Years and years ago, on a beautiful night as the sun sets down, I was sleeping on my mother’s lap and have enjoyed her voice as she was reciting a ‘Buraanbur– a poetry usually composed by Somali women’. Although, I can’t exactly recall the lyrics she sang for me, but I’m pretty sure that it was about my praise. Somali mothers, like my mother, always praise their children and encourages them by using buraanbur or other forms of Somali traditional songs to make them proud and tell them to play a vital role in the life. If you were me, surely you would have been fall asleep as I did.
Not only that occasion, but I can do remember many scenes in which the poetry was what feeds my childhood that I would have liked to repeat as many of other Somalis would have loved. I’m Somali, and my hometown – Hargeisa, has the nickname of “The mother of Somali Arts and Culture”. Most of Somalis are naturally born as a poet and poetess, because every Somali family has at least one person who can compose any form of poetry and songs, that’s why when both countries – The British Somaliland Protectorate and Italian Somalia united and formed ‘The Somali Republic’ in 1960, before Somaliland regained its independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991, gained the nickname of ‘The Nation of Poets’.
On one hand, poetry was and still is what Somalis use to stop a war and maintain a peace. They use to fabricate a peace and how to keep it with their own traditional way. There are a lot of Somalis, on the other hand, who are capable and good in a poem on the spot, which means they can compose the poems which had not previously composed without having a time, like a normal speech.
The above-mentioned people whose creativity in terms of poetry made their country to have the name of ‘The Nation of Poets” are Somalis. The Nations of Poets are where the Somalis are originally from, including myself, but, if you are a non-Somali and reading this article, what instantly you think of whenever you hear the name of ‘Somali’? Failure, piracy, crimes and terrorism, I guess! You’ve missed the other angle of the story!
I was in an arrival department of one of the East African country airports. I was on the line up to the counter. A middle-aged African woman, wearing a blue jeans trouser and white shirt was ahead of me in the queue. She glanced back at me suddenly and asked me an unexpected question, “Are you Somali?” she asked. I gave her unplanned answer, “Yes, I’m Somali!” A minute later, I asked her, “Why you asked me and how you know it?” She simply said, “Because, your face is not frankly open!” She moved as she was the second person to get served at the counter. I was frightened by her question. I took all the rest of my time during the airport process asking myself ‘how she can think of that Somalis are always annoying people?’. That is when I realized that a lot of people across the world has a negative picture and misunderstood ‘Somalis’!
If you search on the internet the word of ‘Somali’ you may get it attached with piracy, terrorism and other crimes, but don’t forget to bear in mind and don’t be blindfolded that you also get it attached with Poetry, Peace, democracy, free and fair elections, development and other terms, because Somaliland achieved all these things and it is a ‘Somali’. Somalia is also no longer a hub for piracy and lawlessness, its hope is much brighter than before and has a government. By the next year, in 2016, Somalis in Somalia hope to see their elected leaders by the citizens first time in almost sixty years in its history, while Somaliland has held five different elections and had the second African president whom transferred the power in a peaceful manner. That is Somalis.
Somaliland and Somalia are not the only Somalis in the region, but Somalis in Ethiopia and Kenya are part of a countries whose their development are growing fast, while Djibouti which also has a Somalis, is one of the countries in the region whose also their development is growing.
The term of ‘Somali’ is not related to a political, rather its a wide ethnicity in the eastern part of the Horn of Africa. Therefore, poetry is what define us – Somalis, whether they are from Somalia, Somaliland, Djibouti, Somalis in Kenya and Ethiopia, but not terrorism, grievance and other crimes labeled us by the media!
By Barkhad Kaariye,
Barkhad Kaariye is a journalist and a holder of MA in International Relations and Diplomacy.
You can reach the author via twitter on @BarkhadKaariye
©Somali Investigative Reports (SIR)