By Mohamed Abdi
Recently, when the Ethiopian armies invaded Somalia and the young members of the robust and nascent free Somali press kept us and the world abreast of the news, and at the same time, all Somalis and those who love Somalia felt heartbroken like a camel with "qulub" (I hope you will excuse me, I recently learned that the word "qulub" in Somali refers to the way a camel feels when it's mate dies), I turned to Amin Amir's webpage and his cartoons for solace.
I saw a cartoon where two Mogadishu warlords are gleefully embracing and reassuring each other, that they will soon pick up were they left off their business of robbery at their checkpoints. This is known in Somali as"isbaaro".
I saw another cartoon depicting two Somalis held up with guns by two Ethiopian soldiers and a "cimaammad" or Moslem scarf ( a symbol of the ICU) thrown on the ground and both denying that it belonged to them. I saw another cartoon showing Aweys hiding in a veil and I began to laugh and my spirits lifted up.
Amin is a genius among us. His drawing of Somalis is very authentic (try to draw a person and you will always end up drawing a white person…at least that is what I do). His sense of humor is infectious. His timing is perfect. His evenhanded depiction of Somali psychology is phenomenal. He also understands our insecurities and
idiosyncrasies and therefore mocks at the fallacies of the narrow tribal world outlook. His cartoons build bridges to the chasm that exists between the way thinking of Somali elite.
At the same time Amin's art also heralds a renaissance of the Somali culture which has been bogged down in the eighteen century far too long and I am sure is the culprit in our misery. Thanks to the computers and the internet and the written Somali script, young people are trying to write novels and modern short stories today, even though our culture is merciless in it's discouragement of creativity. This is so because of the false notion imparted to us by colonialists that we have the best culture, that our poetry is unequaled in the world, that we should keep our culture forever, that modern culture is exclusive to the western world and that learning from other cultures are corrupting.
Imagine Togane writing his beautiful poetry in Somali, exactly in the outrageous way he does in English, without alliteration and a free form defying the limits. Imagine Nuraddin writing a novel in Somali and all of us scrambling to buy his books all over the Horn of Africa and wherever Somalis are. Imagine Somali movies created from modern film scripts that would compete in world film festivals. All these new cultures are coming in the near future.
In turn, these new cultures will destroy the old tribal biases and will help us reflect on our values. It will help us to document our experiences and get rid off the different colonial psychological make-ups and the different languages, smoothing a transition to a modern culture.
This new culture will also provide us with a round-table in which we the educated class will workout their differences and lead the people to a better future. In this kind of environment a dictators, warlords and foreign powers will not have any influence on them.
I also think better times are around the corner. Old cultures are dying and new better ones are taking their places. We are solving our differences. The rains are falling after the long draught.
Here Amin, I raise my cup of tea to salute you… to thank you, Cheers! Or in Somali "shifo"!
Atlanta, GA (USA)