(2) Serious Song
Lokacin na Aliyyar Duniya,
In ya gabato kowa ya sani.
The time set for the present Islamic dispensation to end,
Everybody will know when it approaches.3 Parody
Ranar rikicewar kasuwa,
In ta gabato kowa ya sani.
The day the market goes awry,
Everybody will know when it approaches.4
The parody continues as follows
Malamina ba ya cin kwatfo amma ya kan taɓa dan romon miya,
Kazar gidanmu gwanar tono gwanar kwazaba,
Allah ya ba mu tumatir ran nan.
1 Reference to the interrogation by Walnakir.
2 Preference is for pounded gruel. Cakes are cheap.
3 Reference to the present Islamic dispensation considered to have begun in a.d. 1882 and estimated to last for 100 years.
4 Human environment as the market.


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My mallam does not eat cold groundnut gravy,1
But he is in the habit of occasionally taking a little soupbroth,
Our chicken is a clever scratcher and a clever pest,
May Allah give us a tomato on that day.2
(3) The next example is a parody of a standard praise song, sung for the amusement of the late Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello.
Maikashin arziki da yawa,
Sardauna mai hannuwa dama,
Ruwa suna maganin dautfa,
Fura tana maganin yunwa,
Sardauna yana maganin É—ari,
Mu kuwa muna maganin kosai Hana kangara dan Ibrahim
You destined for much prosperity,
Sardauna with two right hands,3 Water is the remedy for dirt,4 Flour balls are the remedy for hunger,
Sardauna is the remedy for cold,5 We are the remedy for cakes,
Son of Ibrahim, hold back the headstrong.6
(4) The last example consists of a parody of an outstanding song of high quality, concerning the Sokoto lineage of Sarkin Gobir Na Isa,7 which refers to the deeds of his illustrious ancestors in the Jihad, the holy war of the early nineteenth century. The original song was first sung by its composer Na RambaÉ—a who is now dead, though a gramophone record of it by him is still available.8 The parody, which is given after the translation of the original, was compiled from a tape of a modern performance in 1965. Unfortunately it has not been possible to establish the identity of the singer satisfactorily as the tape contains a
1 The mallam is represented as a connoisseur of food and is placed in incongruous juxtaposition to the family hen.
2 A pardon would be more appropriate.
3 Reference to the generosity of the late Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the North at the time.
4 This and subsequent lines are a play on sayings containing the word magani.
5 The saying is really Rana tsaka maganin tfari ‘ the midday sun is the remedy for cold Reference to generosity displayed by gifts of gowns, remedies for cold, in ridiculous juxtaposition to the comedians’ penchant for cakes.
n kangara does not really mean ‘ rebellion ’, although often so translated. It means a stubborn attitude to authority bearing a resemblance to dumb insolence, supposed to be an attribute of the headstrong.
7 The District Head of Gobir in the Isa District of Sokoto.
8 Tabansi Records Kano Sarkin Musulmi II Record Number 45 TAN 179.


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number of performances and the ’yankama concerned are not named. The audience’s laughter in response to the parody does not diminish the respect for Na Rambaɗa or their appreciation of his original composition.
The Original Song
Gwarzon Shamaki Na Malam, Toron Giwa
1 Ama sun san halin Alu mai saje na Isa,
2 Ahmadu, kakanka na mazajen gaban arna,
3 Sun san Bello, ya ci Gawungazagu, ya ci Alkalawa,
4 Atiku, ya darzaza Bauci,
5 Iro na Kontagora ya ci mutanen Gwari,
6 To, duk martabarsu na nan gun hannu nai,
7 Gwarzon Shamaki na Malam, Toron Giwa,
8 Baban Dodo ba a tam mai da batun banza,
9 Moriki, Kaura, da Zurmi duk magana ta zama dai,
10 Bungudu da Gusau sai Kwatarkwashi ga Dandoto,
11 Sun san Garba dan Hassan,
12 Kome ka yi ba a cewa ba daidai ba,
13 Nasabar Shehu ba ta dai da kakan kowa,
14 Baban Shamaki na Malam, Toron Giwa,
15 Ba a tam ma da batun banza,
16 Na tuna wata shekara da anka yi taro Hausa,
17 Kamfun nan ga arbain da bakwai duk sun zo,
18 Ni baya ga Isa ban ji labarin kowa ba,
19 Bana Ahmadu, Hausa ka rinjaye ni na yi,
20 In an ce Isa ba ka jin an ce wani sarki,
21 Ni kau duk Hausa ba ka jin wata waka bayan tau,
22 Gwarzon Shamaki na Malam, Toron Giwa,
23 Baban Dodo ba a tam ma da batun banza,
24 Ga ma wani tumuku da Argungu ta kawo,
25 Ga wani rincimi da Argungu ta kawo,
26 Ga dokinsu ya tafo, mu ko namu ya tafo,
27 Sai ga Abubakhar cikin mota ya kawo,
28 Ya ce Ahmadu Mohammadu,
29 Sarkin Gobir na Isa, kar ka ji tsoron kowa,
30 Gwarzon Shamaki na Malam, Toron Giwa,
31 Baban Dodo ba a tam ma da batun banza,
32 Ahmadu, Sarkin Gabas da Sarkin Rabah,
33 Mun ji dadi ran nan gamon da munka yi a bakin gulbi, etc.


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Translation
1 The pagans know the character of Alu of Isa1 with the sidewhiskers,
2 Ahmadu, your ancestor was a great fighter of pagans,
3 They know Bello,2 he conquered at Gawungazangu, he won Alkalawa,3
4 Atiku,4 he forced his way through Bauchi,
5 Ibrahim of Kontagora 5 defeated the Gwari pagans,
6 Yes, all the flower of their nobility was there in his hand,
7 Dauntless patriarch of Shamaki,6 associate of Mallam, Bull Elephant,
8 Father of Dodo, one does not provoke you with a trifling matter,
9 Moriki, Kaura, and Zurmi are all one in submission,
10 Bungudu and Gusau obey as well as Kwatarkwashi and Chafe,7
11 They know Garba,8 the descendant of Hassan,
12 Whatever you do, no one says you are wrong,
13 The lineage of the Shehu 9 is not like that of anyone,
14 Dauntless patriarch of Shamaki, associate of Mallam, Bull Elephant,
15 One does not provoke you with a trifle,
16 I remember a year when there was a great gathering in Hausaland,10
17 All the forty-seven districts came,
18 1 did not hear any mentioned except Isa,
19 This year, Ahmadu, in Hausa country you are supreme, so am I,
20 If you hear Isa you will not hear any other district head mentioned,
21 And I—my song is the only song heard in Hausaland,
22 Dauntless Patriarch of Shamaki, associate of Mallam, Bull Elephant,
23 One does not provoke you with a trifle,
24 There was an uproar which Argungu caused,11
25 There was a fracas due to Argungu,
26 There were their cavalry, and there were ours,
27 There too was Abubakhar in his motorcar,
1 Aliyu Jeddo, a Fulani military leader in the Jihad.
2 Mohammadu Bello, Sultan of Sokoto, 1817-1837.
3 The Gobir Capital, captured 1808.
4 Abubakhar Atiku, Sultan of Sokoto, 1837-1842.
5 Sarkin Sudan 1880-1901 ; 1901-1929.
6 Shamaki, Dodo, and Mallam I have not identified. Gwarzo and Baba imply ‘ Lord ’ and ‘ Master ’.
7 All places in East Sokoto. Dandoto District is substituted for Chafe (a place) to suit the metre.
8 Anyone called Abubakhar has a nickname Garba. Poetic licence with ‘ the son of ’ meaning ‘ descendant of ’, so that the present Sultan, Alhaji Sir Abubakhar, derives his lineage in the song directly from his uncle, Hassan, who was a Sultan.
9 Shehu Usman Dan Fodiyo, who led the Jihad.
10 Sokoto is pictured as Hausaland. Kamfun is a contraction of kamfuna (see the Hausa text), the Sokoto districts, forty-seven at the time.
11 Argungu was never completely subdued by the Fulani. I have not discovered the context of the event nor the remark by the Sultan.


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28 ‘ Ahmadu Mohammadu ’, said he,
29 6 Sarkin Gobir, do not stand in awe of anyone
30 Dauntless Patriarch of Shamaki, associate of Mallam, Bull Elephant,
31 Father of Dodo, one does not provoke you with a trifling affair,
32 Ahmadu, Lord of the East,1 District Head of Rabah,
33 We were happy that day we met on the bank of the river, etc.
Parody
1 Baban Shamaki tuwo da miya yai dadi,
2 Baban Arai ba a zo maka da baton kosai,
8 Gwarzon Shamaki tuwo da miya yai dadi,
4 Ahmadu, Allah ya ba mu albarkarÆŠan Fodiyo,
5 Ya yi zaman duniya da imani ya kaura,
6 Gwarzon Shamaki tuwo da miya ya yi dadi,
7 Baban Arai ba a zo maka da baton kosai,
8 Ahmadu, Allah ya ba mu albarkar Nana uwar Daje,
9 Ta yi zaman duniya da imani ta kaura,
10 Gwarzon Shamaki tuwo da miya yai dadi,
11 Baban Arai ba a zo maka da baton kosai,
12 Ahmadu, Allah ya ba mu albarkar ’yan koko,
13 Sun yi zaman duniya da imani sun saisai,
14 Gwarzon Shamaki tuwo da miya yai dadi,
15 Ahmadu, Allah ya ba mu albarkar ’yan kosai,
16 Sim yi zaman duniya su yi suya tai dadi,
17 Mutanen sun iya kosai wallahi,
18 Tai dadi sun iya kosai wallahi,
19 Ahmadu, Allah ya ba mu albarkar Umoru Gero,
20 Ya yi zaman duniya cikin daji ya kaura,
21 Gwarzon Shamaki tuwo da miya yai dadi,
22 Baban Arai ba a zo maka da baton kosai,
23 Ahmadu, Allah ya ba mu albarkar Shinkafa,
24 Tai zaman duniya cikin fadama ta kaura,
Allah ya gafarta wa Shinkafa,2
25 Gwarzon Shamaki towo da miya yai dadi,
26 Baban Arai, ba a zo maka da baton kosai,
27 Na tuna tumukun da sunka yi bakin gulbi,
28 Yakinsu ya tafo mu ko namu ya tafo,
29 Shinkafa tana fadin ita kam ta tuba,
30 Gero yana fadin shi kam ya tuba,
1 All Eastern Districts were combined under one command.
2 Inset lines are sung aside by accompanying comedians.


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31 Maiwa tana fatfin ita kam ta tuba,
32 Dawa tana fatfin ita kam ta tuba,
33 Waken shina fadin shi kam ya tuba,
34 Sai ka gama lafiya da imani in ji ’yan fura,
35 Gwarzon Shamaki tuwo da miya yai datfi
Yai dadi tuwo Yai dadi wallahi,
Kai tuwo da miya yai dadi wallahi
36 Baban Arai ba a zo maka da batun banza, etc.
Translation
1 Patriarch of Shamaki, Tuwo with Gravy is good,
2 Father of little Beanflour Cake, one does not bring up the subject of Beanflour
Cake to you,
3 Patriarch of Shamaki, Tuwo with Gravy is good,
4 Ahmadu, Allah blessed us with the good influence of Dan Fodiyo,
5 He spent his time in the world in the true faith and died,
6 Patriarch of Shamaki, Tuwo with Gravy is good,
7 Father of little Beanflour Cake, one does not bring up the subject of Beanflour
Cake to you,
8 Ahmadu, Allah blessed us with Nana,1 the mother of Daje,
9 She dwelt in this world in the faith and migrated,
10 Patriarch of Shamaki, Tuwo with Gravy is good,
11 Father of little Beanflour Cake, one does not bring up the subject of Beanflour
Cake to you,
12 Ahmadu, Allah blessed us with the sellers of gruel,
13 They dwelt in this world in the faith and traded,
14 Patriarch of Shamaki, Tuwo with Gravy is good,
15 Ahmadu, Allah blessed us with the beanflour cake sellers,
16 They dwelt in this world to fry them up nicely,
17 These people can certainly make beanflour cakes, upon my word,
18 The frying is nice, they can make beanflour cake, you have my word,
19 Ahmadu, Allah blessed us with the good influence of Umoru Millet,
20 He spent his time in the Bush and emigrated,
21 Patriarch of Shamaki, Tuwo with Gravy is good,
22 Father of little Beanflour Cake, one does not bring up the subject of Beanflour
Cake to you,
23 Ahmadu, Allah blessed us with the good influence of Rice,
24 She spent her time in the world in the swamp and departed,
May Allah pardon Rice,
1 Daughter of Shehu Usman Dan Fodiyo.


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25 Patriarch of Shamaki, Tuwo with Gravy is good,
26 Father of little Beanflour Cake, one does not bring up the subject of Beanflour
Cake to you,
27 I remember the hubbub we made on the riverbank,
28 Their raiders arrived so did ours,
29 Rice was saying she completely submitted,
30 Millet was saying he completely submitted,
31 Another Millet was saying he completely submitted,
32 Guineacorn said she completely submitted,
33 Bean said he completely submitted,
34 You must all end well in the faith said the flourball sellers,
35 Patriarch of Shamaki, Tuwo with Gravy is good,
Tuwo is nice,
Upon my word it is nice,
My word, Tuwo with Gravy is nice,
36 Father of little Beanflour Cake, one does not bring up a foolish subject to you, etc.
As has already been said, detailed analysis of the parody is not possible here, but it is clear that certain lines in it play on certain corresponding lines in the original. Thus lines 1 and 2 in the parody play upon lines 7 and 8 in the original at intervals whenever they occur. Again the phrase tumukun da sunka yi bakin gulbi in line 27 of the parody recalls a phrase gamon da munka yi a bakin gulbi in line 33 of the original ; parody line 4 can be compared with original line 2 ; parody line 28 resembles original line 26 ; parody lines 29-33 recall original lines 2-6 and 9-10 relating to the conquest of enemies and the subsequent obedience of districts, instead of the comical surrender of individual crops. Throughout the parody the rhythm and chant closely resemble the original.
2. THEMES
The main themes of ’yankamanci, which are constantly recurring, are the learned pedant, gastronomy, and the domestic scene in all its variety. This has already been exemplified by Haji Katsina’s reference to a woman not cooking her husband’s breakfast. Comical allusions to women are abundant as in this brief extract from an address delivered by a ɗankama in the Kasuwar Kurmi1 at Kano in 1956.
‘ To, Jama’a, yanzu muna so mu yi kokari mu kar6i mulkin kanmu daga hannun watfanda su ke rike da mulkiu, su ue mata. Ka ga maigida kai ne ka ke shan wahala kullun, kana fita kana nemo kayan abinci, sa’an nan kana kawowa gida, idan kuwa ka kawo gida abincin nan ya fi karfmka. Idan an kare abinci, ba kai ne za ka raba ba, mata su ne za su raba sa’an nan a ba ka.’
1 The Kano Market of ancient renown.


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‘ Well, sirs, now we are trying to take over self government from those who hold power over us, I mean the women. Now look here, sir, you are the one going to all the trouble, you are continually going out to fetch food, and bringing it home, but when you do, it goes outside your control, it is not you who divide it up, it is the women who distribute it, and only then will you get your share.’
The above is an imitation of a theme popular with some orators at the time. Mata ‘ women ’ are those in power ; maigida ‘ master of the house ’ is the Hausa man in the street; abinei ‘ food ’ is the country’s product; jama’a ‘ the people ’ are the people of the North ; gida ‘ home ’ is the North itself. The audience would react with laughter to the comedian’s performance which might well be a ridiculous imitation of a political rally held round the corner; yet much can be learned from comedians about the everyday affairs of the past since they often used catchwords of the day then in everyone’s mouth.
Other themes are illustrated by the following extracts from performances by Alhaji A. Dama :
Theme
(i) Against the Race of Women
(ii) A Clear Explanation of Marriage
(iii) Advice about Shopping
(iv) How to deal with a Guilty Chicken
(v) A Mixed Dish
(vi) Concentration
Reference
Duniya ta yi kyau mun karɓi mulki ga matammu ... the world is good, we have taken over the government from our women.
In za ka yi aure ka tambaya da kyan ... if you are going to marry, make thorough enquiries in advance.
Idan ka je kasuwa ka sayo nama da É“argo da tantakwashi... when you go to market you will probably bring back meat, a marrow, and the head of a sheep.
Ka fige fuka fukanta biyu domin kuwa su ne idan kaza ya yi ta’adi sn ke taimakonta wajen hawa sama, watau su ne lauyoyinta guda biyu. . . Pluck off the two wings which help a chicken to fly up when it has done damage, that is to say, her two lawyers.
Tuwon masara taushen kabewa,
Data duka ta fl su dadi.
Tuwo of maize cob, marrow gravy,
Cooking all ingredients at once is best.
Idan ana tuwo a gidanku kar ka je yawo, zauna ka cinye abinka kar ka ba kowa.
When tuwo is being made at home, don’t go for a walk, sit down and eat your own, don’t give it to anyone.


