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This article brings into conversation two pieces of Indian Ocean fiction about women, a Banaadiri wedding song, called ‘Waa Guuriheeynnaa,’ and Cristina Ali Farah’s published work A Dhow is Crossing the Sea. I interrogate what constitutes female kinship, coastal identity, cultural heritage, and the ties between these phenomena through a comparative analysis of the two forms of literature. I assess how both works express kinship between coastal women and the ways in which their Indian Ocean and local cultural identities become embodied forms of knowledge. I then explore the differing ways that women in ‘Waa Guuriheeynnaa’ and A Dhow is Crossing the Sea use material culture as an act of female community making. I argue that in both literary works, women’s bodies carry cultural meaning. However, while in ‘Waa Guuriheeynnaa,’ it is through women’s bodies that Banaadiri Indian Ocean culture is expressed, affirmed, and continued, in A Dhow is Crossing the Sea, coastal women’s bodies attest to a more uneven and contested Indian Ocean and diasporic heritage that registers historical losses as well as their everyday lived realities.
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