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Archive for the ‘Cultural heritage’ Category

The Raw Somali 

The Raw Somali

 

The trained Somali

The trained Somali

 

Is there anything wrong with these two images, or is it just me?

 

obtained from JSTOR.
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The Xeedho is a custom usually prevalent in the Northern parts of Somalia. After the wedding is consummated and the bride and groom settle peacefully in their newly constructed home, it is time for opening the Xeedho or as it is called in Somali Xeedho-fur. This usually occurs on the seventh night, – the final night of the seven-day honeymoon period. The roots of Xeedho lie in the pastoral lands with the Somali Nomads. The custom though, is dwindling in the rural areas and has, as of late, taken a great following in the urban areas

Shafis 616Shafis 6181

Left: The Xeedho. Middle: The veil is uncovered. Right: Naked

In the olden times the villagers would gather outside the hut of the newly weds and the Xeedho-opening ceremony would take place. The gathering in the city does not differ much from that of the villages as all people congregate in a large hall.

The Xeedho, with its gracefully winding shape is designed with the bride in mind. It actually signifies the bride. As the members of both the families gather around in big circles, the Xeedho is placed in the middle and the ceremony begins.

So it must be tended to as if it were the bride herself and as a result, the opening of the Xeedho has fixed rules and regulations, though many of them are no longer practiced by majority of people. The tradition is slowly dying and losing its formal procedures, some of which are:

  • The Xeedho MUST be opened completely so that the groom can publicly declare the bride as his wife.
  • The groom cannot partake in the opening of the Xeedho
  • A male member from the groom’s tribe, usually a close relative such as a cousin, etc. is chosen to open the knots on the Xeedho. First though, he must take the upper veil off, just as he would a new bride in her wedding gown, and then process with the untying of the ropes.
  • A guard, usually a woman and from the bride’s family, holding a gentle stick stands beside the Xeedho and watches as the man carefully tries to untie the labyrinth of knots. Being one of the few women who spent days and days interweaving the rope on the Xeedho, she knows every opening and every knot.
  • If the man places his hands on the wrong end of the rope, or tries to open the rope from a different knot, the female guard lightly whips him with her stick. That signifies that he has to change the course of his opening of the rope and find a new lead. This will continue until the Xeedho is opened.
  • There is nothing wrong if the man finds the opening end of the Xeedho easily and it is opened quickly, though sometimes this might cause a squabble between the female members of the two parties.
  • There is only one opening of the rope on the Xeedho. This opening is a tiny knot hidden in the maze of ropes. If the man finds the opening, he would simply pull it and it disentangles itself completely – thereby opening the Xeedho.
  • Several male members from the groom’s family will attempt to open the Xeedho, and all that time, the Guard keeps watch for any mistakes.
  • If the Xeedho is not opened that night, they congregation returns the following night to try and open it.

Shafis 628  Shafis 630   

The above images show the untying of the ropes on the Xeedho.

If the relatives of the groom fail to open the Xeedho, a great deal of disgrace follows them wherever they go. The bride is (sometimes) repossessed by her family saying that the groom, whose relatives could not open the Xeedho, will not be capable of catering to the needs of the bride. The women engage in verbal scuffles and a war of songs while the men resort to spiteful words of poetry being recited over a course of time. Sometimes even battles between tribes came about as a result of a Xeedho not opened properly or not opened at all.

Shafis 632 Shafis 633

The two images above reveal the Sati (which the Xeedho is made of) after the removal of the white cloth (Salaq) and the container with the contents.

The white cloth draped around the curvy container is called Salaq. The Xeedho is the complete thing and the outer hard covering that it is contained in is called Sati. Inside the Xeedho is small container with the Subag covered with a thick coating of dates. The dates are mixed with several spices and then ground together to make this chunky substance. It is not just Subag though, but there is also Muqmad/oodkac – small dried meatballs immersed in the Subag. After the successful opening of the Xeedho, its contents I.e. the Subag and Muqmad are distributed among the male members of both families/relatives/attendees. It is customary that the women do not eat from the Xeedho – for them is a special one taken to the girls house which is then distributed accordingly.

