The Swahili literary world was yet again thrown into mourning Wednesday, following the death of legendary poet Abdalla Mwasimba aged 83.
His death occurred a few months after Ken Walibora, Abdalla Shamte and Euphrase Kezilihabi.
Mwasimba, who for close to 30 years revised Swahili poems for Taifa Leo, had been suffering from low blood pressure and diabetes.
His youngest son, Mwasimba Abdallah told the Nation that the poet died in his sleep at his granddaughter’s residence in Kaloleni, Nairobi.
“He was diabetic and had low blood pressure for many years. Recently, he had been unwell until Monday when he was bedridden. He passed on at 4 am,” said Mr Abdallah during burial at Kariokor Cemetery, in Nairobi.
People who knew him paid their condolences, describing the late poet as a ‘man of people’, teacher and mentor of many.
“You would never meet Mwasimba without a smile. He cracked jokes and knew how to deal with people of all calibre. He would teach people wherever they met, by asking them some riddles or reciting poems that had heavy messages,” recalled veteran journalist Badi Muhsin, who first met the poet while working at the then Voice of Kenya (now KBC).
Because of his prowess in poetry, he was the pioneer radio poems reciter in independent Kenya. When Kenya became a republic in 1964, he composed a poem Mzungu Kuniita Bwana (Whiteman calling me sir). He was happy and thanked God for enabling Kenya get its independence the British colonialists could now respect blacks.
When Kenya faced its biggest alcoholism menace, Mwasimba composed a poem targeting the youth titled ‘Nini faida ya pombe' (Why do people drink) and yet it causes hallucinations, accidents, fights and sometimes, bad behaviour.
He was awarded the Head of State Commendation (HSC) in 2015 for his role in popularising Kiswahili through poems, skits and plays. He was among Kiswahili scholars who coined many Kiswahili words during VoK days in a program that had Abdalla Baruwa, Jay Kitsao, Raya Timamy, John Habwe, and Clara Momanyi among others.
“Mzee was naturally talented. Although he did not have any tertiary education, he composed radio plays for VoK, discussed major Swahili issues with professors and taught journalists how to properly voice scripts,” said Mr Muhsin.
In 2004, the late Mwasimba produced a Swahili program on QTV called ‘Dunia Ina Mambo’.
He leaves behind two sons and a daughter, 24 grandchildren and several great grandchildren.