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Swahili-Language Materials

While Malagasy has become the most-enrolled African language taught at Penn (with enrollments higher than Ancient Greek, Russian, or Hindi) since 2013, the Penn Libraries have strong collections in other African languages.

Three Swahili-language textbooks sitting on a wooden table.

Collection Overview

Our Swahili-language collection, with more than 1,100 titles, includes contemporary academic and policy works on law, politics, government, and social issues in Tanzania and Kenya alongside plays, poetry, short story collections, folktales and novels. Special collections include a microfilm set of 167 Swahili manuscripts from the School of Oriental and African Studies. In 2007, a collection of 80 Swahili-language Islamic texts was purchased from the Al-Itrah Foundation (Tanzania).

A major gift from the Penn Language Center in 2002 brought 115 Tanzanian Swahili titles, many in multiple copies to accommodate interlibrary lending. This gift, made possible through US Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center funding, included complete runs of the scholarly periodicals Kiswahili and Mulika, published by the Institute of Kiswahili Studies, University of Dar es Salaam, the complete works of Tanzanian author Shaaban Robert, and complete sets of graded Swahili language textbooks used in Tanzanian primary and secondary schools. A large gift of Tanzanian monographs and periodical issues focused on Tanzania's early independence period from Professor Emeritus Steven Feierman included more than two dozen Swahili monographs published in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda from the 1960s through the 1980s.