(Swahili, English version below)
Haji Gora Haji alizaliwa mnamo mwaka 1933 kisiwani Tumbatu, Zanzibar. Alipotimiza umri wa miaka minne, alihamishiwa Mkunazini (Mjini Unguja) na kupelekwa chuoni, bila ya kupatiwa fursa ya kuhudhuria skuli ya aina yoyote ile; ukweli ni kwamba alipaswa kufanya kazi nyingi tangu utotoni mwake. Alifanya kazi kama mvuvi, msela/baharia, mpagazi na mchukuzi bandarini, kwa karibu maisha yake yote. Alipokuwa anaishi Tumbatu, Haji Gora Haji alijihusisha na ngoma, haswa kwenye utungaji. Kuanzia hapo hakuacha tena kutunga. Akifurahia ubunifu wa kisanii na kifasihi, Mzee Haji Gora Haji aliendelea na kazi yake ya kutunga nyimbo (za ngoma na taarab) na tungo za aina mbalimbali (mashairi na tenzi), haswa katika mashindano ya kujibizana, ambapo watungaji wanatungiana na kutongoana kwa kutumia fani ya ushairi.
Kwenye miaka ya 50, alifanya kazi na vilabu mbali mbali vya taarab (‘Michenzani’, ‘Malindi/Ikhwan Safaa’, ‘Culture’ na ‘Mlandege’ miongoni mwa vingine) Zanzibar; akitunga nyimbo zilizopendwa kupindukia, kama Kimbunga, uliopigwa na kilabu cha ‘Malindi’. Jina la wimbo huo ndilo jina la diwani iliyopigwa chapa na kutolewa mwaka wa 1994 na Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili (TUKI – Dar es Salaam). Kimbunga ndiyo diwani iliyompa umaarafu nchini Tanzania na Afrika ya Mashariki kwa jumla; sababu mojawapo ni kuwa iliingizwa katika mitaala ya skuli nchini Tanzania. Mnamo mwaka wa 2001, kwenye sherehe ya ‘Siku ya Kiswahili’ katika Chuo Kikuu cha Dar es Salaam, alitunukiwa zawadi na Baraza la Kiswahili la Taifa (BAKITA – Tanzania) kwa kazi zake nyingi alizozifanya maishani mwake mote na kwa kuchangia ukuaji wa lugha ya Kiswahili.
Licha ya umri wake, Mzee Haji Gora Haji anaendelea kuchangia fani za kitamaduni ya kisasa, kutafakari juu ya jamii ilivyo wakati uliopo na kuelezea mtindo wake kwenye ushairi na fani mbali mabli; aliwahi kuandika vitabu vya watoto, pamoja na riwaya fupi inayoitwa Siri ya Ging’ingi (2009) na tawasifu yake isiyochapishwa inayoitwa Maisha Yangu. 1993-2001. Hakika Haji Gora Haji ni nyumba ya kumbukumbu ya nyaraka ya ushairi iliyo hai pamoja na filosofia, ambayo mwenyewe anaitafsiri kwenye beti zilizo na sauti ya kipekee ambayo imepambwa na lahaja za visiwani (Kitumbatu na Kiunguja). Mwenyewe ameandika pia Kamusi ya Kitumbatu (2006) na amechangia utungaji wa kamusi ya Kitumbatu iliyochapishwa na Baraza la Kiswahili la Zanzibar (BAKIZA) mnamo 2012.
