So far, the diffusion of texts in non-European languages, which have been essential in creating transoceanic links for centuries, have hardly been adequately considered in studies on the Indian Ocean. This article focuses on the appropriation of Arabic historiographic text into the precolonial Swahili poetic genre of the utendi. In contrast to previous analyses that have highlighted the appropriation of text to fit local discourses of identity, Vierke argues that the relationship between the Swahili translation and the previous Arabic text is basically aesthetic. Drawing on the concept of mimesis as advanced by Michael Taussig and Matthias Krings, Vierke shows that the Swahili poet makes an effort to imitate the original by re-evoking its sceneries as well as its tone in palpable Swahili imagery and meter. The connection over the Indian Ocean is hence not merely discursive, but, in Taussig's terms, “palpable” and “sensuous.”

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