GloPoWriMo/NaPoWriMo Day 30: Biography of Siti binti Saad (Verses)

Today’s prompt asks to take a crack at translating a poem by a poet writing in that language. I turned to the biography of a woman, Siti binti Saad, who despite her lower social status and bad looks that she had to cover her face while singing, became the pioneer of taarab music. Her biography, Wasifu wa Siti binti Saad, is written in Swahili language by Shaaban bin Robert of Tanzania, who has been called both the “poet laureate of Swahili”, “Father of Swahili Language” and “Father of Swahili Literature”. In the book are some verses and I translated some of them.

Ukurasa wa 22
Siti binti Saad;
ulikuwa mtu lini?
Ulitoka shamba,
na kaniki mbili chini,
kama si sauti;
ungekula nini?

Page 22: this verse portrays the words of Siti’s rivalry
Siti binti Saad;
when were you famous?
You came from the rural,
with only two kaniki*,
if not for your voice;
what would you have eaten?

* Kaniki is a cotton cloth dyed black or dark blue with indigo. It is associated with slavery and those of poor social status.

Ukurasa wa 29
Si hoja uzuri
na sura jamali,
kuwa mtukufu
na jadi kubeli,
hasara ya mtu-
kukosa akili.

Page 29: this verse portrays Siti’s response to those who mocked her fame
Beauty matters not
and so is holy face,
to be glorious
and taint tradition,
the loss of one-
who lacks intelligence.

Ukurasa wa 30
Si kusudi langu
kuvunja watani,
enyi walimwengu,
mwajua yakini,
apendalo Mungu,

Page 30: this verse is Siti’s response to those who accused her (and likely jealous) of spoiling the beauty and authenticity of singing with her first song
It’s not my aim
to dispirit the mockers,
dear world dwellers,
but you know well,
what God wants,
is undoable.

Ukurasa wa 43
Siri sifunue
kwa wino wa rangi,
fahamu ujue
kuna mambo mengi,
wajila wenyewe
kwa ujinga mwingi.

Page 43: Siti’s intelligence in the choice of words even to her rivalries is revealed in this verse
Reveal not a secret
with coloured ink,
have knowledge
there is a lot,
which consumes you
because of ample stupidity.

Copyright © 2016, Gloria D. Gonsalves. All rights reserved.

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