’YANKAMANCI—THE CRAFT OF THE HAUSA COMEDIANS 71
(vii) How to deal with a Idan matarka ta yi yaji kar ka je biko, ka dau dan
Renegade Wife kilishinka ka aika ka ga ta dawo.
If your wife runs away in anger, don’t go after her to remonstrate, pick up a thin strip of meat from your portion and send it to her, you will probably see her come back.
The favourite topic of food, its production and preparation is well illustrated by a long historical ‘ lecture ’ by an unknown comedian about the progress of Gero ‘ Millet ’ from seed to spoon, the full text of which was kindly sent by the Ministry of Information in Kaduna in 1965. It describes an imaginary battle in imitation of the Battle of Badr in a.d. 624. It is introduced as follows.
‘ Wani labari. Karon Badar tsakanin Annabi Gero da Mala’ika Nono. Annabi Gero ya ce wa Mala’ika Nono wace rana za mu yi yaki.’
‘ A tale. The Battle of Badr between Prophet Millet and Angel Milk. Prophet Millet asked Angel Milk for the date for the battle.’
The plot involves, among others, Mala’ika Magirbi ‘ Angel Harvest Tool ’, Mala’ika Lauje ‘ Angel Sickle ’, Sarkin Alaro Murhu ‘ Chief Porter Tripod ’, Babbar Bila 1 Tukunya ‘ Trusty Slave Stewpot ’, and San Kurmi Igiya ‘ Market Comptroller Rope ’. The narrative describes in ludicrous language the process of sowing and takes Gero through life stage by stage until he succumbs in battle, reaches the pot, and disappears down the throats of members of the audience who are mentioned by name. The narrative ends kafin a yi haka kasa suka yi sama suka yi sanin gaibu sai ciki ‘ before this could be done the earth turned upside down (for Prophet Millet and Angel Milk)—they knew the mystery which only the stomach knows ’: sanin gaibu sai ciki is a play on the phrase common in wa’azi and conversation sanin gaibu sai Allah ‘ only Allah knows what is mysterious to man ’.
The audience apparently regards as comical the contrast between real historical narrative and this nonsense. There is usually play in every line a tfankama delivers throughout his performance, and perfect timing for Hausa ears. Some of this narrative is delivered with kakale, i.e. alternate rising and falling intonation at a rapid speed, sometimes used by announcers to impress listeners with an otherwise absent sense of dramatic urgency. The nonsense is not generally hurtful when performed according to the tradition (see section 4 below), nor is it detrimental to authority. The audience is amused by the incongruous contrasts and absurd juxtapositions which multiply rapidly as the ɗankama speaks or sings. It may be a porter immediately followed by a pedant, or absurd words to a serious theme, or perhaps an invented saying Allah maganiu mutum im bai mutu ba ‘ Allah is the remedy for a man when he is not dead ’.
1 Bila, an Abyssinian slave, later freed and made a muezzin in the time of the Prophet. Hence Bila means a reliable person as in Audu shi ne Bila ‘ Audu is a thoroughly reliable individual


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While learning and religion are themselves never ridiculed, there is ample evidence of ridicule of the learned pedant such as one finds in Hausa literature, especially ridicule of the pedant who is a charlatan and a rogue. There is no intention in ’yankamanci to do more than burlesque an imaginary class of pedants. Generally mallams are held in the highest respect in Hausaland. There is no lack of respect implied by the survival of such sayings as malamai ba su son junansu, hassada ga malamai, gaba ga sarakuna, gasa ga attajirai 6 learned men do not like one another, jealousy is the hallmark of learned men, enmity the hallmark of Emirs, competition the hallmark of wealthy merchants ’. Malamai suna so su kure juna 4 learned men like to trip each other up ’ is a popular opinion. Storytellers relate tales in which a mallam is made to appear a child when confronted with the simple reality of the world. He is nonplussed when dealing with Haɓe 1 shrewdness and Bamaguje 2 forthrightness. The ridicule in such tales is directed sometimes against an imaginary class of comical duniya mallams 3 who are fond of the pleasures of life while exhorting others to be abstinent. There is, for instance, a Hausa saying kada ka yi aiki da aikin malami, ka yi koyi da fadar malami 4 don’t go by what a mallam does, copy what he says ’. As a catchphrase the epithet Malami Sarkin Rikici is intended to be humorous, and envisages a minor mercenary mallam preparing charms for payment simultaneously by a householder and a thief. The mirth which it evokes is only dariyar keta ‘ schadenfreude ’, a precise term meaning, in the context of ’yankamanci, that although slight malice may sometimes be implied, it is only in a mild, charming, and somewhat lovable form, such as indicated by the pleasure one feels when one hears that a thief has been robbed of his stolen goods. Hausas love incongruous situations, and at the same time have the greatest respect for da’a 4 etiquette and decorum ’, ladabi 4 good manners ’, and biyayya 4 loyalty ’. It is unnecessary here to prove that mallams are respected. They are very highly regarded by all classes of society in Hausaland. This fact will be apparent to anyone who has spent a little time in Hausa society.4 Nevertheless great amusement is caused by an imaginary character like Malam Zurke in Ruwan Bagaja ; 5 he enters for a competition with another mallam, also a charlatan, carrying an absurd number of Arabic books. He is shown a curved line, the meaning of which defeats him. Any talaka 4 ordinary man in the street ’ can see it is a representation of the moon drawn in the sand. He departs disgraced among the jeers of small boys who throw mud. This has no effect on the status of mallams in popular esteem.
1 Habe (singular Kado), Fulani words for the indigenous inhabitants of Hausaland, speaking Hausa as their native tongue. The Habe rulers were defeated by the Fulani in the Jihad.
2 Bamaguje (plural Maguzawa), pagan member of the Maguzawa tribe.
3 Worldly mallams.
4 For Hausa society see H. A. S. Johnston, Hausa Stories, Oxford University Press, 1966, Library of African Literature, the introduction. For Islam in Northern Nigeria see J. Schacht, Studia Islamica, Colligerunt R. Brunsching, ex fasciculo VIII, La Rose, Paris, 1957, p. 123.
5 Alhaji Abubakhar Imam, Ruwan Bagaja, Gaskiya, p. 9.


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The account of the ‘ Battle of Badr ’ illustrates the way in which millet, and other foodstuffs, and common objects are personified. This is a very common feature of the fantasy world of ’yankamanci, where staple crops and vegetables and farming instruments have life and personality. Sometimes they are depicted as angels and prophets ; at other times there appears to be a scale of rank in which tuwo ‘ cornmush ’, the basic item of Hausa diet, naturally has the highest place, whereas kunu ‘ gruel ’ is of a lowlier order : 1 maigida ‘ Master ’ would not be pleased with it if there was something else which could be provided. All food can be placed in order of merit by the epicures in a Hausa household. In this hierarchy Tuwo, like Burns’ Haggis, reigns supreme. In the performance of some ’yankama, traders, pictured as ’yan burodi ‘ breadsellers ’, can be allocated stalls in a market where Tuwo is eventually acclaimed as Comptroller. This is illustrated by a further example sent by a correspondent in Kano in 1965.
Na tfaya Na biyu Na uku Na fudu The first
The second
The third The fourth
Na biyar Na shida
Na bakwai Na takwas
The fifth The sixth
The seventh
The eighth
Bayani a kan manya manyan Nijeriya
Guide to Important Nigerian Persons
’yan burodi da ’yan tsire su ne wakilan Nijeriya,
’yan fura da ’yan koko da ’yan kunu su ne ministoci,
’yan kunun zaki su ne masu jawo hankalin mutane,
’yan naman miya su ne keyateka.
sellers of bread and sellers of meat on skewers, they are the members of the Nigerian House of Assembly, sellers of flour balls in milk, koko gruel and kunu gruel, they are the Ministers,
sellers of sweet runny gruel, the propaganda experts, sellers of meat and gravy, the caretakers.
ma’auna su ne ’yan komiti,
’yan gishiri su ne masu watsa labarai,
kowa ya ji da bakinsa ba da kunnuwansa ba,
’yan tattasai da ’yan tumatir su ne cayamen din Nijeriya
’yan barkono su ne ’yan zanga zanga.
sellers of corn by the measure, they are committee men, sellers of salt, publicity officers, everyone will taste the news with their mouth, not hear it with their ears,
sellers of large chillies and tomatoes, they are the Chairmen of Nigeria
sellers of hot pepper, they are the demonstrators.
1 For the lowly position of kunu, see Magana Jari Ce, Vol. 2, p. 122.
F


