Bongo Fleva and Spoken Word as Aesthetic Practices in Tanzania: Form, Experience and Relation to Lifeworlds


Nikitta Adjirakor

Research Area:


It is the aim of this thesis to empirically study how the poetic forms of Bongo Fleva and Spoken Word contribute to the construction of lifeworlds in the city of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. The study starts with the assumption that poetic forms of engaging with the world fundamentally and systematically differ from other more “explicit” forms of communication, due to their unique combination of form and content. Therefore, their study requires a different approach. The thesis thus focuses on the ambiguous relation of poetic works and their aesthetic experience and will examine how poetic language is experienced and rendered meaningful in everyday life. Applying a profoundly empirical perspective, the thesis tries to go beyond previous approaches deducing both experience and effect from the form of the poems themselves, thus methodologically neglecting the difficult interrelation of artwork, experience, and actual lifeworlds. With the focus on aesthetics, it also departs from the discursive approach in African poetry. In combining approaches from literary studies and cultural anthropology, by paying special attention to aesthetic form, and in pursuing a strictly empirical approach to the study of both aesthetic experience and its everyday uses, the thesis not only aims at transcending the ways in which verbal art in Africa is usually studied. It also intends to substantially contribute to general debates about the aesthetic experience, the effects of aesthetic language and of aesthetic forms more generally.