Somaliland: Hargeysa is the Hub of Somali Culture

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.

Liban Ahmad