Ili kumpongeza kwa kuchangia lugha na fasihi ya Kiswahili katika maisha yake, tuliamua kuongeza bidii zetu kuunda mradi wa kuchapisha diwani yake ya Shuwari kwa lugha mbili, Kiswahili na Kiingereza. Pamoja na tungo zake, kitabu hiki kinatoa uchambuzi wetu wa umalenga wa Haji Gora Haji. Kwa kuwa tulifanya utafiti kwenye ngoma na taarab za kizanzibari wakati wa shahada yetu ya uzamili, tulitaka hadhara ipate fursa ya kuhudhuria na kuwa karibu na ushairi wa Mzee kwa kumtizama na kumsikiliza mwenyewe huku akitongoa tungo zake. Kwa hiyo tuliishirikisha kampuni ya ‘5 o’clock creativity’ katika mradi wetu, yaani shirika la utengenezaji filamu lililoanzishwa na bwana Yann Labry pamoja na bwana Jakob Zeyer, wanafunzi wa Taasisi ya Taaluma za Kiafrika (Chuo Kikuu cha Leipzig) ambao walikuwa wameshapata uzoefu wa kuchukua na kutengeneza filamu Dar es Salaam kwa miezi sita hivi. Ubunifu wao umewawezesha kutengeneza picha za video za mtungaji huku akitongoa tungo zake, kazi ambayo ni mchango wa kipekee unaoenda kupamba kitabu hicho.
Haji Gora Haji, born in 1933 on the island of Tumbatu, Zanzibar, was sent at the age of four to live in Mkunazini, a neighborhood of Stone Town (Unguja). There he received his education at a Quran school, although he did not have the chance to attend any later governmental school as he had to start working at an early age. He worked as a fisherman, a dhow sailor and a porter for most of his working life. Since his childhood in Tumbatu, Haji Gora Haji had been involved in ngoma contexts, characterized by competitive features, not only in the composition of lyrics but also, importantly, in the performance itself. Since then, he has never stopped composing. Passionate about artistic and literary creation, it was in a kujibizana (rivalry, competition) context, where composers write and sing about each other in the form of poetry as per Swahili tradition, that he developed his career as a composer of songs (not only for ngoma but also for taarab) and of poems (both mashairi and tenzi).
Since the 1950s, Haji Gora Haji has been cooperating with different taarab clubs (‘Michenzani’, ‘Malindi/Ikhwan Safaa’, ‘Culture’ and ‘Mlandege’ amongst others) in Zanzibar, authoring some very popular hits such as Kimbunga (The hurricane), performed by ‘Malindi’. This latter became the title of the collection of poems published in 1994 by the Institute of Kiswahili Research (University of Dar es Salaam). Included in the Tanzanian A-level school curriculum for some time, Kimbunga made him extremely famous in Tanzania and East Africa. In 2001, during the celebration of the ‘Kiswahili day’ in Dar es Salaam, Haji Gora Haji was awarded for his prolific work and contribution to the growth of Kiswahili by the National Swahili Council (BAKITA).
Despite his advancing age, Haji Gora Haji has continued to contribute to the contemporary cultural scene, to reflect on present society and to creatively express himself. Besides poetry, he has written a number of children’s books, one short novel, Siri ya Ging’ingi (2009) and an unpublished autobiography entitled Maisha Yangu. 1993-2001. Haji Gora Haji represents a living archive of poetic and philosophical knowledge, which is transformed into verses with a characteristic voice enriched by dialectal features (from Tumbatu and Unguja). He has also authored a Tumbatu-Swahili lexicon (2006) and worked with lexicographers on the publication in 2012 of the dictionary of the Kitumbatu dialect, published by Baraza la Kiswahili la Zanzibar (Committee of Swahili Language of Zanzibar).
As a recognition of his life-long commitment to Swahili language and literature, we decided to work hard on conceiving a publishing project, fashioned as a bilingual Swahili-English edition which, along with the poems, could offer some analytical insights into Haji Gora Haji’s artistry. As we both have a research background in cultural performances, we also wanted to give the audience the opportunity to experience, in some way, the recitation of the poems by the composer himself. We, therefore, became involved in the project the ‘5 o’clock creativity’, an active start-up film production collective, founded by Yann Labry and Jakob Zeyer, two students of the Institute for African Studies (University of Leipzig), who had gained a good deal of experience in shooting film in Tanzania during their internship in Dar es Salaam as students of Swahili. Their passion has been successfully translated into the shooting, directing and editing of a unique audio-visual contribution to this publication.