Born in 1935 in the Egyptian city of Giza, Helmi Sharawy graduated from the Faculty of Arts, Cairo University, Department of Sociology in 1958. He was appointed as a researcher at the Center for Folk Arts. He then held several positions, the last of which was the chairmanship of the board of directors of the Arab and African Research Center, in 2019.
Sharawy was a member of many Egyptian delegations in international events, including the Egyptian delegation in the celebrations of independence of Tanganyika, 1961; Zanzibar 1963; Angola and Mozambique, 1975. He is also a member of several committees and councils at the local and regional levels.
He has published several publications in Arabic and English, including: The African Revolution in Angola in 1978, and A new reading of the relations between the Arab and African liberation movements. He also has a wealth of translations and revisions, such as his translation of the book African languages and educating the masses, by Quissie Brah; his review of the book African Studies on Social Movements and Democracy in Africa and The Arab World by Mahmoud Mamdani. He also has many researches and studies, including: Journalism in Africa, Renaissance Africa Magazine; and Critical Values in Popular Literature, Literature Journal, Beirut.
Paper Abstract: The Heritage of Arabic-Script Manuscripts in African (Foreign) Languages
This work took almost ten years (2005-2017). The author was intrigued by local African cultures being belittled by incoming cultures, and their importance and distinct self-expression being disregarded by Arab scholars.
Taking a closer look at the heritage of those cultures, which were called “foreign” to indicate their status as alien to prevalent cultures, the author looks for the basis of this deliberate or undeliberate belittlement of a heritage that has been spread all over the African continent simply because it is written using Arabic script.
The author points out that modern scholars disregarded early Arabic writings in vast areas of Africa since Ibn Khaldun because, apart from references to caves or artefacts, those writings paid no attention to the African heritage that was prevalent in the areas those scholars visited, as the remaining cultural production was verbal and unrecordable. Key national African writers did the same in their areas.
This research is the result of collaboration with a number of specialized scholars from countries chosen by the author to establish the extent to which manuscripts from those countries reflect the heritage of Arabic-script manuscripts. The author selected sixteen manuscripts in sixteen languages from all over Africa and arranged them in two volumes. The first volume includes manuscripts in eight languages in the following order: Malagasy, Swahili, Hausa, Fulani, Wolof, Mandingo, Songhay and Tamashek. The second volume contains manuscripts in Berber, Soninke, Serer, Kanuri, Yoruba, Nobiin, Afar and Afrikaans.