Sommer - Chapter 01
Soon after arriving in Dar es Salaam, just before Christmas in 1990, I
discovered that asking young people in Dar es Salaam about their
notorious Lugha ya Wahuni (Language of the Ignorant) was a
useful way to start learning about their world. The outcast language,
which was actually a rapidly changing vocabulary that youths invented
and continuously revise, has helped establish their identity as a
separate yet demographically dominant sector of Dar es Salaam society.
In the Lugha, simple responses can be dense with meanings. A young man
might respond to a typical greeting, such as Habari ya mihangaiko? (How are your anxieties?), with the thumb's up sign. He may accompany this with words such as kwa soks
(with socks, or condoms), meaning the young man practices safe sex and
has not been infected by AIDS. He may also select one of the multitude
of borrowed English phrases such as no sweti (no sweat) to
suggest that he's doing well. A third kind of response might be to say
nothing, a signal that his ethnic group practices circumcision and that
he views himself as one of the "civilized" youth in town.