Wednesday 15 October 2008

Swahili Alice

I've got a much more substantial post on its way, but I came across an oddity here, and thought I'd share it, since I've been putting quite a few Alice in Wonderland illustrations up here recently, as well as talking last week about John Tenniel.

The page linked to above shows a number of illustrations done for a 1940 Swahili version of Alice (printed in England), obviously based very heavily on the Tenniel originals. The page itself is in Russian, but I found that a PDF of the Swahili book, with all of the illustrations, is available free from the Internet Archive.

So, here's a brief look at Elisi Katika Nchi Ya Ajabu, with some of the Tenniel originals for reference. As always, click for legible versions.

I'm not sure who did the adapted illustrations: the only person credited in the book is an E. V. St Lo de Malet, who I assume is the translator: perhaps there's a Swahili reader out there who can enlighten me?


Levi Stahl said...

Wow. What a find--thanks for sharing it.

JRSM said...

My pleasure: I'm going to have to spend more time trawling the Internet Archive for treasures.

Anonymous said...

amazing...beautiful. I'd also like to know more about it.

Anonymous said...

I'm currently writing an essay on the distribution and documentation of the Swahili language. This book was translated in the early twentieth century (probably in the 1930s) as part of the standardisation of Swahili. The story in the book is exactly the same, as you would expect, but the powers that were, felt that little kenyan girls wouldn't be able to identify with the blonde, blue eyed traditional alice, and of course commissioned these drawings as part of their efforts to circulate literature in their new 'standard' which would be read by many. I'm sure there are many other similar stories of books having thier illustrations changed for the same reason.

JRSM said...

Thank you, Anon: I appreciate the info. I should check through the Internet Archive to see if there are other similarly altered books.