A Nation Of Poets

"’…it is a common, if amusing, thing," [Somali scholar Said Sheikh] Samatar wrote, "to come upon a group of nomads huddled excitedly over a short-wave transistor, engaged in a heated discussion of the literary merits of poems that have just been broadcast while they keep watch over their camel herds grazing nearby.’"

-Tamela Hultman, Somalia, A Nation of Poets, African News Service

To say that Somali people love a good poem is a gross understatement. Historically, poetry has been at the center of Somali culture. Used as a means to preserve oral history; to tease a friend; to disperse news and information; to protest, wage or end wars; poetic verse has defined this country and culture for centuries.

Read Tamela Hultman’s brief but fascinating article about poetry’s role in Somali culture:

It may inspire you to order a copy of An Anthology of Somali Poetry by Bogumil W. Andrzejewski and Sheila Andrzejewski."

A word about piracy

It’s the elephant in the room. So let’s talk about it. Somali fisherman in coastal towns originally took to piracy in reaction to rampant illegal fishing by foreign trawlers, which they felt was impacting their already lean livelihood. Piracy escalated following the devastating tsunami on December 26, 2004. Entire local fishing fleets were destroyed by the powerful waves, and containers of toxic waste dumped by European fishing vessels washed up on Somali shores, further stressing the local fishing industry. None of this makes piracy okay, but it’s important to understand that the piracy didn’t happen in a vacuum.

Local and multinational efforts to combat piracy along the coast of Somalia have started to bear fruit. In 2010, pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden had fallen more than 60 percent. However the increased policing of Somalia’s coastal waters has also pushed some pirate activity out further into the Indian Ocean. So there is still more work to do to bring this situation under control.