Shafis 638  Xeedho 

Left: The thick mixture of dates and spices is sliced open.   Right: Once opened, a rich mixture of Subag and Muqmad lies at the bottom ready to be consumed

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Gelbis – the process of escorting the bride and groom to their newly constructed hut/house is one of the pre-requisites of Somali weddings. The above song is usually sung during such processes.

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dance

 

During the rainy seasons of Gu’ and some times throughout the moderately infrequent rains of the Dayr seasons, the pastoral nomads of Somalia’s countryside rejoice in the abundance of wealth that they have. It is at this time when most of their animals give birth. The once barren earth now becomes fertile; the top layer of soil remains constantly damp (sayax) and with water covering the ground, it produces fresh green grass called Cosob for all animals to graze nearby. With the continually dropping rains, and the abundance of lush pasture for the animals, there is always a plenteous supply of fresh milk and water.

The men, relieved of the burdens of trekking countless number of miles with their camels in search of green pastures, the salty Daran plants that their camels love and watering places, can now sprawl out under the fully blossomed branches of the nearby Galool trees and relax. They celebrate as their milch-camels usually give birth during these seasons and consume the highly cherished milk just after a camel has given birth. This milk is called Dambar and is often highly prized. The camels, with their front legs loosely tied are let out into the fields nearby to nibble at the freshly sprouting leaves. The entire plains are covered in soft green grass and the elders of the village gather under trees and brilliant verses of poetry acclaiming the sweetness of the seasons are sung.

The female nomads, alleviated from the arduous chores of disassembling huts during the dry seasons of Xagaa and Jiilaal to move to greener pastures, are now engaged in conversations and endless moments of merriment. There is a plenty supply of water and milk – the two essential nutrients of the Somali nomads.

Weddings and cultural dances are a regular occurrence during these seasons. It is also a time when young men who have come of age go about, usually to far away places, scouting for their brides. Local cultural dances and wedding ceremonies are the best forms of entertainment and differ from region to region. And scouting usually takes place at the dancing circles where many young men and women come to compete in a war of words.

Though impoverished and penniless, they have neither money nor jewels to bestow upon their soon-to-be brides, but one thing is prized above everything here – eloquence of speech. And what a deadly weapon it can be! In this Nomadic culture, even the amount of camels a man owns or the aristocratic lineage from which he hails may sometimes mean little where articulacy in speech and poetry are considerably triumphant. The more eloquent a man is – I.e. the more he is able to extol the virtues of his clan, family, valour and exalt the woman he admires by showering her with praise, using an array of metaphors and descriptions of the nomadic life with a clear indication of his wisdom and intellectual capacity – the more appealing he is to the observant eyes of the young clapping ladies.

The young man is in a tough competition though, for poetry here is a pastime for all. So he must be able to evoke deep sentiments through recitation and complement it with a hypnotising dance. The women too are venomous in their speech and often respond with sharp words. Perhaps one of the most famous cultural dance, that most people have heard of, is the story between Hurre Walanwal and Cambaro (I will write more about this famous story in another post soon)

The Engagement & Wedding

These cultural dances usually occur after a wedding. Weddings are perhaps one of the most important aspects of the Somali culture. A wedding denotes not only the union of two souls but the relationship between two families and, more importantly, two tribes. The engagement or Meher usually takes place a few days before the wedding, and sometimes on the same day. The wedding arrangements and agreements are all settled on that day to prepare for the big day. But before the jubilant groom can lay hands on his beautiful bride, there are many hurdles to cross and many gifts to bestow upon her family. These include

Gabaati – This is usually a gift conferred upon the girl’s family when the groom and his father go to ask the girl’s father for her hand in marriage. It is given to the soon-to-be bride’s family. Usually a young camel is given.

Yarad – This is a present given to the immediate family of the girl and is given on the day of engagement as a form of gratitude. Usually a shawl or money wrapped in an expensive shemagh or keffiyah is given.

