SOMALIAN CULTURAL IDENTITY
This article was compiled by Jodi Phillips May 2014, for the Institute of Black Academics
concerning Black Under achievement.
PUBLISHED 09 MAY 2014 04:26
It was 40 years ago, in October 1972, thatthe decision to write the Somali languageusing the Roman script was made. Thedecision brought to an end the ‘alphabetwars’ over which script to use. In January1973, the first Somali language dailynewspaper, Xiddigta Oktoobar, was launched to replace the English and Italiannewspapers Dawn and Stella d’Ottobre. Somali became the official language for administration, mass media and as a mediumof instruction.
The former Somali LanguageCommission and its sub-committeesspearheaded efforts to translate andstandardise administration and mediavocabulary, and commissioned educationiststo translate primary and secondary schoolsubjects into Somali, paving the way for amass literacy campaign in 1974-1975. After 1972, Somali translators began totranslate books into Somali. Articlestranslated from foreign languagenewspapers, and translated stories serialisedin the now-defunct national daily, had helpedpeople to consolidate their reading skills andbecome acquainted with various genres of imaginative literature and expository writing.
Little research has been conducted on workstranslated into Somali so far. The second half of the 1970s saw thetranslation of some classics from English andArabic into Somali. After a quiet period inthe 1980s, books began to be translatedinto Somali for school children in WesternEurope, North America and Australia, inresponse to the language needs of childrenin the diaspora, following the collapse of theSomali State in 1991.
The first book translated into Somali after 1972 was George Orwell’s Animal Farm.Translated into Somali by Mohamed Yusuf Artan, it was printed in Cairo for limiteddistribution in Somalia and reprinted in Italyin 2011 for a wider readership. AhmedFarah Idaajaa’s translation of RobinsonCrusoe by Daniel Defoe was publishedunder Taxanaha Xiddigta, an imprint of Xiddigta Oktoobar, in 1980.
In Somalia, the Somali language syllabusexposes young readers to classics, withcurriculum specialists translating chaptersfrom Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels for primary school textbooks. However, the mostwidely read and discussed book is DaleCarnegie’s How to Win Friends and InfluencePeople, translated by Abdirahman HusseinAbu Hamsa in the 1980s as Saaxiibbo kasbo:fanka la dhaqanka dadka (‘Earn Friends: Theart of getting along with people’).
The bookwas a translation of a translation (fromEnglish into Arabic into Somali). Books are now beginning to be translatedfrom Somali into other languages. The lateSOAS professor, B W Andrzejewski,translated Farah Mohamed Jama Awl’s novel
Aqoondarro waa u nacab jacayl (‘Ignoranceis the Enemy of Love’) and Hassan SheikhMumin’s play
Shabeelnaagood (‘Leopardamong Women’) into English. Although national institutions promotingSomali language ceased to exist after theState collapse, the pace of translating booksfrom and into Somali has not been severelyaffected by the civil war, thanks to thedetermination of Somali languageresearchers and policies in favour of culturaldiversity in Western Europe, North Americaand Australia. Translation was not taught inthe former Somali National University, despiteSomali language being heavily dependent ontranslation. Let us hope this will be one of the topics Somali language researchersdiscuss on the 40th anniversary of the historicdecision to write the Somali language. [Source : http://www.academia.edu/5115914/Somali_Writing_history_commemorative_essay_].