What an extraordinary year it has been! We started a year ago with the simple mission of shedding light on the positive contributions of Somalis and others in interested in Somalia. 365 days later, we are awed by the tremendous talents we’ve come across and we are delighted that so many of you supported the blog. Your actions - whether by reblogging, liking, retweeting, or simply discussing our highlights - filled our hearts and propelled us to do more. However, it is with a heavy heart that we announce the end of Soobax Blog today. It’s been a great run. We are now concentrating efforts on other projects but fret not, these efforts continue, whether by the new administrations of Somalia and Somaliland or by the countless people in the Diaspora interested in Somali affairs. Today we give our thanks to our readers, contributors and fans! Thanks for the great memories. We hope to keep the blog up a little while longer to inspire others and remember our motto throughout the site - Be Inspired! Be Positive! Be Somali!
Come and take a trip tracing Ubah Hamud’s (center) journey from northern Virginia to northern Somalia. Ubah Hamud now works at Adeso, the Somali non-profit organization founded by humanitarian Fatima Jibrell, as a Program Officer in Washington, D.C. She graduated from St. John’s University in New York with a degree in psychology. Born in the United States, Ubah recently completed an internship in Somalia working with Adeso and focusing on community stabilization initiatives. She is now based in northern Virginia and contributes to Huffington Magazine. Read her recent entry here where she discusses her journey and experience in Somalia and follow her future entries on Huffington Magazine here. [Picture: © Ellyn Sudow Photography]
Heard of Ahmed ‘Hudaydi’ Ismail Hussein? If not, lets get you all caught up! Hudaydi can recall the first time his father took him to a party at age 14 in Aden where he heard an Arabic man playing an oud, musical instrument similar the modern Guitar. I think we can confidently say that Hudaydi was star struck and his love of music continues to this day. Hudaydi played all over Somalia in the 1950’s and 1960’s building a loyal following that continues both inland and in the Diaspora, particularly in London where he lives today. To many of his fans, he’s known simply as ‘The King’ because of his hot rhythms and of course for his affinity to rock & roll and Elvis Presley. Despite the odd calls to ban his music, it continues to survive and inspire young and old Somalis alike. At 74 years old, Hudaydi continues his love and vocation and passes on lessons to the young. For more, read the BBC’s take on Hudaydi here. Watch his recent performance at the Hargeisa Book Fair here and for a sample, Listen (2’49) to ‘Urhoyo’ performed by Hudaydi and show your support for the Hudaydi Foundation here.
Here’s yet another sign of things on the upswing in Mogadishu! The housing market is literally hitting the roof! The BBC’s Andrew Harding just returned from Mogadishu, where he chronicled the tides of economic change, particularly the boom of beach front properties. You would remissed not to grab real estate on the beach with the amazing sandy shores and the longest coast in Africa. Listen to the BBC here and plan a trip with Turkish Airlines soon!
Here’s a fun but important fact: Did you know that the world’s first black military pilot in aviation history was from Somalia? Ahmet Ali Çelikten also known as Arap Ahmet Ali, born in 1883 – 1969 was one of only two known black combat pilots in World War I, the other being Eugene Jacques Bullard. Ahmet’s grandparents had moved from Somaliland to Basra, Iraq. Born by a Romani mother and Somali father, he decided to become a naval officer enrolling in Naval studies both in Somalia and in Germany. After receiving his “wings” in 1914-15, Ahmet achieved notoriety during World War 1, where in November 1916 he went into the record books! This is way before the “Tuskegee Airmen” who flew in World War II. How’s that for a fun but important fact! Read more.
Driven from Somalia, Ahmed Diri, a former refugee thanks Australia for his new life. He recently told his story to the UN’s Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) which chronicled his life in his new adopted country. We’ve featured Ahmed’s efforts before as President of Australia’s Football Somali Football Associated. Read his feature at the UN here, visit our previous features on his efforts here and here. Be Inspired! Be Positive. Be Somali.
You may have seen the recent op-ed in the New York Times by K’naan where he railed against pressures of the music industry which encouraged him to “change the walk of his music”. It is very rare to see an artist pour out the trials and tribulations of an industry so openly and to this we were offered a front row seat. We are sure that his fans say thank you but at the same time it is worth taking a minute to analyse the profound complexities that artists in the Diaspora face particularly as it relates to a “KINSHIP” to their place of origin and their adopted homes. Derica Shields captured this sentiment well in her piece for OkayAfrica where she notes the balance of romanticizing an artist’s “true voice” and the need to engage with the present populace. Read K’naan’s op-ed here and Derica’s piece here. Enjoy!