74
Na tara Na goma
Na goma sha daya Na goma sha biyu
The ninth
The tenth T?ie eleventh The twelfth
C. G. B. GIDLEY
sakaratorin Nijeriya su ne ’yan man ja da man gyada da man shanu,
’yan kwanunnuka da kore da ’yan akusa su ne indifendodin Nijeriya don kuwa abokan cinikin kowanne,
’yan tukwane su ne shugabannin kasa masu kula da abin da kowa zai dafa, Shugaban da zai kirawo wannan taro shi ne mai girma, mai martaba, ma naman jiki, mai jiki duk tsoka, TUWO.
sellers of palm oil, groundnut oil, and butter, are the secretaries of Nigeria,
sellers of metal basins, calabashes, and bowls, are the independent people of Nigeria, trading companions of everyone, sellers of pots, the national leaders, paying attention to what everybody is cooking,
the leader who will summon this assembly to him, no other than the majestic, the honourable, the corpulent, the supremely succulent TUWO.
The comedian ends his explanation of Tuwo’s place in the hierarchy by addressing the substance personally.
Tuwo, kowa ya zo duuiya kai ya tarar,
Gajere na kwano mai sa many a su sunkuya maka,
su ci ka zaune,
To, jama’a, cin tsire halal ne amma tsinken tsire haram ne sai a zare a yar. Cin doya da rogo da gwaza halal ne amma ɓawon haram ne, sai a yar da shi waje daya.
Tuwo, whoever comes into the world is sure to find you,
The short person of the metal bowl causing the mighty to bow to you,1 in order to eat you seated.
Well, sirs, eating a small piece of skewered meat is permitted,2 but the stick on which the meat is skewered is forbidden, take it out and throw it away. Eating yam, cassava, and kokoyam is allowed but their outer coverings are not permitted to you, they have to be thrown on one side.
By this devious comment the comedian indicates that, although there is more to be said, this is the end of his dissertation. It must not be thought that such references to a hierarchical organization are intended to be disrespectful to authority. No flagrant disrespect is intended by performances such as these and no offence is taken. The audience is merely amused by hearing a list of important titles allocated to market stalls. This is simply a typical instance of one brand of Hausa humour into which too much must not be read. The main thing is for the audience to be amused.
1 An epithet of tuwo is sa maza ladab, ‘ you who make the mighty show respect by bowing low before you (to eat) ’.
2 permitted (halak), not permitted (haram), in the Mohammedan Code.


’YANƘAMANCI—THE CRAFT OF THE HAUSA COMEDIANS 75
3. PRACTICE
A dankama has the following traditional items of equipment, some of which are shown in the illustration. These are kanzagi ‘ drum cazbi ‘ beads dara ‘ fez takobi na ice ‘ wooden sword kube ‘ scabbard hamila ‘ sword sling tuntu ‘ tassel wando ‘ trousers and takalmi ‘ shoes To show shameless disregard for convention, when appropriate, a comedian does not wear his gown but tucks it into the waist of his trousers so that it hangs down in front as far as the knee, just allowing his navel to show. Islamic instruction about how to dress, which itinerant mallams conveyed to pagan villages in the early part of the century, is concerned with the necessity of covering the body from the navel to the knee with clothing. In the old days a bow made of a stalk of Indian hemp (siyaye) might also be carried. To this day garma na mara ‘ hoe made of calabash ’ may be carried to imitate ’yan hoto ‘ country entertainers ’. Sometimes a tfankama will dress as a wealthy merchant, a nobleman, or a learned mallam, appearing to be a dattijo ‘ respectable gentleman ’. The audience is amused when he suddenly throws off his disguise and starts dancing and beating his drum.
The comedians usually perform in groups of three,1 standing close to one another, in the market and main streets ; occasionally they make visits, and perform at social occasions at the houses of important people, often on impulse ; frequently they go on itineration and their tours may include visits to far distant places. In 1965 the Zaria ’yankama were known to go to Kaduna to attend social functions at which the Premier and his Ministers were present; they were sometimes expected to give a special performance for well-known people ; they toured in other regions and were occasionally asked to the broadcasting and television studios in Kaduna. The whole tradition of ’yankamanci in the past three generations can be established from Durgundamu (c. 1885) to his son Jan Kosai and, in turn, to his son Alhaji Ahmadu Daɓalo, himself a renowned comedian, now living in Limanci in Zaria town, as his forbears did. It is sufficient to say that it reflects the background of Hausa life during the past three generations. Durgundamu’s fame—this name suggests the Short Legged Botherer—survives in oral tradition from the last century, handed down from father to son with all the tricks of the craft.
A comical pastiche of songs by well-known singers appears to occupy more time in modern performances than it did forty years ago ; perhaps this is due to the influence of the gramophone and ‘ Listeners’ Choice ’ on the wireless. The comedians have available in an instant a multitude of metres, some of them their own, from Alburda and Ishiriniya to jallaku jalle, and the traditional stand-by iye nanaye ayye yaraye nanaye dargazazo, which they use to introduce songs usually sung by girls. Usually, however, metrical devices are not important in producing the general pleasure and interest felt in listening to their absurd performances.
1 Often Malam, Maigida, and Aboki (Pedant, Master of the House, and Friend).


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’YANKAMANCI—THE CRAFT OF THE HAUSA COMEDIANS
77
The whole effect is ban dariya ‘ amusing It is not an occasion for tunani ‘ reflection The noise is considerable. To take a specific example, Alhaji A. Dama may sing a variety of songs by himself for a considerable period, swamped by the audience, and engage them in a constant flow of repartee. He sings with control and pleasing effect. His Indian music is most popular : his mordants are well performed ; his imitation of an Indian drum is excellent, although he is using a kanzagi. With his drum he can also imitate a large fiddle by blowing across the open end. Then he sings a mock Yoruba song with accompaniment which burlesques Yoruba singing and drumming perfectly. The audience is laughing, and insists that he should imitate the various nations of the world. He does so, starting with some excellent Sudanese music, although his words are utter nonsense. The audience is delighted with the weird stream of sound which is superimposed on a succession of perfectly executed and familiar drumming patterns (salon kitfa ‘ a pattern of drumming ’).
Another perennial type of dankama is Jarmai, a survivor from olden times of whom nothing has so far been said. The Jarmai is a buffoon and his entertainment is simple. He wanders about imitating a mediaeval infantryman, with a wooden sword and bone knife, and, until recently, a bow and arrow made of Indian hemp. He approaches and starts an interrogation which is a traditional part of his performance, perhaps laying his tfankama’s wooden sword on a stranger’s neck in a mock threat, ‘ Ku ne kuka zagi sarki ? ’ ‘ Was it you people who spoke against the Emir ? ’. The audience laughs and throws him pennies as he looks diabolical and shouts comical kirari ‘ challenges ’ such as ‘ kaka tsara kaka, sai ni Mala’ikan Tuwo Bajinin Ɗanwake ’ ‘ Come on then, I’m ready ! It is I, Angel Tuwo, The Excellent Dumpling ’. These kirari are ludicrous challenges in imitation of real challenges, for instance, in an ancient battleline. As a species Jarmai seems to have lingered longer than other Hausa buffoons, but the progress of modern ’yankama who have adapted themselves to constantly changing audience demand and competitive forms of entertainment have caused him to be less in evidence than he was. A comic imitation of a warrior may not be so popular now because it is less topical; it may even be regarded as a nuisance, yet it is from the Jarmai that modern ’yankama on television derive, and from whom they take their epithet of Jarmai (cf. page 58).
The handing down of skill from father to son may now no longer be automatic. Some young men may feel that ’yankamanci rightly belongs to the past and is out of keeping with the present time ; however, if a young man has sufficient hikima ‘ wisdom ’ for the craft, he may still learn as an apprentice with a dankama on itineration, before he starts to train others himself and practise on his own. Usually he will prefer not to practise in his home area, in case he should mistakenly and unintentionally offend a local person, and this might have an adverse effect on his family. It may also be that Hausas like to hear jokes from strangers. The best comedians, performing in the true tradition, are welcome everywhere,


