Tippu Tip or Tib (1837 – June 14, 1905), real name Hamad bin Muḥammad bin Jumah bin Rajab bin Muḥammad bin Sa‘īd al-Murghabī, (Arabic: حمد بن محمد بن جمعة بن رجب بن محمد بن سعيد المرجبي), was a Swahili-Zanzibari trader. He was famously known by the natives of East Africa as Tippu Tib after the sounds that his many guns made. A notorious slave trader, plantation owner and governor, who worked for a succession of sultans of Zanzibar, he led many trading expeditions into Central Africa, involving the slave trade and ivory trade. He constructed profitable trading posts that reached deep into Central Africa.
He built himself a trading empire that he then translated into clove plantations on Zanzibar. Abdul Sheriff reported that when he left for his twelve years of "empire building" on the mainland, he had no plantations of his own. However, by 1895, he had acquired "seven shambas [plantations] and 10,000 slaves."
His mother, Bint Habib bin Bushir, was a Muscat Arab of the ruling class. His father and paternal grandfather were coastal Swahili who had taken part in the earliest trading expeditions to the interior. His paternal great-grandmother, wife of Rajab bin Mohammed bin Said el Murgebi was the daughter of Juma bin Mohammed el Nebhani, a member of a respected Muscat (Oman) family, and an African woman from the village of Mbwa Maji, a small village south of what would later become the German capital of Dar es Salaam.
He met and helped several famous western explorers of the African continent, including Henry Morton Stanley. Between 1884 and 1887, El Murgebi claimed the Eastern Congo for himself and for the Sultan of Zanzibar, Bargash bin Said el Busaidi. In spite of his position as protector of Zanzibar's interests in Congo, he managed to maintain good relations with the Europeans. When, in August 1886, fighting broke out between the Swahili and the representatives of King Leopold II of Belgium at Stanley Falls, El Murgebi went to the Belgian consul at Zanzibar to assure him of his "good intentions." Although he was still a force in Central African politics, he could see by 1886 that power in the region was shifting. In early 1887, Stanley arrived in Zanzibar and proposed that Tippu Tip be made governor of the Stanley Falls District in the Congo Free State. Both Leopold and Sultan Barghash bin Said agreed and on February 24, 1887, Hamed bin Mohammed el Murgebi accepted.
Around 1890/91, he returned to Zanzibar where he retired. He wrote his autobiography, which is the first example of this literary genre in Swahili. El Murgebi wrote his autobiography in Swahili in Arabic script. Dr. Heinrich Brode, who knew him in Zanzibar, transcribed the manuscript into Roman script and translated it into German. It was subsequently translated into English and published in Britain in 1907.
He died June 13, 1905, of malaria (according to Brode) in his home in Stone Town, the main town on the island of Zanzibar.
Portrait of Tippu Tip, House of Wonders Museum, Stone Town
- Sheriff, 108
- Brode, 7-8
- Bennett and Brode
- Maisha ya Hamed bin Mohammed el Murjebi yaani Tippu Tip kwa maneno yake mwenyewe, kimefasiriwa na W.H. Whitely (toleo la Kiswahili - Kiingereza), East Africa Literature Bureau 1974
- Roland Oliver, Roland Anthony Oliver, Anthony Atmore (2004). Africa since 1800. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-83615-8.
- Brode, Heinrich. Tippoo Tib: The Story of His Career in Zanzibar & Central Africa. Translated by H. Havelock with preface by Sir Charles Elliot. London: Arnold, 1907 (Online version).
- Bennett, Norman Robert. Arab vs. European: Diplomacy and war in Nineteenth-Century Est Central Africa. New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1986.
- Sheriff, Abdul. Slaves, Spices & Ivory in Zanzibar: Integration of an East African Commercial Empire into the World Economy, 1770-1873. London, Nairobi, Tanzania, Athens,OH: James Currey, Heinemann Kenya, Tanzania Publishing House, Ohio University Press, 1987.
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