Bibi Salme. Ahmad Makia. HOUSE

Posted in books, politics, writing on June 16th, 2022
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Bibi Salme by HOUSE is an expanded facsimile of the first English version of ‘Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar’, published by D. Appleton, New York in 1888. Released with no author and circulating mostly as ‘harem literature’, the Memoirs are in reality an autobiography penned by Emily Reute | Sayyide Salme bint Said, who was born Princess Sayyide Salme bint Said, one of the thirty six children of Sayyid bin Sultan (1791-1856), ruler of Muscat and Oman and of Zanzibar. Her recollections offer a complex historic narrative on family, the ‘nature of women in the East’, Islam, East-West dichotomies, governance, and the slave-labor relationships maintained by settler Omanis in Zanzibar and the east coast of Africa during the 19th century.

The treatment of the memoirs by 19th and early 20th century publishers presented her life as more of an Oriental fantasy than a factual, autobiographical account. Since its first printing, Bibi Salme’s work has been published as an academic-style text, numerous print-on-demands, a romance novel and a Victorian Erotica Kindle book. In rare cases, such as the romance novel, the text has been altered, but in most cases the transformation has been an act of repackaging and advertising. In this edition, we attempt to reconstruct the circulation of her memoirs but also present them as a rebuke to the Orientalist worldview that she had always intended it to be.

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