Long before TEDxMogadishu begun, we sat close together and even more closer to the wide screen projection infront of us. We were anxiously waiting for the speakers to start telling their stories. We were also hoping that the internet would not give us a problem and that the power would not cut. A group of us had gathered to witness TEDxMogadishu 2014 together.
We looked forward to the start of the much-awaited speeches, stories, performances; essentially priceless gifts to be shared for free with all of us. All these speakers had come together to share what each one was doing in his/her own unique way to change, contribute to a better, progressive and prosperous Somalia. The initiative and stories spoke to the very nature of the kind of work I promote in Somalia and I think it is an excellent way to engage the youth in particular. I am a great fan and subscriber of TEDx videos. I receive alerts of new broadcasts and I watch several videos a week. But it was my first time to witness a TEDx event held in Somalia.
The speeches and performances each inspired and alleviated me. They also reminded me of my childhood in different ways. They triggered many emotions in me. Zahra’s input spoke to us all with her living images that tell a 1000 different stories. As i watched, I remembered running about barefoot along the beach in Mogadishu, many years ago, reliving it felt like it was just yesterday. I remembered standing by the corner of our home when it rained and how we enjoyed getting soaked with rain water as we giggled and ran about as little girls, our long loose hair dangling behind us. I remembered and remembered and remembered it all.
When Ikraam was speaking, somehow I was also reminded of my mother ceremoniously making spicy Somali tea under the pawpaw tree infront of our home in Mogadishu. I remembered the times, of long ago, when I would walk with my siblings to the market place early in the mornings with little baskets in our hands to buy fresh fruit and meat and how we would each cunningly cheat the women milk sellers into continuously pouring milk into our extended palms so that we’d so-called ‘taste whether or not the milk was fresh’ and in so doing fully quenched our thirst!
There was one particular picture that really spoke to me; a little girl, “a cute jewel” she was named on social media, standing on the beach, sand all over her delicate face and so full of life and energy; symbolizing the rebirth of hope and of Somalia. Ikraam’s talk also highlighted how new technologies are giving Somali women more safety and mobility. She mentioned a case of how her mother who lived in another town struggled to send her money when she was in college and how now with the introduction of new money transfer systems via mobile phones it became so easy to do so electronically.
And when Keyo started singing I just broke down. I then started tweeting about how all of this was emotionally impacting me. I broke down for myself but more importantly for my frail, ailing mother forced to live in exile and spend her old years in a foreign country away from the only home and family she has ever known. I broke down for my late father who is buried in a foreign country and not in his spiritual and ancestral own. I broke down for my siblings who are spread all over the world and have been deprived of the blessings and patriotism only one’s own country can provide. I wept for the Somalia I was born into, that I am still yearning, craving for, and for the Somalia I once knew and called home.
I was not in Mogadishu physically but I was there spiritually, emotionally, mentally and every other way. I was so there that I was able to feel the emotions the various speakers carried with them in their stories. I was so there that I can pretty much replay much of what took place, how and who said what. All of my senses were activated, alive and eagerly watching, waiting, wanting. Amazing that someone so far away can have such an impact and influence in another person’s life hundreds of miles away. I was nostalgically reminded of long ago. The more I listened, the more I remembered and the more I longed for the revival and reliving of these feelings and moments. Today, we even skipped our ritual habit- the midday siesta naps everyone takes here right after lunch for TEDxMogadishu!
Today’s speakers spoke as individuals but they did not represent individual visions or fights. Today’s speakers represented our own hopes and aspirations for the motherland and for our children tomorrow. Today’s speakers broke through clan divisions, they broke through geographic and geopolitical divides. They had the potential and omnipotence to break through mental demarcations and narrowed shallow thinking and even heal many ailing souls. They engaged Somalis from everywhere; some tweeted proudly about it others watched egoistically silently.
I want to believe that there is innate goodness in all human beings and thus in Somalis too. But this goodness is often overshadowed and overwhelmed by cultural, political, religious and economic separations. There is so much distrust and suspicion among Somalis. But we must create more awareness about the goodness of the Somalis who are tirelessly working hard to create change into the mainstream Somali dialogue. We must multiply and magnify every good deed by a Somali for the community. We must bring this to our television screens and Internet headlines so that our children are exposed to them. We need more social participation movements that acknowledge and encourage the goodness in us.
We must assist one another in embracing and empowering one another in unity, love and kindness. This is the only way our communities will blossom, grow and prosper. We must exemplify the very best of our communities by encouraging, uplifting one another. When we do good to each other our children will learn from us and our hearts will heal. This we will also be able to educate others around the world about how good Somalia is, about the Somalia you and I once knew and about it’s amazing people.
The rise of Mogadishu is of benefit to all Somalis and indeed to all of Somalia. I hope Somalis soon realize that we need each other to grow. We need each other to prosper. We need each other to love. If we think only in boxes we will live in boxes, we will dream in boxes and we will grown only in boxes. Another Somalia is possible. But we have to create it ourselves.
Today we have seen that that possibility is there and that it is real. Together we are stronger. Bravo to all who are working towards a better Somalia. You are me and I am you.
Today, I am even more inspired than ever to continue believing, hoping, dreaming and contributing in my own little way to the full awakening of the beauty and strength of Somalia and of Somali people. To all the other speakers whom I didn’t mention by name; I enjoyed your speeches equally well. I enjoy seeing success, whether it is mine or yours.
A Somali proverb says “If people come together, they can even mend a crack in the sky”. If Somalis can imagine to mend a crack in the sky, then why cant they come together to mend this crack in our communities and in our hearts?
Go here for pictures taken by UNSOM of this event. https://www.flickr.com/photos/unsom/sets/72157649415729516/