the Swahili Resource website   


About SwahiliWeb

SwahiliWeb is a resource destined both for the research community and for the general public and intended to facilitate access to unpublished or difficult to locate documents dealing with or originating in the Swahili world. This will include journal articles, manuscripts, maps, sound files, photographs and film. It will serve as a digital archive for materials that are difficult to consult elsewhere, or are damaged or threatened in their present state; and it will ensure that basic tools for research and for locating sources on the Swahili hosted elsewhere are more easily accessible.

The Swahili World

There is no authoritative definition of “the Swahili World”; but the expression is generally accepted to refer to those societies of coastal and insular East Africa whose mother tongue is Swahili or a closely related language and whose culture is largely Islamic and was formerly maritime and merchant in character. The Swahili world includes populations living on the eastern coast of Africa - and in some cases further into the hinterland – from southern Somalia to northern Mozambique, on the nearby islands of the Indian Ocean, such as Comoros, and in parts of the Arabian Peninsula. Historical movements of populations throughout the Western Indian Ocean, fostered by economic and social exchanges, have led to a high degree of spatial mobility and extensive inter-cultural contacts, and have created long-distance transnational networks. The dhow, the traditional sailing vessel which, for centuries, navigated the Indian Ocean carrying people and goods, symbolises the interconnectedness of the Swahili world.

A collaborative team

The initiative grew from a suggestion by Prof. Pat Caplan of Goldsmith’s College, London, that such a resource be developed for the Swahili research community, in view both of the precedent set by similar projects dealing with other parts of the world, and of the existence of substantial archives, both personal and institutional, that could profitably be made public. Transmitting materials and knowledge from one generation of researchers to another is a significant objective of SwahiliWeb.

SwahiliWeb was launched following a meeting held in Oxford in September 2010 during the 8th European Swahili Workshop. The site is the result of a collaborative effort: Pat Caplan shared a great deal of her personal ethnographic material for online access; Iain Walker, as the webmaster, put much effort in developing the site; and Marie-Aude Fouéré collaborated in its elaboration. Feedback and comments, suggestions and submissions of material are all welcome. We thank all those who have contributed thus far - Pat Caplan, Iain Walker, Marie-Aude Fouéré, Kjersti Larsen, Andrea Scheibler and Anne Bang - and encourage others to join us.

The SwahiliWeb management committee is composed of:

Dr. Anne Bang, Chr. Michelsen Institute, Bergen

Prof. Pat Caplan, Goldsmith’s College, London

Dr. Marie-Aude Fouéré, IFRA, Nairobi

Dr. Iain Walker, University of Oxford

The editorial advisory committee is composed of the members of the management committee and:

Prof. Abdul Sheriff, ZIORI, Zanzibar

Prof. Thomas Spear, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The SwahiliWebmaster is Iain Walker.

The SwahiliWeb newsletter is edited by Marie-Aude Fouéré.

Please note that SwahiliWeb is an ongoing process and documents listed may not yet have been scanned and uploaded. If a link is not active, please bear with us and try again later. New material added to the site will be announced in our Newsletter.

We actively welcome and encourage contributions. Whether you have documents, suggestions, details of and/or links to personal or collaborative projects, or would just like to help scanning documents, please do get in touch with us.


To submit material, or make suggestions for inclusions to SwahiliWeb, please click here

Contact details

On general matters or for technical problems you can contact us here.

To subscribe to the SwahiliWeb Newsletter, click here.

Click for Acknowledgements

SwahiliWeb for posterity

In order to ensure the permanence and stability of this site, and to ensure that valuable materials that are archived and made accessible by SwahiliWeb are not lost in the event of systems failure or through the vagaries of time, SwahiliWeb is part of the British Library’s UK Web Archive.