Incorporated with Second Hargeysa International Book Fair
Kayd, and its partner organisations Ilays and Redsea-online, are in the process of organising their first Somali Arts & Culture Festival in Somaliland, named Mooge Festival after the celebrated Somali musician Mohamed Mooge Liibaan, which is hoped to become an annual event. Incorporated in the festival will be the Hargeysa International Book Fair (HIBF).
The first Mooge Festival, which will take place from 22 – 26 July 2009. The format for the Mooge Festival is taken from the successful Somali Week Festivals which have been organised in London for the past years and the Hargeysa International Book Fair which was piloted by Redsea-online in the summer 2008. The HIBF went extremely well, engendering a great deal of interest particularly from young people.
The theme for the 2009 Mooge Festival is on censorship. Indeed, the name for the festival itself is in reference to our opposition to censorship. Kayd has decided to name their first Somali Art & Culture Festival in honour of Mohamed Mooge Liibaan, a teacher and musician, who is acclaimed for his integrity and revolutionary zeal. Throughout his life, he has managed to maintain his social ideals in his teachings and music. Mooge believed that the role and responsibility of the artist is to stand up for the freedom of his society and to be creative even when faced with censorship.
Censorship, in its broadest meaning, refers to the suppression of information, ideas, or artistic expression. Generally, the reasons given for ‘censoring’ any material or expression are that they are considered immoral, blasphemous, seditious or perceived to be injurious to a country’s national security. Anyone can exercise censorship, be they government officials, private pressure groups or even speakers, writers, and artists themselves. In its more extreme form, censorship is associated by the destruction of ‘offending’ material, like the public burning of books, the imprisonment and/or execution of individuals accused of disseminating ‘offending’ material and can lead to the complete suppression of the freedom of expression.
Hargeysa International Book Fair
The main aim of the HIBF is to display books, both from local writers and from abroad, in order to encourage members of the public to come, browse, read, engage with authors and, it is hoped, be inspired to buy books and/or to join the REDSEA Book Lending Centre once it is established. We are aiming to display at least 5000 books. The books will be on display in a temporary structure like a tent or marquee for three days. There will be a sitting area where visitors are invited to take the time to browse and read through books at their leisure. Authors will be available to sign their books on display and talk to visitors. We have organised with schools to take their students to visit the book fair. Taking turns, classes of 30-40 students accompanied by teaching staff will attend the fair for a few hours. We will invite visiting authors for the duration of the book fair and the Mooge Festival.
Focus on a specific country
Every year we will be focusing on a different country. One corner of the book fair will be dedicated to the focus country, which will the UK in 2009, and the books on display will cover such diverse aspects as history, literature, philosophy and politics. The books will comprise a mixture of primary and secondary texts which should allow people to gain a flavour of the country in question. We will be inviting two authors who are either from that particular country or who have written about the focus country.
Sheeko iyo shaahid
We are planning a competition of short stories which will be one of the main events of the book fair. The aim is to stimulate creative writing amongst young and emerging writers. The idea is to make this competition a yearly event and to create a young and emerging writers’ literary award as part of HIBF. Last year’s “Ninkii reerka” by Mustafa Aadan Nuur was the winning story with the second prize being awarded to Cabdiraxmaan Maxamuud Aadan for his story “Geesi boqra”. Last year’s collection of short stories, which was edited by Jama Musse Jama, has just been published and will be presented during the book fair.
As a way of encouraging readers to get interested in reading the works of young and emerging artists we have asked well-known Somali writers to contribute to the publication. For last year’s publication, we are fortunate to be able to include three short stories by the respected Somali fiction writers Dayib Cabdiraxmaan Askar, Cabdillahi Cawed Cige and Ibrahin Yusuf Axmed “Hawd”. We are grateful for their encouragement for this initiative to support young and emerging artists.
Finally, we are very proud to have the permission to include the background story and the remarkable song “Jacayl dhiig ma lagu qoray!” (translated as “Has love been blood-written!”) by the renowned poet Maxamed Ibraahin Warsame “Hadraawi”. “Jacayl dhiig ma lagu qoray!” is a highly imaginary piece of writing that was born out of a story with a, maybe, painful background to it. The Seventies in Somali romantic history were in some ways very similar to the Sixties in the west. Most Somali literary productions at that time were about personal freedom, mainly the freedom to choose a partner, and love. These were without doubt the main topics in Somali theatre. Hadraawi, who is considered to be the greatest living Somali poet, was a very significant contributor to the idea that love is important for its own sake with no particular aim or reason.
One day, Hadraawi was asked by Xaliimo Khaliif Magool, a Somali female vocalist, who was very popular in the then Somali Democratic Republic as well as in Sudan, to translate a personal letter for her from Arabic into Somali. This letter was sent from Sudan by a Sudanese man, who had met Magool. Of course we can only speculate how much this meeting meant for him, but Hadraawi was amazed and deeply impressed when the letter concluded with the line “don’t think it is red pen that I am using, it is an extract of some of my own blood used as ink!” The main reason that led Hadraawi to compose these lyrics was to express his shock and astonishment at the letter from this man who was so madly in love with the late great Magool. The song did not only achieve popularity in the 1970s but continued to surprise and impress the next generations of Somalis!
There will be a call out before the book fair for the young and emerging artists to produce and hand-in their short stories. One of the highlights of the book fair will be the announcement of the first three places followed by a celebration which will also be the closing act of the book fair.
Authors from the region who have published books within the last year will be invited to present their new books. At present, there are five authors who have already confirmed that they would wish to present their works.
Darandoori or ‘reading together’
In order to encourage young people to read more, we will be holding regular sessions throughout the book fair during which we will be reading extracts from a chosen book.
We will also be inviting the recently formed Reader’s Clubs from various cities to talk about their activities and how they would propose to best engage with children and young people encouraging them to read and write.