by Ben Taylor
BI KIDUDE was Zanzibar’s leading cultural ambassador, the most celebrated singer of the taarab style. Born Fatuma binti Baraka around 1910, she was universally (and affectionately) known by her adopted name, Bi Kidude, or “little thing”. From the 1920s she was singing for a living, following the example of her idol, Siti binti Saad, whose style Bi Kidude had picked up as a young girl. Her uncle played in Saad’s band, so she hung around with the musicians, pretending to sleep while she took it all in. She continued to sing throughout her life. In 1994, seven decades after she began performing, she recorded her first solo album, Zanzibar; in 2005 she was awarded the Womex (World Music Expo) Lifetime Achievement Award.
She is revered by Tanzanian Bongo Flava hip-hop artists, alongside many of whom she performed or recorded in her final years. But Bi Kidude was not just about the music. She was a rebellious figure, challenging Islamic traditions: refusing to accept the role that was expected of her as a woman, performing together with men without wearing a veil as well as drinking and smoking heavily. “I don’t think that Bi Kidude would have called herself a feminist,” wrote Elsie Eyakuze, “but she did the cause untold amounts of good. This slightly sodden, plenty frisky little old lady of Taarab … was good magic. She was a carrier of joyfulness and eccentricity. Stories abound about her exploits, the risks she took, her cheerful embrace of an unconventional lifestyle.” She died on 17 April 2013.
ALLY SYKES and his brother Abdulwahid were key figures with Julius Nyerere in the nascent Tanganyikan independence movement in the 1950s. When the Tanzanian African National Union (Tanu) was formed in 1954, Ally Sykes paid for the first 1,000 membership cards to be printed. Tanu card no. 1 went to Nyerere, while no. 2 went to Ally Sykes. Earlier, he had joined the King’s African Rifles aged 15, serving in Burma during World War 2. On his return to East Africa he headed for Nairobi, where he worked as a musician and as a highly successful sales promoter, marketing a wide range of products from music to Coca Cola to real estate. In 1958 Peter Colmore, a British impresario and entrepreneur based in Kenya, appointed him to be his agent in Tanganyika. Ally later operated on his own, while also taking a post in the colonial civil service. Before independence, his political activities made him unpopular with the authorities. After independence, his wealth created a problem; the 1967 Arusha declaration made it impossible for him to maintain his business interests and he lost a great deal of property under the 1971 Acquisition of Buildings Act. He died in Nairobi on 19 May, aged 86. President Kikwete, and former presidents Mwinyi and Mkapa, attended his funeral in Dar es Salaam.
JOHN BAPTIST DA SILVA was an artist and historian of Zanzibari culture. He moved to Zanzibar as a young boy, from Portuguese Goa, where he was born in 1937. His father was dressmaker to the Sultan of Zanzibar. His paintings, drawings and photographs of the unique architecture of Stone Town helped raise awareness of the plight of the buildings, many of which were deteriorating rapidly, and were influential in the UN decision to make Stone Town a World Heritage Site in 2000. He died on 20 March, aged 76.
Sir NICHOLAS MONCK, a notable contributor to Tanzanian development in the era of Julius Nyerere died in August 2013, aged 78. As a senior economist for Derek Bryceson, the Agriculture Minister, from 1966-69 Nick helped construct a much more effective agricultural policy. Also a sportsman, he played for a local Dar football team and sailed the coast. Back in the UK he had a distinguished civil service career. He became private secretary to Denis Healey as Chancellor of the Exchequer, then 2nd Permanent Secretary of the Treasury and finally Permanent Secretary of the Department of Employment. The Times (3 Sept) declared that he “was an unconventional civil servant…. one of the most civilised and approachable”. A man of strong egalitarian views, Nick had great sparkle and charm, and a wide circle of friends, who will miss him greatly (by Alastair Balls).
BARBARA ROLLINSON, former assistant secretary, Government of Nigeria, who came to Tanzania with her husband John and taught English at the DA Girls’ School and Geography at the HH Aga Khan Boys’ Secondary School, Dar es Salaam, from 1963 to 1966. She died peacefully on 15 May.
Updated 18th October 2013 to remove erroneous obituary for Richard Beatty OBE, with many apologies