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Swahili Takes Center Stage: World Swahili Day Celebrates African Identity, Cultural Empowerment

© AFP 2023 DANIEL HAYDUKA model prepares backstage before showcasing a creation by Enjimaasai Fashion during the 10th Swahili Fashion Week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on December 2, 2017.
A model prepares backstage before showcasing a creation by Enjimaasai Fashion during the 10th Swahili Fashion Week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on December 2, 2017.  - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 07.07.2024
On July 7, the world celebrates Swahili Language Day, highlighting the importance of this widely spoken African language. Designated by UNESCO in 2021, the day aims to recognize and promote Kiswahili, which is spoken by millions of people across the continent.
As the world celebrates International Swahili Day on July 7, Dr. Gervas Kasiga, a senior lecturer at the University of Dodoma, Tanzania, emphasized the language's growing significance as a symbol of African identity and cultural empowerment.
"To us, it means that Swahili, as an African language and a Pan-African language, is growing across borders," Dr. Kasiga told Sputnik Africa. "This simply means that the economic aspects of the language will increase for us, the Swahili speakers. We'll go somewhere we need to reach because Swahili is no longer just a language for daily communication."
Dr. Kasiga stressed the crucial role of media and technology in promoting and preserving Swahili. "Media has a very big role to play, making sure that our music is promoted in Africa and making sure that our native languages are growing big," he stated.

"We need to have a number of programs in foreign broadcasting corporations like you, Sputnik, you are doing. That's a very big role that you are playing, making sure that our voices are heard and people know that in Africa we have a language which is also powerful and has muscles to conquer the other world," the academician added.

In this photo taken Monday, Oct. 26th, 2015 and made available Wednesday, Oct. 28th, 2015, youths supporting the opposition party dance and chant, predicting a win for their candidate, outside the Electoral Commission office in Stone Town, Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous island archipelago of Tanzania.  - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 07.07.2023
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He also underscored the importance of cultural diplomacy in promoting Swahili and African cultures on a global scale. "We need to have cultural missions abroad, like we need to have people like Shaaban Robert, who is a guru in poetry in Tanzania," said Dr. Kasiga. "They need to go beyond the borders, and we can tell our stories abroad."
The recognition of an international Swahili language day shows the language's growing prominence on the African continent and globally and is a testament to its cultural and political significance, Ustinia Zlatoverkhovnikova, an intern-researcher at the African Department at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), told Sputnik Africa.
She highlighted the importance of this day and the challenges facing African nations as they promote local languages like Swahili over colonial languages.
"It's an important step for spreading international use of Swahili, giving African countries the opportunity to communicate in their language rather than in post-colonial variants," Zlatoverkhovnikova explained.
The rise of Swahili as a potential "flagship of African identity" is a crucial step in dismantling colonial legacies and empowering African nations to communicate on their own terms, she said.
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However, Zlatoverkhovnikova acknowledged the challenges of promoting a single language amidst the continent's diversity.
"It's quite hard to choose one particular language," she said, "but considering the simplicity of Swahili grammar and pronunciation, I assume it has enough potential to become one of the languages of the future."
Zlatoverkhovnikova's personal experience working as an interpreter for a Tanzanian business delegation at the 2nd Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg last year underscored the importance of allowing Africans to communicate in their native tongue.
"If Africans have the opportunity to speak their native language, they will speak it all the time," she concluded.
For his part, Dr. Kasiga concluded by emphasizing the deep connection between language and culture. "The importance [of celebrating Swahili Day] is expressing ourselves as Africans, embracing our culture. If we embrace our language, meaning if we embrace Kiswahili, we will have a very big avenue of telling our values, our lifestyles, our real stories, our real Africa."