During last winter, my brother sends me a message saying, “I’ve got a surprise for you in the mail, I’ve sent it today“. I didn’t know what to expect and it definitely took me by surprise as soon as I unwrapped it. The smile on my face while browsing through ‘CODADKEENNA, SAWIRRADEENA‘ couldn’t have been more wider. The book is impressive in its effort to showcase the rich Somali culture in Sweden.
(Pronounced as: Oodadkaina, Sawiradaina), means ‘OUR VOICES, OUR PICTURES’ in Somali.
This was a project run by the cultural association Hidde Iyo Dhaqan in Malmö – Sweden, with the ambition to recount and formulate a modern story from our past, that would otherwise go up in smoke. Somalia was a completely different society during the 1960s and 1970s, and as more than 40,000 of them have come to Sweden – they’ve come together to showcase Somali’s culture through pictures and words.
This book (which you can download at end of this post) is based on stories from Somali youth in Malmö and interviews made with and by them, in the latter case mainly with older relatives. A series of events, meetings and camps have been arranged, where many young people have come up and revealed themselves as good narrators. Somalia has always been known and described as a nation of poets, and the tradition of oral narrative has been further stimulated through this project.
The colonial history has contributed to the creation of modern Somalia culture. In addition to the Somali language, which is young as the writing language, many Somalis speak fluent English, Arabic, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.
‘OUR VOICES, OUR PICTURES‘ as a project has been important for giving voice to rich experiences of the Somali Culture. Moreover, it also essentially provides a fresh, new narrative to what is otherwise an unfortunate cliché-like way that the media portrays Somalis every day.
The book contains rich visual material, with both freshly-featured photos from Somali daily life in Malmö as historical photographs from unique private collections. The latter shows a Somalia, that just a few decades ago, was a well functioning society, with universities, research, infrastructure, judiciary and women in different parts of the workplace. With the wreck of the civil war, much has been put aside or completely forgotten, and a younger generation has never experienced this reality.
Unfortunately for us English readers, this book comes in Somali and Swedish only. I’m thinking of reaching out to them to volunteer in translating the book into English. If you like the book, and are interested in pitching to translate it, shoot me a line to ’email @ abdulrahmanabdi.com’ – to garner enough support to translate it.