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and some of them are renowned. Some comedians, on the other hand, relying too much on old situations and old humour, have only a moderate following, and their sons are not eager to take over from them. Generally the craft is well advanced in its decline, well past its peak which was reached in the first quarter of the century when Haji Katsina performed.
4. STANDARDS
The two main terms used in my sources in assessing performances of ’yankama are asali and azanci. An attempt is here made to summarize the essential meaning of these two terms in the present context. As will be seen asali often involves avoidance of abuses or extremes favoured by other types of minstrels, whereas azanci is a much more positive term.
(i) Asali
While asali ‘ origin and lineage ’ is important in Hausa society in general, a craft too must have asali to be generally accepted. An elderly title holder, referring to a comedian, remarked ‘ Na gani ba shi da kirki, yana takama da sarakuna da ministoci, shi ma idan aka bi labarinsa kamancinsa ba shi da asali ’ ‘ I think he is no good, he boasts of his contacts with Emirs and Ministers, but if you carefully examine his “ minstrelsy ” you will see that it is not performed in traditional fashion ’. In this tradition comedians avoid giving any offence; committing sin (zunubi) against religion. They carefully avoid using the exact words of religious contexts or altering them in any way which would cause offence. As we have seen, one comedian will recite while another interprets his mock Arabic into Hausa seeming always to be on the brink of overstepping the mark, but at the last moment he introduces traditional jargon taken from the conversation of the kitchen,1 the market, the farm, and family life, an incongruous string of vegetables or a list of staple foods being suddenly substituted for pious warnings.
Haji Katsina may have been in danger of transgression where he used ‘ day of resurrection ’ tashin kiyama (p. 56). In the traditional jargon of ’yankamanci this would normally be ranar rikicewar kasuwa ‘ the day the market goes awry ’. If the line was accepted by the audience and the dattijo in front of whose compound the performance took place, that is the criterion, and our judgement based on western standards is perhaps irrelevant. A typical example of sudden avoidance occurs in the line ‘ on the day of the market she will lack the ingredients for soup ’ (p. 56). This in serious wa’azi might be ‘ on judgement day she will not be rewarded ’, followed by a reminder of the penalty for an offence and the next line ‘ on the day of resurrection Walnakir will beat her behind with an onion top ’
1 Alhaji A. Dama is popularly known as Ministan Klein, ‘ the Minister of Kitchen ’. The word minista was sometimes used jokingly, for instance, as a shout by a football crowd delighted by the dribbling skills of a footballer; shouted with vigour 1956-1960 in Kaduna and Jos Football Grounds.


’YANKAMANCI—THE CRAFT OF THE HAUSA COMEDIANS 79
in real wa’azi would contain the penalty zai yi mata azaba da sandar wuta 4 will chastise her with a rod of fire
In the true tradition of ’yankamanci then zunubi is to be avoided, but so too are batsa, zambo, and reniya which as explained below are the stock in trade of less welcome types of maroka, while habaici is used with care.
Batsa means indecent speech and vulgar jokes as purveyed by the ’yan garkuwa, traditional bands of mendicants who once had a reputation for vulgarity.
Zambo is the term used for insulting abuse such as some Hausa and Yoruba mendicants employ to force donations from unwilling misers, although, since 1957, the Criminal Code has been amended to limit its practice. Their performances typically involve a very rapid style of utterance which, combined with the general accompanying din, makes the insults very hard to follow. One example of zambo may be given here by way of illustration :
Marowaci maye ne,
Marowaci furan danko,
Sai a shekara ana damu,
Zumbuli kakan marowata duka.
The miser is a wizard,
The miser is sticky flour,
He has to be mixed for a year,
Skinflint, forefather of all misers.
Zambo is strong stuff, and provokes an angry reaction which eventually, as intended, leads to a final payment to stop the maroki’s mouth. It is not polite, it may be vulgar, and it is regarded as extremely insulting, the preservation of self respect and dignity being of such importance in Hausa life. While other maroka may have indulged in zambo of this kind, it is avoided in the true tradition of ’yankama whose aim is to entertain without giving offence to anybody.
Reniya is looking askance at what you are given as a reward, a practice not uncommon with some other maroka. Rewards given to comedians naturally vary considerably in value, sometimes, in the old days, being as low as one-tenth of a penny or a few cowries. Ordinary maroka would not uncommonly give vent to their disgust in no uncertain manner. ’Yankama, however, were and are expected to accept any reward however small without any sign of displeasure. This attitude is summed up in the saying reniya haramun ce 4 despising a reward is forbidden ’ (see the Emir of Abuja’s essay, p. 56).
Habaici usually refers to the mockery of an individual by talking with somebody else within hearing, using Hausa sayings in such a way that they can be easily overheard by the person concerned who will take them as innuendoes referring to himself. Habaici in this sense is a very useful practice in Hausa society at all levels. In ’yankamanci, where there is no malicious intention to hurt any individual but only to make fun of an imaginary category of people, the killjoys of the world,


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habaici is used in a modified form, the sting taken from it by skilful touches of humour.
(ii) Azanci
Azanci, given in Abraham’s dictionary as ‘ meaning and sense has various uses depending on its context. It is, for instance, the quality which poets possess when finding the appropriate word, metre, or simile. A title of a chapter in Labaru Na Da headed Azancin Waka means ‘ skill in the composition of verse ’, its principal ingredients being good sense and good judgement. An aspiring dankama might be well known for rashin azanci ‘ lack of judgement ’ in the words he uses. But although in the account given of Haji Katsina (p. 56) azanci is translated as ‘ good sense ’, more than that is implied. There are three everyday contexts relevant to the Emir’s use of the word.
(а) Inventive genius (almost inspiration)
Maiwakan nan azanci gare shi.
This poet has inventive genius, i.e. his allusions show creative skill.
(б) Idea
Azancina ne kn dawo gobe da safe.
My brilliant idea is for you to come back tomorrow.
(c) Plan
Mu kam ba mu da wani azanci.
We have no other stratagem.
To succeed as Haji Katsina did and Alhaji A. Dama does, a dankama has to have a retentive memory, well stocked with pieces of acceptable nonsense, and with facetious comment, interspersed with songs ; to employ these materials to good effect he needs a ready wit and dramatic talent. How essential all these qualities are will be obvious when it is remembered that a performance may last for a long time and must appear spontaneous, and at the same time avoid giving offence of any kind in a public place, where the audience is constantly changing. A dankama must also have a good knowledge of everyday affairs, a nice sense of humour, and a good temper. Thus all this, combined with his skill in deploying his resources, always watchful for audience reaction and spontaneous in his own, constitutes the comedian’s azanci.
Conclusion
’Yankamanci remains a comical mode of expression which has been valued by Hausa audiences. It would, as I have suggested, be unwise to apply western methods of analysis, inherited in our society, to these Hausa performances which have survived from the Hausa past. The best criteria may be in the laughter of


’YANKAMANCI—THE CRAFT OF THE HAUSA COMEDIANS
81
the audience and tolerant public opinion. The practice of the craft clearly includes ridicule of convention, but Hausa opinion must be taken as to whether any real offence has been given ; on the whole the craft seems widely accepted as enlivening Hausa life. This study has revealed Hausa delight in nonsense which, in varying degrees, is universal. In the case of the ’yankama, their nonsense is often decked with the appearance of deep learning, though, paradoxically, there is also a Hausa saying wasan Bahaushe gaskiyarsa ‘ What the Hausa says in jest he really means ’. It may be unwise to comment on the relevance of this saying without having been brought up from an early age in the society, but, on the whole, it appears that ’yankamanci has provided an outlet for Hausa fun, comic relief for the man in the street, and occasional diversion for broad-minded rulers. There is no harm done to authority, nor is there any intentional disrespect to any individual— but the humour is at the expense of an imaginary category of people, who are also caricatured in Hausa stories. The comedians have usually displayed unusual good judgement, for maroka of their type, in using their bizarre mode of expression as a vehicle for comical nonsense. This study also shows the easy relationship which existed between all sections of Hausa society during the first half of this century, and an amiable tolerance by public opinion and traditional authority of a brazen but tempered mode of satire.


