Canadian novelist and scholar Margaret Laurence, who originally coined the term “Nation of Poets” to describe the Somali people, she could not have been far from the truth. The cultural week held in the week ending 13th July 2023 provide yet more proof that Somalis are gifted in the composition of poetry.
The EU funded weeklong festival, managed by UNFPA, and implemented by Youth Peer Education Network, Somalia (Y-Peer) was another platform for students and accomplished poets alike to showcase their talent in music, song, folklore, poetry and dance. The festival was hosted by the University of Bosaso, Garoowe (UoBG) and it brought together more than 700 students from different disciplines. This year’s cultural week event received much more coverage, engagement, and enthusiasm from the students, poets and poem lovers. It was a much-anticipated event as this annual function had not been undertaken since 2019 due to CoVID-19 related challenges.
The cultural week was a nostalgic journey down memory lane, far, far into early times. Participants savored the sights and sounds as they were treated to magnificent performances as well as real-life spectacle of cooking, herding animals, courting, love and marriage life. Traditional huts were put up to capture a realistic portrayal of medieval times. Those who were lucky tasted traditional cuisine made in traditional earthenware. One of the most captivating performances was the musical folktale love story involving a nomad boy, named Samantar and a city girl called Suuban. It was an illuminating scenario where the new and the retro seemed on a collision course.
And yet, the underlying message which could not be disputed is that Somalis, like many others worldwide, have a triple heritage. We nurture values inherited from our ancestors’ cultural practices. One is challenged to reflect on these multiple drivers and sieve best practices from each aspect. Negative cultural practices including FGM and early marriages became key talking points during discussions. Opened by Hon. Abdirahman Ibrahim Aidid Ibrahim, Minister for Labor, Youth and Sports who made a keynote address, the function was well graced, with several dignitaries.
These include: the state minister for Education and Higher Education Hon. Ahmed Ibrahim Awale, the State-Minister for Public Work and Housing, Hon. Mohamoud Iyoon, the Vice Minister for Justice, Religion Affairs and Constitution, Hon. Dr. Mohamd Ali Farah, the Governor of Nugal region- Hon. Abdirahman Hajji Abshir. Other speakers include the Mayor of Garoowe District, his Lordship Abdikadir Mohamed (Geedi), the Former Minister of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Federal Republic of Somalia, Honorable Ahmed Ise Awad and Members of parliament from the Federal Government.
Other invited guests came from civil society organizations, including Puntland Non-State Actors Associations (PUNSAA), and Puntland Development and Research Center (PDRC), as well as famous Somali poets, traditional leaders, religious clerics and members of the general public. A key output realized was to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and views between artists and other cultural workers using as a tool for self-expression and/or medium to address public grievances/issues including gender-based violence, early marriage and domestic violence which is a major threat to young female and community at large in attendance.
The event contributes to localizing the UNESCO Convention concerning the protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972) ratified by the Government of Somalia of and the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003), which entered into force for Somalia on 23 October 2020. All guests and participants seemed to agree on one fact: that stakeholders make this memorable event an annual one and no effort be spared to make it a bigger success each time.
For details contact
Focal person: Anisa Mohmoud, Program Manager, Ypeer