Your name and what do you do?
My name is Rajab Salim (Malenga001) I am a Swahili performing poet.
Why do you call yourself Malenga001?
Malenga001 simply means a Swahili poet from county001 (Mombasa). I was previously known as Malenga Mlenga Malengo before rebranding to Malenga001, it is short and unique. I haven’t seen any Malenga using his/her county code countrywide
When did you start writing Swahili shairi?
I started writing poems in 2010 when I was in class 7 after reading the famous Swahili novel ‘Siku Njema’, I put my self in the shoes of the main character of the story Kongowea Mswahili who was also a poet at class 7 and that is how I discovered my talent. Kongowea Mswahili in the novel, gets published on the only Swahili newspaper of that time. Which is the same to me, my poems get published severally on Sundays in ‘Taifa Leo’.
There are a few Swahili poets in Mombasa, how do you feel about it?
It’s actually painful. Swahili poetry is disappearing. Swahili poetry is considered for the old, which are now also very few still alive. I am afraid the generation of my grandchildren won’t even know of Swahili poetry if we continue this way. As Malenga001, I fight hard to kill the ideology that mashairi is old school by performing it to my fellow youth, touching on issues that concern them and using my creativity, skills and technology, I show mashairi is just as good as any art in this dot com generation.
Being a creative in Mombasa is a challenging, what do you think we should do create awareness on art?
It’s very challenging to create awareness on art in Mombasa. People with passion for theatre are very few. But it’s all in our hands. Let’s be more creative, let’s work smart and hard. When you are too good, you can’t be ignored. ‘kizuri chajiuza’. Many of my agemates don’t speak pure swahili but by consistent speaking and coming up with witty and humorous swahili lines has made them appreciate the language and even demand for the ‘mistari’ more often.
Does the Internet and social media contribute to the growth of poetry and art in general?
Yes it does. Social media is a free platform for artists to showcase their work, network and learn from others. People live online nowadays, every serious artist has to be active on social media. I used to do only written poetry, but I met Gathoni wa Mbugua on social media and she brought me to the performance world which has made me better than I could ever imagine. So social media is a very vital aspect.
Who inspires you?
My mother inspires me a lot. She was a swahili poet during her school life and she won several times for her skills. She still does a little of it at home. The late Ahmed Darwesh is still my mentor even in his grave. His humility, discipline and passion were extraordinary. NTV’s Rashid Abdalla is also one of the people who inspire me. His love for Swahili is great, just like mine. There are also Yusuf Dalu, Fadhili Suleiman, Wallah bin Wallah, Ken Walibora, Mrisho Mpoto.
If you are asked right now, what do you need? What would you ask for?
I need education. As the saying goes by, Talent can’t be taught, but it can be awakened. I already have the talent, now I need knowledge on how to expound on my talent. To make it more professional.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
My dream is still to study Journalism and become a swahili news anchor.I will also have published not less than 10 swahili poetry books and novels.I also have a dream to start an initiative that will help young malengas. I will be the face of Swahili and mashairi In Shaa Allah.
As artists, we can’t grow in Isolation.Let’s support each other as artists first, physically, emotionally, financially and when we are together as one, the people will have no other option than support us. Art is life.