SWAHILI THEOLOGICAL TERMS
By Jan Knappert
Very little is known about the traditional Swahili concept of God. In 1936 Prof. Dammann published an article about a Swahili prose treatise in which the qualities of God are systematically but very succinctly set out.1 In 1960 I wrote an article on the Holy Names of God in Arabic and Swahili.2 In 1962 I found a Swahili Utenzi-poem of 421 stanzas 3 in which the divine attributes are enumerated with remarkable similarity to those found in Prof. Dammann’s publication. It might be interesting to quote in full the passages which explain these divine attributes and the arguments why it is necessary to believe in them. The translator calls himself in v. 421 : Mansabu bin Huseni bin Mudiri Hemani, born in Amu (Lamu). He mentions as the author of the original Arabic work Abudalla Ba Kathiri.4 The title of the work is Durari V Bahiya, ‘Pearls of Beauty’, which the translator abridged considerably, ‘ for the benefit of those ignorant people who do not know Arabic ’. It is the first duty of every Muslim to study and acquire knowledge (elimu), thus the poem opens. This elimu is not school knowledge as we learn it, but elimu ya dini, ‘ knowledge of religion ’, which can be acquired through memorizing the Koran and studying the extensive traditions (sunna) of the life of the Prophet Mohammed. It is one’s duty to believe in the Giver, His angels, all His Books, His prophets, His Doomsday and His Omnipotence.
18. Lilo kheri na la sharri yuwanda 5 Mungu Kahhari lililo yema shukuri
ovu omba kwondolewa.
19. Akauza ihisani kamujibu dalihini Ni Mungu tuabuduni kama mezohudhuria.
Good and Evil
God the Compellor initiated it ;
for the good be grateful,
from the evil pray to be delivered.
And (he who) begs a favour (God) will answer him at once.
He is God, let us worship Him, as He is present.6
1 Dammann, ‘ Ein Schafiitischer Traktat in Suaheli *, Der Islam, 23, 1936, pp. 189-91.
2 Knappert, ‘ The Divine Names Swahili, Journal of the E.A. Swahili Committee, No. 31, 1960, pp. 180-98.
3 Now in the possession of Sh. Hyder Mohammed Elkindy, but originally from the estate of Sir Mbarak Ali Hinawy.
1 The MS is dated 1329 (= a.d. 1911) and written in old-style Kiamu. For the Arabic original see Dammann, op. cit., p. 191, where he mentions a work called Durar Bahiya, but written by a different author.
5 Possibly this must be read yuwapa ‘ He gives you (plur.) ’.
6 vv. 18-19. One could also translate : ‘ As if He were present or ‘ in the manner in which He is present


SWAHILI THEOLOGICAL TERMS
83
God is present though we cannot see Him. He has made Himself known to Gabriel when He dictated the Koran which Gabriel had to teach to Mohammed. God sees you and answers your prayer.
21. Na Mungu kumuamini ni kukata kwa moyoni ni Ye pweke hana thani hana mufano wa moya.
22. Hana mufanowe dhati hana mufano swifati zitendo zakwe si siti hazifani na za moya.
And to believe in God
is to decide in one’s heart
that He is alone, that He has no second ; there is not even one like Him.
He has no equal in essence, nor in qualities ;
His acts — I do not hesitate — they do not resemble those of anyone.
The description of God’s being is here divided into three main classes, that of His essence (dhati Ar. dat), His qualities (swifati Ar. sifat) and His acts (zitendo, standard Swahili vitendo, or with an Arabic loanword : afaali, pi. of fiili).1
God’s most important quality is His uniqueness (upweke, Ar. samad, Sw. samadu).2 Nothing equals Him, nothing even resembles Him in substance, properties or in deeds. God is One, there is no second. This emphasis on God’s oneness was relevant in Mohammed’s time when the Arabs had to be converted from polytheism to Islam ; it is equally relevant in Africa where Islam is confronted with tribal polytheism. But the importance of God’s unisubstantiality has a philosophical reason as well : from it can be derived the other propria, which will be discussed presently.3 God is one, i.e. He is not divisible into parts, nor is He a part (fungu) of anything. This means that God is not caused by anything as He is not part of a chain of causes and consequences ; His existence is not conditioned by anything, He is independent (ghanii Ar. ganiy), and entirely different from any other being (umbali, ‘ difference or distance ’). From the assertion ‘ God has no cause ’ it follows that God was never caused and therefore He was always there. From the assumption of God’s independence follows that God’s existence cannot be ended, because there is nothing to which He owes it, therefore there is nothing the withdrawal of which would end it ; no support is needed for His existence. It follows that He never dies, He is eternal. This explains why God is unique : He is the only not-created being, He is entirely different from any creature which dies because it has been caused by factors which may cease to operate and so cause its death.
In the Swahili text of the Durari VBahiya the complete chain of this reasoning
1 Dammann, loc. cit.
2 Koran 112,2. For Samadu see L. Gardet, De Islam, Roermond, 1962, p. 52.
3 M. Horten, Die Religiose Gedankenwelt der Gebildeten Muslime im Heutigen Islam, Halle, 1916, pp. 45, 68-70.


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JAN KNAPPERT
is not found, but it is needed to explain the enumeration of the qualities and their order.
40. Ya kuswifuwa Mannani wajibu ni ishirini
na zinyume ziyuwani zisojuzu kuswifuwa.
41. Na la jaizi tiani yatimie jumlani wahidi wa rubaini tabaini moyamoya.
42. Wajibu Mungu kuwako kinyume ni kuwa hako Pili Ye ya tangu uko kuso mwandowe sikia.
43. Kinyumekye ni kuzuka
La nne ni kuhalifika na kulla kyalikyo zuka dhatiye na swifa pia.
In order to describe the Giver 1
twenty (swifati) are obligatory ;
You must know the opposites as well,
those properties which it is impossible to attri-
bute to God.
Put down the possible attributes too,2
make the sum full
forty-one,
I will explain them one by one.
It is necessary that God exists ;
the opposite of that would be His non-existence. Second : He has existed since before time,3 without there being His beginning, hear ye !
The opposite of that would be that He came into being.4
The fourth is that He is different5
from everything that came into being, in essence as well as in attributes.
44. Na zote zitendo zake si kama ziwumbe zake yuwani kinyume kyake ni kufana na kya moya.
And all His acts
are unlike those of His creatures
know ye, the opposite of that (would be) that they would be similar to (an act) of another
one.
1 Kuswifuwa (Standard Swahili kusifiwa) ‘ to be described, qualified, praised ’. Ya refers probably to maneno ‘ words ’, so that another possible translation would be : ‘ The words with which God can be praised ’.
2 Jaizi ‘ possible, permissible ’, Dammann, p. 190 : ‘ moglich, indifferent ’, i.e. those attributes which may or may not be applied.
3 Sacleux (Dictionnaire Swahili-Frangais, p. 868) gives Hlahi wa tangu ‘ Dieu qui existe depuis les temps les plus anciens ’. The root is cognate with that of -tangulia ‘ to precede ’. God is precedent (sabiku 4 anterieur ’) to every other being, God is the Beginner (Mwandi). God has no beginning because He is not caused. See Horten, op. cit., p. 43.
4 Kuzuka ‘ to appear, to emerge ’, like a ship from behind the horizon, or a fish from under the surface of the sea, ‘ to rise ’ like a star from the horizon. The reasoning is, that if one does not assume that God existed since before the beginning of time, one will have to suppose (having admitted that He exists) that He originated at a given time in history, which is unacceptable (muhali, see Dammann loc. cit.).
5 Kuhalifika originally means ‘ to go one’s own way, turn one’s back on others ’, hence ‘ to deviate, stand apart, go against the norm ’. God is totally different from all other beings as the latter originated after the beginning of time. Yet God cannot be in contrast with anything as this would impair His limitlessness (Horten, p. 59).


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85
45. La tano ni kwima kwake kwa iyo nafusi yake na haya maana yake huwa hakuhitajia.
The fifth is His existence 1 by Himself2 and the meaning of this is that He has no need.
God’s existence is self-sufficient, it is not based on some outside factor as this would mean that something which was not part of God, was a condition for His existence. For instance, the existence of a human being on earth is conditioned in the first place by the earth itself on which he has to stand, secondly by the availability of air and water, of two parents to beget him, and of many other things which make human existence on earth possible and therefore restrict it, e.g. if suddenly there were no more air available, man would die. God, however, does not have to be 6 kept alive ’ by anything.
46. Si Muhitaji wa kitu kya kwimia, Mola wetu, si Muhitaji wa mutu wa kupata kumuzuwa.
He is not in need of anything to exist from — our Lord — ; He does not need anybody to invent Him.3
To the modern Western reader this might not seem an impossible hypothesis, indeed, some philosophers hold that the concept of God was invented by men. For the Swahili traditional writers, however, the opposite applies : it was God who invented man. It is possible that we have to translate the last word of this stanza in its original meaning of ‘ to bring up from the water ’, as one can rescue a drowning man and put him on his feet.
47. Kinyume kyake fahama ni kuamuka hakwima kwa nafusiye, Karima,
kaumbwa au kazawa.
The opposite of that, remember,
(would be) to say that He does not exist through His own (working) — the generous
One —
but that He was created or born.
The implication of this is, clearly, that, since it is unacceptable to us to conceive of God as either created by somebody else, or as born from some mother, we are
1 Kwima, lit. ‘ to stand, to stand up ’ ; one could translate ‘ position ’, but it seems attractive to suppose a similar transition of meaning from ‘ to stand ’ to 4 * to exist ’ as we find in Latin sisto > existo. Cf. Dutch staan ‘ to stand ’ > bestaan ‘ to exist ’.
2 Kwa nafusiye lit. ‘with His soul’ or ‘by means of His soul’. This, however, seems unlikely. More probable is the translation of nafusi = nafsi ‘ self ’ ; ‘by Himself ’ must be understood to mean ‘ on His own strength, without help ab alio \ see Horten, op. cit., pp. 43, 69.
3 The verb kuzuwa is the transitive form of kuzuka ‘ to fish up, bring something up from
under the surface of the water, bring to light ’ (‘ mettre a jour ’, Sacleux, op. cit., p. 1049).
Its commonest meaning is ‘ to invent ’?


