Some work of the Greatest Somali poet, Mahamed Ibrahim Warsame ‘Hadraawi’ translated into English
kayd.org – We, in Kayd Somali Art and Culture, Redsea –online Culture Foundation and the Poetry Translation Centre take pride and pleasure to announce the publication for the first time of selected poems of the Somali master of wordsmith, Maxamed Ibraahim Warsame HADRAAWI along with their English translations.
Hadraawi has been recently awarded the prestigious Prince Claus Award for his immense contribution in creating brilliant meaningful poetry over the past 40 years. The presentation ceremony of the award by His Excellency Joost Reintjes, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands will be towards the end of February 2013. Our publication of Hadraawi’s work is primarily meant to register our acknowledgement and appreciation of his magnificent role in the promotion of Somali arts and culture. We nonetheless wish to highlight this felicitous occasion.
In this modest publication we have selected only eight of his huge literary treasure trove:
Hal La Qalay .. (The Killing of the She-camel)
Hooyooy La’aantaa.. (Mother’s Love)
Dhigaalka FarSoomaalida.. ( adoption of written script for my language)
Cajabey, Cajabey..( A love beyond compare)
Sirta Nolosha..(Life’s Essence)
Bulsho.. (My people)
Jacayl Dhiig Ma Lagu Qoray.. (Has Love Been Ever Written inBlood !
In honouring Hadraawi this is what the august Prince Claus Award Committee has said: He is honoured for “creating proud and beautiful poems that enrich and expand the centuries-old oral poetry tradition that is central to contemporary Somali culture and identity, for sustaining shared historical awareness and include discourse in divisive times, for his lifelong commitment to community development and social justice, and for building bridges, providing inspiration and promoting peace.”
Introduction to the book is by Rashid Sheikh Abdillahi (Gadhweyne), the English literal translations are by Mohamed Hassan ‘Alto’, and Said Jama Hussein. The English translations are by Dr. Martin Orwin, and the eminent poet W.N Herbert.
We finally wish to express our heartfelt congratulations to our great poet Hadraawi and our sincere gratitude to the Prince Claus Committee for its laudable service to our culture. For the fans and lovers of Hadraawi’s art, we conclude ‘ENJOY THE DAY’.
About the poet: Mahamed Ibrahim Warsame ‘Hadraawi’
Hadraawi is one of the most valued Somali poets and philosophers; he is often hailed as the most influential Somali artist of his time. His early work concerned love, and his songs were sung by some of the greatest Somali singers. As the political climate changed, so did his focus; his work began to address more social and political issues. He campaigned for the alleviation of social ills through his work under great pressure. To this day, Hadraawi continues to challenge social injustices.
Hadraawi was born into a nomadic family in Togdheer region of Somaliland and he was sent to Aden, Yemen, to live with his uncle at an early age. Hadraawi moved to Mogadishu in the late 1960s. During this time, most of his work focused, like most other poets at the time, on the theme of love. In these high days of romance, Hadrawi produced poems like‘Todobaadan Midhabley’ and songs such as, ‘Baladweyn’, ‘Jacayl Dhiig Malagu Qoray?’, ‘Hooyooy’, ‘Cajabey, Cajiibey’. One could write a whole book about each song and poem as they all have their own story. The songs of this era written by Hadraawi, have been sung by the greatest Somali singers like Hassan Adan Samater, Mahamed Mooge, Haliima Khaliif Magool, Mohamed Saleban and many others.
In the 1970s, Hadraawi’s artistic productions evolved to address more social and political themes. During this time Hadraawi co-wrote the landmark political play ‘Aqoon iyo Afgarad’ with the late Mahamed Hashi Dhama ‘Gaarriye’, Siciid Saalax and late Musse Abdi Elmi.
In 1973, Hadraawi was jailed for five years. Two years after his release, Hadraawi and his friend, late Mahamed Hashi Dhama ‘Gaarriye’ started the Deeley, one of the most significant political chain poems in Somali History, which divided over 50 artists, poets and thinkers in pro and against government camps.
In 1982, Hadraawi left Mogadishu to join the SNM opposition group which was based in Ethiopia. It was there that he wrote or popularized his main political poems such as ‘Dalaley’, ‘Hanbaber’, ‘Hargeysi ma Toostay’, ‘Bulsho’, ‘Sirta Nolosha’ and many others.
1992, Hadraawi produced ‘Gudgude’, which is regarded as a masterpiece by many of his follower. In this hundred lines long poem, he explains his motivations and aspirations.
That year is also the year he moved to London where he lived for five years. In these five years, most of his friends have asked Hadraawi to seek asylum and settle in the UK but Hadraawi declined. While in London, Hadraawi produced ‘Dabo Huwan’ which is based around an ancient word to describe ‘life’. The work he has since produced while in London offers many insights to his beliefs, which are clearly influenced by his Somali nomadic heritage and his faith.
In 2004, Hadraawi went on a peace march throughout different cities of Somalia ravaged by the civil war, to appeal for peace and to show his solidarity with those suffering. What was one-man’s walk became a march of tens of thousands of Somalis who followed Hadraawi from city to city.
The last two poems that Hadraawi published are, ‘Dhul Gariir’ and ‘Awaal Tiris’. In ‘Dhul Gariir’, he raises awareness about the situation of the Gabooye Somalis, condemning the ill treatment, discrimination and human rights abuses committed against the Gabooye people. The more recent poem, ‘Awaal Tiris’ addresses the hopelessness of Somali men who abuse the use of Qaat and the social implications that comes with that.
Hadraawi now lives in his home town Burao with his wife Hodan and teaches at the University of Burao
We are grateful to our partners and sponsors who made this publication possible such as Prince Claus and Dahabshiil Money Transfer Company.