While many of you were tuned into the London 2012 Games this summer and Somalis celebrated the success of Mo Farah, Hargeisa was tuned into its 5th International Book Fair is far more than a book fair. It is now in its fifth year running and hosts authors, poets, musicians, film-makers, artists, playwrights, actors and circus performers, both Somali and non-Somali. The book fair was held in the Working Men’s Club in central Hargeisa, Somaliland and is the brainchild of Jama Musse Jama who lives in the Italian town of Pisa where he has a publishing house, a vibrant website and a family. He is the author of several books. Ayan Mahamoud is the other force behind the book fair. She organised numerous Somali events in the UK and elsewhere, including London’s Somali Week. For more visit the Book Fair’s website here.
The formidable spirit of Somalis continues to shine in diverse fields. Enter, the film industry where Somalis are not only behind the camera but in front of it. We’ve featured the accolades of those in the film industry such as Idil Ibrahim of Zeila Films. To this end, we encounter Shukri Iman, a talent so exuberant that the film industry hasn’t even scratched the surface of all her talents. Shukri’s acting accolades include The Killing (undertow season 1, episode 9) which follows the police investigation of the murder of a young girl, tying together three interlocking stories as investigators chase a variety of leads. Shukri just completed her part in Black Tar Road, a junkie love story. While not filming, Shukri enjoys the theatre where she was featured in The Breakfast Club. Shukri, a talented improvisationist studied at the Berverly Hills Playhouse. For more, visit her IMDB page here and learn more about our features of Somalis in Film here.
What does Mo Farah’s win at the London 2012 Games mean for Somalis, or in particular British Somalis? No one could describe this better that Somali author Nadifa Mohamed. You may remember we featured Nadifa last year as she published her first Novel, Black Mamba Boy. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, check out the feature here. But back to our main story today. Nadifa wrote an op-ed piece in the Guardian newspaper arguing that Mo Farah’s win symbolises the emergence of Britain’s Somali community. Whether you agree with her or not, we can all find solace at the fact that Mo Farah’s win comes at a time when everyone is speaking about the rebirth of Somalia. Nadifa attempts to capture this euphoria that also encapsulates the feelings of pride among British Somalis. Read her piece here and let he know how you feel on Twitter here.
Meet Somali visual artist Loul Samater, a painter, sculptor and teacher with roots in Saudi-Arabia and currently based in the United States. With an educational background in painting, fine arts and sculpting from Chicago and Florence, Loul has showcased in Los Angeles, New York and other galleries and institutions throughout the world. She recently returned from Somaliland, where she expanded the visual vocabulary that now fuels the work in her studio. Check out some of her installations as part of a recent New York showcase here and read more.
Are you looking to stock up your bookshelf with Somali literature or wondering where to start? The literary tradition of Somalia is quite diverse. We’ve put together the following top 5 list to get you started. Foremost among Somali literary tradition is Islamic literature, which dates back to the early 14th century with Uthman bin Ali Zayla’i producing Tabayin al-Haqa’iq li Sharh Kanz al-Daqa’iq, one of the most referenced books in the Hanafi school of Islam. Second, poetry signifies the essence of being Somali, with the country being referred to as a “Nation of Poets” and a “Nation of Bards”. Pick up the “Anthology of Somali Poetry” to get a thorough grounding on the diversity in this field and to sample current trends, check out the Somali Shakespear - Hadraawi, the beautifulWarsan Shire or the young talents at “The Poet Nation”. Third, let your imagination run wild with a vibrant reference on the ethnography of the horn of Africa with one of the many books from renowned author Nuruddin Farah. Fourth, read a world view of the Somali people by the legendary anthropologist I.M. Lewis who has covered Somalia in over 10 books for over 30 years. To understand the undercurrents to the present situation in Somalia, you may also wish to pick up “Somali Nationalism: International Politics and the Drive for Unity in the Horn of Africa” by Saadia Touval. Fifth, the Somali literary form wouldn’t be complete without the expression of song and dance. Try a modern take on this form from London based Somali artist Aar Maanta. For more, read a collection of our postings on Somali literature.
What is a young Somali girl in her twenties from Etobicoke, Canada to do? If you’re Cold Specks then that answer is to sing your heart out! Already making critical waves in the U.K., with television performances on “Later With Jools Holland” and raved after in British media, Cold Specks has now graced us with her album “I Predict A Graceful Expulsion”. Describing her sound as “Doom Soul”, Cold Specks’ music is steeped in the musical traditions of the deep American South with her influences including James Carr along with Bill Callahanand Tom Waits. Her sound evokes a visceral emotion that speaks of the ‘spirit feel’ of Mahalia Jackson and her sparse arrangements and chain gang rhythms are guaranteed to stop you dead in your tracks. Visit her website here for a listen to her new album and check out her previous albums on the label Arts and Craftshere. Read her latest coverage in the Globe and Mail; and make sure to check her out when she starts her tour in May. Follow her as well on Twitter here and let her know how moved you were!