Uwaridi kwani? (‘Why ‘Uwaridi’?’) Digital Literary Networks and the App-Propriation of Swahili Popular Novels

Lutz Diegner


This paper examines the current dynamics of publishing Swahili novels in digital media. In August 2016, a collective of writers formed the literary association “Umoja wa Waandishi wa Riwaya wenye Dira” (Union of Novelists with a Compass/Target”), Uwaridi, which in March 2017 launched a homonymous smartphone app for popular fiction. Based on several conversations with Hussein Tuwa, writer and co-founder of Uwaridi, I explore the double nature of this new digital literary network: A network of writers and their texts gone digital. A neat mobile phone network connection tends to replace not only the book shop or newspaper stall, but even the social media experience. Will the recent innovations in digital publishing outstage printed books of Swahili literature in Tanzania? Is this new ‘app-propriation’ likely to extend its networks towards Kenya, and further abroad? What are the main opportunities and challenges for writers and readers of Swahili fiction?

Full Text: