SWAHILI LANGUAGE

History can bind citizens together

In Summary

• A 600-year-old Koran has just been discovered on Pate Island in the Lamu Archipelago

• More investment in the National Museums and university history departments will help build Kenya's shared historical record

The 600-year-old Koran discovered in Lamu.
The 600-year-old Koran discovered in Lamu.
Image: CHETI PRAXIDES

The foundation of any nation is its history. That shared identity binds citizens together into a single unified entity.

That is why the recent discovery of a 600-year-old Koran on Pate Island is so exciting. It was stumbled upon during a research project by the National Museums and the University of Bergen to chart the transition to the printed word in the 19th century in the Lamu Archipelago.

This manuscript will help us understand how city states on the East African coast and the Swahili language evolved centuries ago.

However history can also be abused to tell stories selectively. For instance, Russia is presently trying to reconquer the Ukraine as an historic part of Russia without mentioning that it was first seized by Peter the Great around the year 1700. 

Kenya still has many issues where historians need to establish definitely what happened – the role of landlessness during Mau Mau and the post-Independence settlement for example.

Government should therefore be inspired by the discovery of this Lamu manuscript to make a long-term investment in strengthening Kenya's historical research programmes by investing more in the National Museums and Archives and in university history departments.

Quote of the day: "Memory, of all the powers of the mind, is the most delicate and frail."

Ben Jonson
The English playwright was born on June 11, 1572