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.
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 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.
I am told Careeys Ciise Kaarshe was a poet. He’s known as the dude who pioneered the poetic form that is known to most people, -informally,- as the “hadii kale waxaan lahaa”. The phrase itself isn’t set in stone. Sometimes, you’ll see “sidii kale waxaan lahaa”. Most of his poems (songs) follow this pattern. Here are some examples: this, this and this.
This form being so important in our culture. I thought I’d do a short blog piece on my favourite songs that use bits of that form/interpretations of it. Here is a list (which I hope to expand):
1. Murgo by Careeys Ciise
This poem actually uses “midii kale waxaan lahaa”. One his lines in this song is Hadaanan motor qabin waa murug ma-ogtahay. I know mate. I know.
2. Ani Maa Adi Kir Kaa Mudan by Shimaali Axmad Shimaali
This struggle is so real for this guy. Just listen to the lyrics.
3. Until the Lion Learns to Speak by K’naan
If you have any other suggestions. Or know of a song that should have been here, let me know. Get at me on twitter. Twitter handle : @slycivilian1
Every single Somali that I know that has been too see Captain Phillips thought it was a comedy. I went to see it last night with Sacha, Miski and Samafilan. A friend of mine wrote on the film a couple of months ago, and I’d urge you all to read her article first.
I have also decided to use gifs. I think they’re quite a good aid for illustrating points.
The way in which we frame the entire conflict in Somalia is rubbish. We are so eager to make it seem like “tribalism” is THE only problem facing us. Not only that, but it is almost always cited as being the central, single most important factor that lead to the breaking down of the Somali government in 1991. I have written on this subject before, and have provided a somewhat simplistic analysis (what else would you expect from a Tumblr post?). Simplistic in that, while I pointed away from “tribalism” (towards economics, and the weakening of Barre’s political legitimacy); I did not provide a wholesome analysis of tribalism. But that is not what I want to talk about today.
In this blog post (and the following three posts), I want to tackle the issue of “lazy history” head on. Each week I will take a common mistake we often make when we talk about our history.
Mussolini came into power in the early twenties. One of the first things he did was change the governer in Italian Somaliland. The new man in charge had a really long name. Let’s call him De Vecchi for now, but his actual name was Governer Cesare Maria De Vecchi di Val Cismon.
Before fascism came into power in Italy (and by extension to Somalia), the Italian policy in its Somaliland Colony was to “arm the tribes of the upper Webi Shebelle against the incursion of Ogaden Somalis”*. It wasn’t quite that simple, but it was largely dependant on deals made with tribal leaders, and the playing off of Somalis against each other. As the Italian government saw it then, this was a much cheaper way of maintaining their stronghold in the region without the cost that usually came with that type of power grab. Because of this, their reach was limited and Italian law did not apply.
As a black (and African) man living in the UK, you train yourself to avoid certain spaces. You develop these anxieties (that’s the only way I can describe them) about some social situations. I am not alone in this, I have so many friends for whom certain post codes in London are no more than a myth-, places that only exist on a monopoly board. This got me thinking, does THE red passport actually give you “citizenship”?
And then today, I found this wonderful quote. This sums everything I could ever want to say on the topic of citizenship beautifully.
"If citizenship is to mean anything in an everyday sense it should mean the ability of individuals to occupy public spaces in a manner that does not compromise their self-identity, let alone obstruct, threaten or even harm them more materially. If people cannot be present in public spaces (streets, parks, cinemas, churches, town halls) without feeling uncomfortable, victimized and basically “out of place,” then it must be questionable whether or not these people can be regarded as citizens at all."
- Painter, J and Philo, C. 1995. Spaces of citizenship: An introduction. Political Geography, 14: 107–120.
This is a bibliography taken from the Library of Congress website. Over the next few months, I’ll be providing links for the articles or books (and where they can be found). This is the original list. As always, if you have access to anything on this list, please give me a shout. The aim of this project is to document Somali history and to allow ordinary Somalis the opportunity to access their own past (or at the very least to know where they can find this stuff).