Goodbye Ingo Koll

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‘‘Your dedication, esteemed leadership, and tireless commitment to helping our Wikimedia communities within the Movement will always be remembered.”

Wikimedia Tanzania and Jenga Wikipedia ya Kiswahili User Groups and the movement at large are saddened to lose another champion of free knowledge;  Ingo Koll (User: Kipala), who passed away on the 10th of July 2023 at his house in his home country, Germany after a long battle with cancer.

“Ingo Koll was a German who happened to live in Tanzania and Kenya for many years. Being a pastor and a lecturer, he learned Swahili and became one of the super-active Swahili Wikipedia contributors and administrators. He was a reliable cornerstone in the development of Swahili Wikipedia. He was a knowledgeable person who collaborated closely with the Astronomy and Space Science Association of Tanzania (ASSAT) to contribute much on Astronomy topics in Swahili language on Swahili Wikipedia. He was one of the great mentors who helped the formation of Wikimedia Tanzania and also was a co-founder of Jenga Wikipedia ya Kiswahili (Build Swahili Wikipedia).

Tanzanian and East African Wikimedians benefited much from his unwavering support, leadership, mentorship, and coaching when it came to training them on Wikimedia projects, especially about Wikipedia. 

Wikimedia Tanzania, Jenga Wikipedia ya Kiswahili User Groups, and all other Wikimedians who interacted with him within the Wikimedia Movement will always remember his invaluable contributions to the Movement,” -Antoni Mtavangu.

Ingo Koll with WM Tanzania User Group cofounders (Emmanuel Mangu and Antoni Mtavangu) at Buni Innovation Hub, COSTECH Tanzania (by Jadnapac, CCBY-SA 4.0)

Winnie Kabintie: Ingo challenged East African communities to join Tanzania  Wikimedians in growing Swahili Wiki. I was always amazed by his tireless efforts despite being a non-African, he was so passionate about helping preserve Swahili as a language. The Kenyan community took this challenge in 2022 through the Wiki4Universities campaign and organized the first campaign that was focused on Swahili Wikipedia at the Pwani University in Kilifi County. 

Asaf Bartov: Ingo was a German Lutheran pastor who spent decades outside Germany serving congregations in East Africa and in Iran. He diligently studied the local languages and was moved to contribute to Wikipedia, especially the Swahili Wikipedia, out of a deep appreciation of how important free knowledge in people’s native language can be for the future of Africa.

Among other projects, Ingo created the first-ever dictionary of astronomical terms in Swahili (in collaboration with native-speaker Tanzanian professors), investing years into the research of old Swahili texts to find traditional terms for constellations, etc. that even most native speakers never knew existed.

Ingo’s dedication and patient perseverance in the face of frustrations and setbacks was a personal inspiration to me, and I am grateful to have had his example, and for the small part I had been able to play in helping some of his efforts in Africa.

Dumisani Ndubane: For many of us Wikipedia filled a void in our lives and the same was true for Ingo. His last edit was on the 28th of June this year. Even in pain, he wanted to do more.

He was very conscious as a white person living in Africa to not take up space to make it for Africans to explore, claim and grow in it. Ever patient, with a twinkle in his eye and a ready joke in Swahili. He was referred to as a “Kipala” meaning ” Baldy” by his closest Wikimedia community members and revered for his wisdom and selflessness.

Africa has lost an ally and a giant in the Swahili Wikipedia. Poleni Sana!

Mohamed Lupinga (Muddyb): I deeply mourn the loss of my dear friend Ingo. He was like a brother to me, caring not about my race, religion, or age. As his mentee, he taught me invaluable lessons, and we shared a strong bond. His passing has left an irreplaceable void in my heart. Words cannot adequately describe his kindness and impact on my life. Ingo, I will always remember and cherish our friendship.

Furthermore, the Swahili Wikipedia has lost an exceptionally talented individual. The global Wikimedia community has lost a dedicated and unparalleled contributor. Ingo’s selfless dedication was beyond compare, and his absence will be deeply felt.

Ingo Koll with one of the swwiki Admins & a Cofounder of Jenga Wikipedia ya Kiswahili (Muddby) (by Jadnapac, CCBY-SA 4.0)

Emmanuel Mangu: Ingo was a practical man. Being responsible was always a priority for him. He was always willing to help especially in our Wikimedia programs (Wikimedia Community Tanzania and other communities). He always wished for what was best for our communities. Proposing and suggesting various methods for improving our communities and showing them by example. 

Ingo Koll with one of the Wikimedia Tanzania members (Clement Makangabila) during WLW events in Tanzania (by Czeus25 Masele CCBY-SA 4.0)

Clement Makangabila: Ingo was a great teacher, who loved to see Swahili grow and be used in the agenda of free education and knowledge for people through Wikimedia projects. Eyes in the Sky, Swahili astronomy is a living example of the efforts of our late Elder. Rest in peace. Amen.

Ingo’s wife (Almut Koll), Wikimedia Tanzania, and Jenga Wikipedia ya Kiswahili User groups deeply thank every one of you who expressed and conveyed tributes and condolences to his wife and to our User groups. According to his wife, Ingo Koll’s ashes will be buried on 10th August 2023 at his family cemetery in German. #RIP #INGOKOLL

You can also read:

  1. The Chronology of Ingo Koll’s Legacy: Creating a Swahili Astronomy Dictionary by Muddby, 2023
  2. Europeans’ impact on Kiswahili-Wikipedia-a-journey-of-collaboration by Muddby, 2023
  3. Obituary: In Memoriam of Ingo Koll, the LONG TIME EDITOR AND ADMIN of Swahili Wikipedia by Muddyb, 2023

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