We are in Mogadishu today to attend the first Annual Mogadishu International Book Fair (MBF). It is a historic happening and I am both honored and humbled to be here. Today it doesn’t matter which qabiil or region in Somalia I am from because it it not qabiil/clan politics that has brought us here together. Today none of that matters. Today we have gathered as bridge builders of our culture. We have come together as connectors of our culture. Today are serving the Somali interest through culture. You see, we have found our commonalities and emphasized on our similarities instead of our differences. And that is what culture does. Culture leads to connections, and connections lead to cooperation and this is the only way to a better future for us, as Somalis.
Obligation to welcome, celebrate and expand on initiatives that bring us together
As Somalis, today we have an obligation to expand on anything that is positively shaping our thought and activism. But unfortunately, in Somalia, the very things that we have no control over, are the things that separate us from one another. I have lived and worked as a Cultural Anthropologist in several countries holding various positions over the past 8-10 years. I have been to South Sudan, Sierra Leone, North-Eastern Kenya and now in Somalia. In all those, I have learned from both the experience as well as from the people and places I have been to that regularly celebrating one’s culture can be the catalyst that brings people together because culture connects people. Culture can be the catalyst that ignites discussion amongst people. I have seen that culture speaks a language which can easily communicate one’s values and emotions to another. Culture reminds people of their shared values, similarities and identity.
Today more then ever, we as Somalis have an obligation to communicate and expand on anything that is happening positively in the field of culture in our country. Because regardless of where we are, we should make great strides for the love and honor of our culture. We are the soldiers that our country needs and is waiting for. We have an obligation to plant best practices and make them grow elsewhere in Somalia. We have an obligation to duplicate best practices in our villages and cities. We have an obligation to inform others of these best practices and to regularly write about them on our Social Media channels and blogs. Yes, we have an obligation to be proud of these events- events which bring our people peacefully together, and which articulate this pride. We have an obligation to be proud of the people behind these initiatives.
Culture is the glue that will bind Somalis together
I believe that the Somali culture is the glue that will bind our people together. You see, politics will never do that for us. Politics will not bring us together. In fact politics has failed us. Only our culture will unite us. Lets invest in our culture. Let’s invest in educating our people about our beautiful cultural heritage. You see culture has the potential to make us smile and laugh together. we become social beings by culture. Culture has the ability to make us travel from far away villages, towns and regions in order to attend a cultural event somewhere far away. It’s the only thing that will magically uplift any differences, resentments or reservations that we may have about one another.
Politics didn’t bring me here. No, it did not. Culture did. We have to support Mogadishu International Book Fair in every way we possibly can. You see, culture has the ability to do that. It has the ability to make one see beyond the qabil in another. It makes one see the potential in another. The talent. The wisdom. The brotherhood. The sisterhood. Oh the beauty of it. Culture makes you see the gift your brother has. Culture will make you recognize that talent whether it is poetry, song, prose, or even a piece of art and you will relate to it and identify with it. Culture is our rich language. Culture is our rich poetry. Culture are our rich stories. Culture is you and me. Together.
Last year, I was also in Hargeysa for the Hargeysa International Book Fair. It was an honor for me to be there and I want to thank the organizers for having me there. It was culture that took me there. Not politics. Today I am in Mogadishu for the Mogadishu International Book Fair. Politics didn’t bring me here either. No, it did not. It is culture that brought me here. And It is culture that brought the other guests here as well. They have come from withing Somalia, from Europe, USA and Asia. They have come because they believe in our rich cultural heritage. They feel connected to it. They want to embody it.
And it is your interest in our culture that has brought you, dear reader, to this article. You see, MIBF through culture, aims at fostering in Somalia a new generation of creative and tolerant individuals. In Mogadishu I have met young Somali leaders whom I have admired and supported from a distance over the years. Today I got to meet them face to face. Politics did not do that for us. No. it is culture that brought us together. Culture is what will save Somalia. Lets invest heavily in it. Lets have Ministers of Culture. Ambassadors of Culture. Gatekeepers of Culture.
Why am I in Mogadishu?
I have lived in Somalia for more than 5 years. I am in Mogadishu for the Book Fair because I want to contribute to efforts geared towards the preservation of our rich Somali cultural heritage. I am here to watch potential unfold. I am here to praise talent as it unwinds and explodes right infront of me. I am here because I want to write about the Somalia we never see or get to hear about. I am here to take part in this historic happening. I am here because I want to document this historic day. I am here because I have an obligation to be here today. I am here today because I want our tomorrow to be different from our yesterdays.
#MBF2015 #Somalia #Culture #Connection #Similarities