Tuesday, July 13, 2010

ZIORI Book Launch: Dhow Cultures of the Indian Ocean: Cosmopolitanism, Commerce and Islam

‘Dialogue between Civilisations’

Zanzibar Indian Ocean Research Institute (ZIORI)

Launch of the First Publication of ZIORI

The first publication of ZIORI,
Dhow Cultures of the Indian Ocean – Cosmopolitanism, Culture & Islam,
by Prof. Abdul Sheriff, Executive Director of ZIORI,
will be launched on during the ZIFF Literary Forum,

Venue: Mtoni Palace
Date & Time: Sunday, 18th July, 2010, at 3.30 pm

The programme of the Literary Forum will be as follows:

3:30- 4:00 pm Small tour of the Mtoni Palace
with Said Hamad, Foreman of the Mtoni Palace Conservation Project.

4:00- 6:00 Literary Forum
Chairman: Prof Issa Shivji, Chairman, ZIORI

1. Prof. A. Sheriff, ZIORI, Dhow Cultures of the Indian Ocean
2. Antoni Folkers, et al, Mtoni Palace
3. Manthia Diawara, African Cinema

Discussant: Prof. David Slocum


6:00 – 7:30 Cocktail in courtyard

All are welcome
Introductory Note From the Publisher - Columbia University Press
For centuries the dhow, a traditional Arab sailing vessel, operated according to the principles of free trade, carrying sailors, traders, passengers, and cargo to ports within Africa, India, and the Persian Gulf. The dhow was a vibrant means of social interaction, and the goods it carried embodied a great deal of social and cultural meaning. One could say the dhow gave birth to a number of cosmopolitan peoples and cultures, establishing and maintaining a genuine dialogue between civilizations.

By the fifteenth century, the global world of the Indian Ocean had matured, and Islam became the dominant religion. It spread not by sword but by peaceful commerce, and the heroes of this world were not continental empires but a string of small port city-states stretching from Kilwa to Melaka. Their influence penetrated deep into the economies, societies, and cultures of the continental hinterlands, yet two major incursions turned this world upside down: the Chinese expeditions launched at the beginning of the fifteenth century and the Portuguese explorations conducted at its close. The contrast could not have been starker between the dhow's long-standing tradition of free trade and Vasco da Gama's epoch of armed trading, which ultimately led to colonial domination. Abdul Sheriff unravels this rich and populous history, recasting the roots of Islam as they grew within the region, along with the thrilling story of the dhow.
Question 1: Did Ancient Egypt know about the Source of the Nile i.e. 'Lake Victoria'?
Answer 1:I do not have an answer to your question on Egyptian knowledge about the sources of the Nile. But I thought I would share knowledge about the Chinese. A map drawn in 1402 (below), before Prince Henry the Navigator started his explorations. The map clearly shows the rough outline of Africa when geographers still thought S. Africa turned eastwards to join with Asia since Ptolemy. Of interest to you would be the huge lake in the centre of the African continent, the Great Lakes Region. So how did they know? You can get more info under Kangindo map 1402 on the web.
Question 2: Why, then, China did not imperialize/colonise the whole of Africa?
Answer 2: You raise a very interesting question which cannot be dealt with here. But I am qouting below a short conclusion that I have in my forthcoming book Dhow Cultures of the Indian Ocean which refers to the same issue. You will need to read Needham's fuller volume, but I do not know if you can find it anywhere in Tanzania - I have only the abridged version. Of course, China did conquer many nationalities overland, and may be decribed as 'imperialistic' in a loose sense the Rome and other empires conquered. But at sea in the Indian Ocean they resisted for good political economy reasons which I cannot go into here.

‘The contrast between Zheng He’s expeditions and Vasco da Gama, and their general behaviour towards the littoral populations, could not have been greater. Although the Ming expeditions were unorthodox in the amount of force they used in their dealings with the petty states around the Indian Ocean rim, they still largely abided by the then prevalent general principle that the big continental states of Asia had no business interfering in the free trade of the Indian Ocean . Despite their manifest ability to subdue the petty states had they wished, the Chinese did not embark on trans-oceanic conquest. They remained, as Needham well puts it, ‘an empire without imperialism.’ ( Needham , Joseph (1986) The Shorter Science and Civilisation in China, abridged by Colin A. Ronan, Cambridge : CUP.: iii.144) On the other hand, because of the absence of a challenge previously, the people of the Indian Ocean were ill prepared to face the new aggression from the west.’ (Sheriff, Dhow Cultures of the Indian Ocean, London: Hurst & NY:Columbia UP, 2010, p. 314.)


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