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JAN KNAPPERT
forced to assume that God exists through His own working or in other words, that He has caused Himself, which must of course mean that He has always existed.
48. La sita ni kuwa pweke fahamu maana yake ni yu pweke dhati yake na swifa zake ni moya.
The sixth is that He is unique,
— appreciate the meaning of this — it is that His essence is unique, and is one with His attributes.1
The basic line of reasoning is here that God does not share His God-ness with any other beings, and that He is not divisible into parts. It follows that God’s attributes cannot be conceived of as being separable from His essence (or substance).2
49. Zi pweke zitendo zake yuwani kinyume kyake kuwako wa pili wake kufana naye kwa moya.
50. La sahaa ni kuweza kinyume ni kutoweza na la nane t‘aweleza ni kupenda yambo kuwa,
Unique are His acts
the opposite (would be)
that there would be another one
who would resemble Him (as if being) the same.
The seventh is His omnipotence.
the opposite would be not to be omnipotent.3 And the eighth, I will explain to you, is to will that a thing exists.4
If God wills that a thing should exist, He merely says to it : ‘ Be ’, and it is.5 The use of a word for 6 to love ’ in the meaning ‘ to will ’ is not unique in Swahili.6 God’s will (Ar. Muradi, lit. ‘ purpose ’) is the cause of creation.
51. Kinyume ni kutokuwa na yambo hilo likawa la tisia ni kuyuwa kinyume ni kutoyuwa.
The opposite would be that it would not be, but this thing does exist.
The ninth is His knowledge the opposite of this is ignorance.
1 The alternative translation would be ‘ His attributes are one but the intention can only be 4 one with God God cannot be conceived of as being separable from His attributes. They are one with His essence. Horten (op. cit., p. 57) calls them inhaerent.
2 See Horten, p. 50. The reason for this impossibility is that it would reduce God’s invariability : He would become subject to change if any of His attributes were not propria, but accidental, i.e. non-essential. Also, any doubt about His absolute oneness would mean polytheism (ib. p. 47). Shiriki 4 Partnership ’ is the word for polytheism.
3 Kuweza 4 to be able ’, kutoweza 4 to be unable ’. Obviously, if applied to God, these words have to be taken in an absolute meaning. Dammann translates Macht4 power ’ (p. 190), Horten gives Allmacht 4 Omnipotence ’ (pp. 63, 69).
4 For kupenda in the sense of 4 to will see Dammann, loc. cit.
5 This refers to the Koranic expression kun fayakunu (6, 72 ; 16, 42 ; 19, 36 ; 36, 82 ; 40, 70).
6 Cf. Yugoslav voliti4 to want, will, to love ’.


SWAHILI THEOLOGICAL TERMS
87
The underlying argument of the first half of this stanza is that it is inconceivable that God’s creative purpose would remain without effect, since we see around us the created world ; ergo, God’s will to create had effect in each case.
The implication in the second half of the stanza is the same as in stanza 50. If God’s power were not total, one would have to assume that there are things which God is unable to do ; this is clearly unacceptable. Similarly, if anything in the created world were not wanted by God we must either suppose that it was willed by some other power, which would be polytheism, or that God created some things against His own will, which is unacceptable. Finally, if God were not omniscient, there would be things which He did not know ; this would mean that some superior power could keep it hidden from His knowledge, or that He willed, and created things which He did not know ; both hypotheses are unacceptable.
52. Kumi u hayi Latifa kinyume kyake ni kufa. ifahamu kulla swifa kinyume kikikwelea.
Ten : the kind One has Life. The opposite of that is to die. Understand every attribute, as the opposite is clear to you.
If God were not alive we should have to assume either that He had died some time in the past, or that He were some dead being, like stone or sand. Both hypotheses are clearly unacceptable, ergo, to God appertains the attribute of Life, He is the living God.
53. Na ya heda-asharia ni wajibu kusikia kinyumekye nakwambia ni kiziwi mwakiyuwa.
And the eleventh :
It is necessary that He hears ;
the opposite, I tell you,
would be that He were deaf, know ye.
54. Ithina-ashara tena wajibu wake kuwona kinyume kyake t‘anena ku towon a kyangalia.
The twelfth then :
it is necessary that He sees ;
its opposite, I will say :
it is not to see, while looking.
It is, of course, unacceptable to suppose that God could not see while looking hard at his creatures ; likewise it is impossible to assume that God could be a deaf person (kiziwi). These attributes of God are accidental because they require an object, a thing seen or heard, so that they are only in operation when God has created something visible or audible.1
The thirteenth attribute of God is the faculty of speech. The poet has left it
1 Horten, p. 57. But see the comments to stanza 61.


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JAN KNAPPERT
out but it is mentioned by Dammann as no. 13 ; God is Msemi ‘ the Speaker because it cannot be supposed that He would be mute (bubu).1 The most important word of God is always His commandment (amri) (see note 5, page 86). It is possible that this attribute has been omitted because there is some controversy over the question as to whether God speaks to Man, or orders His angels to do so.
55. La arobata-ashara
ni kuwa mwenye mirara kinyume kyake imara ni kuwa mwenye kwemea
The fourteenth (attribute)
is to be powerful;
the opposite of his strength
would be that He had to rely on (others).
The word mirara is a hapax legomenon in Swahili poetry. Belot’s Arabic dictionary gives : ‘ Force, fermete, vigueur ’. The sense is repeated in the next line with the word imara ‘ strength ’, which is a very common Swahili word of the same Arabic root.2 The concept of power features as no. 15 in Dammann and Horten. As no. 14 they have ‘ Life ’, which comes as no. 17 in the present Swahili text. The attributes 14-20 are a repetition of the seven attributes nos. 7-14. As they are repeated in the same order, this is a corroboration of the interpretation that mirara means ‘ power ’, for it equals no. 7 kuweza with the same meaning.
The last word, kwemea, means ‘ to lean on something, to rely on a person ’. If God did not have omnipotence, He would have to rely on others for at least part of His acts, He would not be able to support Himself and His creation entirely by means of His own strength.3
56. Hamsa-ashara tunda The fifteenth bead of the rosary
ni kuwa mwenye kupenda is that He has Will ;
kinyume asolipenda the opposite would be that He did not will
likawa angatukiwa. (a thing) but it came into being, though He
hated it.
A tunda means one of the beads of the rosary (tasbihi), because the swifati are used in the Islamic world in a similar way that Catholics use their Ave Maria and Pater Noster. Ninety-nine of the ‘ Holy Names ’ (Asma? el-Husna) of God are regularly recited with the help of a string of beads.
1 Dammann, p. 190 ; Horten, p. 65. See also stanza 61.
2 Ar. root mrr ‘ to pass, to pass on, do something repeatedly ’; 10th form : ‘ to be firm, constant, to continue in the same state ’.
3 Another possible reading is kwimia ‘ to stand on which could mean that God had to stand on something else in order to keep Himself up. A third possible reading is kwimiwa ‘ to be stood by ’, which could perhaps mean that God does not exist alone but that others exist with (for) Him. The second one, kwimiwa, seems possible in the light of stanza 46. Mwenye kwimiwa would then have to be interpreted as ‘ one who has others that exist for Him, i.e. on whose existence He depends ’, which is clearly unacceptable. The likelihood of the first reading being correct is remote.


