Son, the tribalism business is the work of the urban people. They cook it there and then serve it to us.
Europe was cool in the nineteenth century .They were all about inter-cultural conversations. So much so that they use to kidnap/force/pay entire communities and put them in zoos so that they may be observed by Europeans. The zoos weren’t actually called “zoos”. It was either a “world fair” or “world exposition”.
From the mid nineteenth century onwards, colonial powers began to hold these “World fairs”. The aim was simple: how do we introduce the metropolis to the colonies? How do we make it easier for our population (the British, the French) to understand that the “colonies” France/Britain rule over are tangible and very real. This is illustrated best by the French Colonial Minister Paul Reynaud’s opening remarks at the 1931 Expo where he declared that “the essential aim of the exposition is to give the French an awareness of their Empire”. OF course, part of the aim was also about boosting the confidence of both the Empire and the individual in the empire, by pointing out how varied and savage and bizarre the cultures were that they now ruled over.
This particular piece I’ve shared here was recorded in 1930 (exhibited 1931), and it comes from a long tradition of European faux-anthropology that had Empire at is centre. It was record by the Phonetics Department at Paris University, and the aim was to “record the music and dialects of the colonies”. But I promise, it’s much more sinister than that. They made hundreds of audio recordings, took hundreds of pictures and meticulously wrote LOTS of reports. Only a fraction of them are about Somalis. Here is one of them.
From what I gather, this man is describing “disagreements” with his neighbouring Qabiil, or even sub-Qabiil. I think it was common, in regions in the north and west, to have disagreements like this with your neighbours. Robbing their camel is the ultimate expression of just how pissed off you are with them.
Note: Think about the subject of the story. Think about why it might have “benefited” the recorders. Think about the problem with framing the existence of an entire people this way.
Once upon, we raided (a settlement) and we stole some camel. And the men we had robbed came after us, and they asked us to give them their camel back. And we said no. We’re not giving you anything back. We fought. They said give us our camel back. We said no. They said “us not getting our camel back isn’t really gonna work for us”. And we said, we’re not giving you your camel back, quit badgering us. We fought. They killed one of our men. So when they did that, we fought even harder. They then took the camel from us. We chased after them and caught up with them, and took the camel off them. There we fought. They killed three of ours. We killed five of them. They sent us a delegation who had some wise words to share. They said: “only three are eternal”. A man who has knowledge, a donkey, and a dog. Only those three will benefit. The man with knowledge, for he has has wisdom, and from livestock and his family comes much wealth. And donkeys, they said. And dogs, they said[This is a literal translation, but it seems that he has forgotten the particular proverb, so he’s filling it in with fillers]. We got compensation. We chased them, we scared them, that’s it! We kept the camel. We were stronger than them. We scared them. We became serious enemies. Years later [Lit: another day], they raided us, attacking us, families, livestock, and burnt our houses. And we went after them, and we burnt down their houses. And then matters became serious after that. And then British attacked us, and locked us up. They chased us, and we went on the run. We escaped. They caught five of our men. They locked them up. We then paid for them to be released. With the grace of God, through all of that, we were fighting. For five years, we were fighting. And then things got really difficult. We paid the “Mag” (Islamic compensation for killing someone). And we made peace there and then.
War and Peace (1931)
I’ve seen plenty “activist” types talking about the key to fixing all our problems. What? It’s easy, they said, replace old politicians with young ones. But what does that actually achieve?
A lot of statistics are being thrown about, “proving” to us THE POWER OF THE YOUTH. We’re told again and again that 70% of Somalia population is under the age of 30. Well, that’s cool, I guess. But what does that actually mean in real terms? It just means we’ve taken a random bracket of people that have a specific thing in common (i.e age under 30), and we said that we will work to get them into power. They are the key, we are told. This blog piece is about this claim.
I saw this Richard Blackwood sketch a few months ago. I found it offensive. But at the same, I thought there was some truth to it. We’ve a reputation of backing each other. And then I read this today. It seems that it’s not just Somalis. It’s all East Africans.
This excerpt is taken from “A Voyage to Abyssinia” by Jerónimo Lobo (d.1678). Lobo was a Portuguese missionary. He lands in what is today south Somalia, and he’s travelling around in a land that is largely controlled by the Oromo peoples. He refers to them as the Galla here, but that’s actually quite an offensive term. What he refers to as Jubo, is the region surrounding the river Juba in south Somalia.
Fatouma Ahmed, a poet from Djibouti, recites her poem “Afrika”. It’s about about Africa’s colonial struggle, particularly that of Somalis. It gives a glimpse insight into Somalia’s past.
If you’re interested in learning more, get at me on my twitter.
Language is important. It is one of the way in which the current conflict is being incited and sustained. It attaches a dialect to a tribe. It attaches the speaker of that dialect to a political position. And it links them altogether in a way that means that no individual can be allowed to claim that they are being “objective”.
I thought I’d try out something different. I want to start talking about Somali language, culture, etc in a non-highbrow way.
This post is about something quite a lot of us diaspora kids do when we codeswitch every day. We translate odd Somali phrases into literal English. And it is usually quite funny. So, I thought, why not try finding a number of Somali maahmaahs and seeing what they would look like if translated LITERALLY into LITERAL English. And oh, I added some odd gifs.
I hope you enjoy. And if you have any questions, get at me on twitter @slycivilian1. P.S. To really enjoy this, do it in abti Cawaadle’s voice and accent. LET THE COUNTDOWN BEGIN!
I found an amazing article in the Spectator about Somalis in 1899 laughing their asses off at British colonial hunters getting mauled down by lions.
Just made me think that this could potentially provide the proof that Somalis are natural-born trolls. I can imagine the idea of hunting for fun being very foreign to our ancestors. But I can also imagine them finding hunters being killed by the creatures they have spent so much money and time on to hunt as being even more funny. For them, there is nothing funnier than somebody who has spent thousands of pounds to get to a place themselves in danger. Because Somali logic goes: don’t ever put yourself in danger for fun and two: don’t hunt for the sake of hunting and three: reap what you have sowed
This made me genuinely sad. Though the language is so simple, it is powerful. If you need any help with understanding it, get in touch. I am probably going to be translating a few of Awey’s Khammiis’ tracks in the next few weeks.
According to the description under the video, this was performed at the Somalia Peace Conference in Addis Ababa.
The nabad will come soon inshallah
The Italian’s didn’t land in Somalia by accident. They were a latecomer to the whole “let’s all share the spoils of Africa’’ game. That’s namely because the Italy that we speak of today, is probably less than 150 years old. So, at the time of the Berlin Conference of 1884, the newly unified Italy was still a tween. This following four blog pieces will try its hand at writing an overview of Italian presence in Somalia. It WILL NOT attempt to explain why our “Italian forefathers have forsaken us”, or try and explain how “deeply rooted” Italian culture is in Somalia..
This particle blog is a quick post about the Filonardi Company, 1893 -96 and the way in which they secured the Benadir port.