Private Project

The Biography of Habib Swaleh - Lamu, Kenya

Habib Swaleh is an iconic individual whose legacy and influence on education, science and culture still lingers along the East African coastline.

The scholar-cum-herbalist was born in Comoro Islands in 1800s but later settled and thrived in Lamu, Kenya.

This one-hour film highlights the life and significant contributions of this natural leader mainly through the lenses of his great grandchildren in order to assert authenticity.

His relentless attempts to trigger social transformation and globalization of the conservative community with a careful consideration to the indigenous traditions and spiritual values.

The individual’s role in the production and propagation of educational heritage by establishing arguably the earliest institution of higher learning in Eastern and Central Africa - Riyadha.

It explains how he brings an open door policy at Riyadha and provides quality education to locals, regardless of their social stratification, despite huge opposition from the Lamu’s elite.

He sends emissaries to various places and introduces regional and international exchange programs.

In the spirit of people’s welfare and propagation of scientific intangible heritage, Habib Swaleh upholds alternative medicine. He inherits, masters and promotes the knowledge of herbs, medical therapies and naturopathy.

This film shows how Habib Swaleh enriches the cultural diversity and human creativity through the establishment of Lamu’s Grand Mawlid Festival where believers gather annually, at Riyadha, to commemorate the birth of Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W.) through ceremonial rituals.

This film also includes an exclusive tour of Habib Swaleh’s archaic home and exploration of the artifacts of extreme intrinsic value. It unravels the profound intangible heritage and expertise in Swahili architecture, carpentry, tailoring, pottery, entertainment as well as mystical powers.

The story is scripted and narrated in poetic Swahili language, accompanied with Arabic and English subtitles. It encompasses a background of a special Swahili poem dedicated to Habib Swaleh by the late legendary poets from Lamu - The Kadaras (father and son).

Generally, this film seeks to prevent further deterioration, disappearance and destruction of the rich multifaceted heritage propagated by the late Habib Swaleh, that has long been as threatened as it has been existent.

  • Omar Kibulanga
  • Omar Kibulanga
  • Omar Kibulanga
  • Omar Kibulanga
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    60 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    November 11, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    15,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • BARAZA: Swahili Studies Conference - SOAS University of London
    United Kingdom
    October 29, 2021
    London Conference
  • The Best Documentary - Coast Film Festival 2021
    December 10, 2021
    Coast Film Festival 2021
    The Best Documentary
  • The Best Documentary - Swahili International Film Festival (SIFF) Awards 2022
    November 12, 2022
    Mama Ngina Waterfront - Mombasa
    Best Documentary
Distribution Information
  • YouTube
Director Biography - Omar Kibulanga

Award-winning Swahili Filmmaker

Add Director Biography