SWAHILI THEOLOGICAL TERMS
89
If there is anything in this world which God did not wish, it must have arisen against His will, it must therefore be hated by Him. The whole concept is against the Koran which says repeatedly that if God wills a thing, He merely says to it : ‘ Be ’, and it comes into being (see note 5, page 86). In the same way God can cause any being to die when He so decides. God’s will is fundamental for the whole creation.1
57. Na sita-ashara wendiwa ni kuwa mwenye kuyuwa kinyume tcakifunuwa ni kutoyuwa Jaliya. And the sixteenth, my friends, is that He has knowledge, I will disclose the opposite : it would be that the Majesty is ignorant.
58. Na sabaa-ashariya ni kuwa hayi Jaliya kinyume ni kuyifiya asozaa asozawa. And the seventeenth is that the Majesty lives ; the opposite would be dying, — He that never begot and was never born.
The Koranic expression (112,4) ‘ He never begot and has never been born ’ is here used as an argument against the thought that God could die. The underlying assumption is that only beings that have been born can die. It is parallel with the wider hypothesis that only things which have a cause and have consequently come into being in time, i.e. after the beginning of time, can perish. Therefore, since God has no cause and since He consequently has always been there, He can never cease to be. See the comments to stanza 45.
59. Ya kumi na thamaniya ndiye mwenye kusikiya na kinyumekye kya haya kuwa kiziwi Molewa. The eighteenth is that He has the faculty of hearing ; and the opposite of that would be that the Lord is deaf.
60. La tisiyata-ashari Mwenye kuwona Kahhari kinyumekye t‘adhukuri ni kutowona Jaliya. The nineteenth is that the Compellor can see ; I will mention the opposite It is that God cannot see.
61. Na swifa ya ishirina ni kuwa mwenye kunena kinyumekye Subuhana ni kuwa bubwi sikiya. The twentieth attribute is that He has the faculty of speech ; the opposite, Glory be to Him, — is that He would be dumb, hear ye !
1 About God’s will (Ar. irada ; kadhaa ‘ decree, decision ’) see Koran 6, 61, 72 ; 35, 15-17, 41 ; 51, 58. Horten, op. cit., pp. 75-78, 81. About the Asma al-Husna see L. Gardet in Encyclopedic de I'lslam, I, Leyde, 1959, s.v.
G


90
JAN KNAPPERT
There are two reasons stated why the last seven attributes are repeated in slightly different wording. The attributes 7-13 inclusive are given as follows : Power (kuweza), Will (kupenda), Knowledge (kuyuwa), Life (uhayi), Hearing (kusikia), Sight (kuona), Speech (kunena). The same attributes are given as nos. 14-20 inclusive, in the same order, but with the following differences : Power is called mirara and imara ‘ vigour, strength ’ ; Life is called kuwa hayi ‘ to be alive ’ (Ar. hayy) ; the five other words, all infinitives, are all preceded by the word Mwenye ‘ having ’. Horten (op. cit., p. 71) explains this as a distinction between pure qualities of God and the effects of these qualities in terms of potential acts of God. For instance, the faculty of seeing will not be used by God as long as He has not begun to create anything visible. As soon as God has created the Light and the other elements, the faculty of seeing begins to operate. The faculty as such is an inherent capacity of God and is not dependent for its presence on the existence of any visible object, as that is accidental. Similarly, the first of these seven inherent attributes, Power, is a faculty which God can use whenever He pleases, but He may leave it unused as long as He is not changing anything in the universe, i.e. as long as there is no ‘ outside ’ object on which He wishes to make His power effective. In the same way, the faculty of Speech is only used when there is another mind to which God wishes to speak, and, equally important, there is God’s word which He speaks to His servants from time to time. Both are objects of God’s communicative activity.1
Dammann (p. 190) has a somewhat different explanation : The attributes 7-13 indicate qualities which relate to God, i.e. they enounce that He is powerful, alive, etc. The attributes 14-20 indicate the ability to give these faculties to His creatures, i.e. to give them life, power, knowledge, etc. Both interpretations have this in common, that the first seven attributes are qualities of God without reference to the objects for which they might be used ; the second series of seven qualities all refer to objects ‘ outside ’ God, they are all relational. The latter of the two explanations seems to be better fitted to answer the question as to the ‘ object ’ of God’s Life. We must assume that God communicates His life to the creatures He intends to live, in the same way as He completed the creation of Adam by inspiring him with life. As God has neither digestion nor reproduction, Life does not mean the same for Him as it does for creatures. The word used is neither umri (Ar. ’umr) which indicates the time of life one has spent (age) as well as the total time of life one is allowed, nor maisha (Ar. ma Six attributes of God are propria, not merely inhaerentia : Existence (kuwako), causelessness (kuso-mwando), endlessness (kuso-mwiso), diversity (kuhalifika), substantiality (kwima ; also : wantlessness (kuwa si muhitaji)), and uniqueness or
1 Horten, pp. 54-55, 71.


SWAHILI THEOLOGICAL TERMS
91
oneness (kuwa pweke, or upweke or umoja).1 The term diversity is used by Horten and could perhaps be rendered in English by dissimilarity. The meaning of it is that God essentially differs from any other existing being. As we have seen, His existence is different from the existence of other beings because of His wantlessness. The term substantiality is here used in precisely that sense : God is an essence (dhati), i.e. a being the existence of which is not continued by means of factors from outside, as human beings have to be kept alive by food. God owes His existence exclusively to Himself and so He is within Himself sufficient (ajitosha, Ar. kafi).
Many other terms for God are in use in Swahili religious literature. A few will be listed here, classified on the basis of the twenty attributes so as to show that they mostly reflect the same theology.
1. Haki ‘Truth, reality’ is a common expression for God in Swahili poetry.
Its implication is that God is the only reality or at least the purest, the completest reality. As all things perish, their reality can be only partial ; God’s reality is absolute because He is eternal.
Muenea ‘ spreading out ’, translates the Arabic wasii or wasiu (Koran 2, 115 and 255) ; the same idea is rendered by kenda mno ‘ all-pervading ’.2 Yuko pote ‘ He is everywhere ’ can be used as an apposition.
Ar. kamili ‘ perfect ’ can be rendered by asokosea ‘ Who never fails ’ or by Muso toa ‘ Having no faults ’.
2. Awali (Ar. awwal) ‘ the first one ’ is rendered in Swahili by Mwandi ‘ the
Beginner ’.
3. Baki (Ar. al-Baqi) ‘ He that remains ’, Ahiru (Ar. al-Ahir) ‘ the last one ’.
Swahili : Wa azali or Wa milele ‘ the One of eternity ’. An interesting construction is found in Uhud3: Mwasiisha ‘ the one who never ends ’.4
4. Baidi (Ar. ba*? id) ‘ remote ’, Sw. Yuko mbali ‘ He is far away ’. In Uhud (ib.)
God is called : Mwajitenga ‘ He that keeps Himself apart ’. Formulas like
Aso mfano, Asiye mithali ‘ Without equal ’ are very frequent in poetry.
Ar. Alii ‘ high ’ is translated Mtukufu ‘ high, elevated ’.
5. Hahitaji muawana ‘ He needs no help ’ (Uhud, ib.).
6. Ar. Wahidu is in Sw. Mmoja ‘ One ’ or Mupweke ‘ Alone ’, abstracts : umoja, upweke, verbal : kupwekeka ‘ to be unique ’. See also page 83, note 2.
7. Kadiri (Ar. al-qadir) ‘ Omnipotent ’ is rendered in Swahili with Muwezi,
1 It might be useful for comparison to cite the German terms : 1. Dasein, 2. Anfangslosig-keit, 3. Endlosigkeit, 4. Ungleichheit, 5. Bediirfnislosigkeit, 6. Einheit.
2 Uhud: Utenzi wa Vita vya Uhud, The Epic of the Battle of Uhud, by Haji Chum, ed. and transl. by H. E. Lambert, Dar es Salaam, 1962, pp. 1 and 2.
3 See p. 2, v. 9.
4 To be analysed : MW- prefix cl. 1 ; -a- infix of ‘ general ’ tense ; -si- negative infix ; -isha verb root ‘ to end ’.


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JAN KNAPPERT
Muweza ; Muumba na Muumbua 6 Creator and Destroyer ’ ; Mwenye kudura 4 Having power ’, = Mwenyi enzi, Mwenyezi, Mwenye uwezo.
8. Ar. al-Hayyu 4 the living one ’, Sw. Mwenye hai or uhai.
Hapana usipokwima ‘ There is no place where He does not exist ’ ; kenea kila mahali. 6 He extends everywhere ’ (Uhud, ib.).
9. Ar. Ajuaye 4 He who knows ’.
10. Baswiru (Ar. al-Basir) 4 All-seeing ’, Sw. Muona vyote, id.
Other activities of God are frequently expressed in special terms :
Ar. Dayani, Hakimu 4 the wise Judge ’ ; Sw. Mwamuzi.
Mwenye Kuwa, Mwenye kutweneza kuwa 4 He that has power, He who extends power over us
Ar. Razzaku 4 the Provider Sw. Mwalisha 4 the Feeder ’ (JJhud, ib.).
Mwingiwa na sala (ib.) 4 He that is attained by prayers ’.
A complete list can be found in my 4 Divine Names’, Swahili, No. 31, 1960, pp. 196-8. It shows beyond doubt that the Swahili language has a remarkable aptitude for the extension of its vocabulary by means of the coining of new terms based on verbal derivation.
N.B.—Arabic words are generally quoted in their customary Swahili forms.
1 Dammann, Dichtungen in der Lamu-Mundart des Suaheli, Hamburg, 1940, p. 93.