The Hargeysa International Book Fair plays a distinctive role in the promotion of Somali culture due to the consistency and dedication of oraganisers and sponsors. Hargeysa is home to several Somali language daily newspapers, reading clubs, publishing houses and research centres. Demilitarisation and reconciliation efforts of the now late Somaliland President, Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, created an atmosphere in which cultural industry can flourish.
Since January 2015 more than five books have been published In Hargeysa. One of the books published and launched in Hargeysa is a biography of the late Somali poet and researcher , Mohamed Hashi Dhama’ ( aka Gaarriye ) who was the first writer to discover the Somali poetry metre through articles published in the now defunct Xiddigta Oktoobar , the former military regime’s daily Somali newspaper, in January 1976. Gaarriye’s work has inspired researchers to write dissertations, research papers and books on Somali poetry. There was no free press but translated stories such as Alex Haley’s Roots ( Qiso Xididdo qoys Ameerikaan ah), and Somali short stories such as Mohamed Dahir Afrah’sGaltimacruuf and Abdullahi Sheikh Hussein’s Ayaan daran, were serialised in the newspaper . However, cultural industry was not as vibrant in Mogadishu as it is now in Hargeysa. Several factors ranging from the the Internet to diaspora support for local publishing initiatives account for this trend.
Those initiatives need institutional backing in the form of training for editors, proofreaders and journalists because book reviews in Somali are posted in websites and online magazine. Such an approach to boosting the publishing industry could unlock a lucrative publishing market, create translation opportunities and above all encourage writers to publish their work locally.
A friend of mine who writes essays and books in Somali tells me he would like to pay for proofreading and copy editing services in Somali language but there are no freelance copy editors and proofreaders due to lack of a recognised organisation that trains Somali proofreaders and copy editors.
Local journalists will benefit from proofreading and copy editing training in Somali. The Horn Cable TV reporter covering launching of book ‘Warqaddii Reer Berbera’ ( Letters of Somali Leaders to Sheikh Sultan Bin Saqer Al Qasimi ) translated from Arabic into Somali, described the translator as the author of the book because in a brief introduction the translator says he “began to write this book early 2014 ; it was written in 1837 by Sheikh Sultan Bin Saqer Al Qasimi .” I wondered if the book is a history of relations between Somali elders in Berbera and the ruler of the the emirates of Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah during the first half of nineteenth century or a translation of the correspondence between Somali leaders and the Sheikh Sultan Bin Saqer Al Qasimi . The Arabic publisher’s website states the Arabic version of the book has been translated into Somali.
Gaarriye School of Languages at the University of Hargeysa and Hargeysa Book Fair organisers are in a better position to build on their extensive network and put their heads together to explore ways to introduce training for Somali editors, proofreaders and journalists.