Sooryo – this is a present given to the male members of the girl’s family. Usually it is her brothers/cousins etc who take this and is always in the form of money.

Meher – this is the engagement. The amount of camels or money the man must make a pledge to bestow his wife as Dowry is usually known as her Meher. The Meher does not need to be paid straight away, but is a promise which the man is bound to fulfil. In earlier times, when camels were in plenteous supply, a woman would be given about 100 camels just for her hand in marriage. Today, due to the lessening amount of camels in the nomadic countryside, you would be hard pressed to find a man who can afford to pay 10. The importance of Meher cannot be underestimated – without it the wedding cannot take place, so the lady needs to be clear as to what she wants for her Meher and the man is obliged to pay it.

 

Gelbis

Once the hut is constructed for the wedding in a remote place and all the essential utensils are decorated within it, the wedding starts with something called Gelbis – this is usually done just before sunset in most places. Everyone is invited on a specified date and then the Gelbis starts. Gelbis involves a disciplined routine. All the women attending the event in their colourful dresses escort the bride who stands in the middle of all of them, shaded by a long sheet of cloth. Standing far away from the designated hut, about a hundred metres away, they slowly make their way to the hut whilst somali dancedrumming, clapping and ululating (mashxarad) loudly. They sing;

Nuur Allow

Nebi Allow

Maxamad Nebi

Magac samow

 

O’ Light of God

O’ Prophet of God

O’ Prophet Mohamed

How excellent your name is!

The groom, who is also at an equal distance on the other side of the hut, along with all the men present, too, slowly makes his way to the hut with the men chanting songs of praise of the prophet.

Allahuma salli calal xabiib Muxamad

Oh Allah, shower your blessing upon our dear prophet Mohamed

The women approach the hut first, and the bride alone, still clouded in mystery under the long sheets held by the women above her head, enters the hut unseen. The rest of the women assemble outside the hut, leaving adequate amount of space for the approaching gentlemen. The men then arrive, with the tribal chiefs and revered elders on either sides of the groom, buzzing like bees in their mantra.

With slow, calculated steps, and chanting all the while, the groom makes his way into the hut while the rest of the men align themselves outside the hut, still persistent in their chants. With both parties now standing at the entrance of the hut, Ardaa, the chanting finally stops and the most notable member of the congregation gives a short speech and blessings are showered upon the newly weds. After verses from the Holy Qur’an are recited and Amen is declared en masse, three men fire three shots in short succession into the air to conclude the ceremony. This concludes the Gelbis After the feast of fresh meat and milk is consumed, the bride and groom are escorted with horses and camels to their new home and the party begins. 

As the poet, Cabdullahi Faarax Warsame ( Lecture) stated in one of his poems;

Waa gob iyo caadkeed
Aroos inay gangaamaan
Guri ay yagleelaan
Gelbiska iyo shallaadkiyo
Gole lagu kulmaayoo
Giringiro ciyaartii
Dadku gaaf ka boodaan
Wa gob iyo caadkeed

 

It is of Nobles and their custom

To coordinate a splendid wedding

And construct a house

The Gelbis and the chantings

At the places of gathering

Where the dance take place

And the masses leap at the Gaaf

It is of Nobles and their custom

As the sunset dips into the horizon and darkness engulfs the area, fires are lit and dances continue on through the night. After the Gelbis several routine and mandatory tasks are performed as part of the wedding. These include Gaaf, which is also known as Todoba Bax, Xeedho, Shaash saar, etc. depending on the region where the wedding is taking place. Even the dances differ from region to region.

This is one long post, so I will stop here and explain more about Gaaf, Xheedho and Shaah Saar in another post…

Image 1

Image 2

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Derv-big copy

click on the above image to read entire letter or click here to read

 

This letter dated January 1904, speaks of of the tragic battle of Jidbaale where so many Somalis lost their lives. Though the Dervishes lost a thousand men in the Battle of Jidbaale, yet the opposing forces led by the British Army also consisted of thousands of Somalis, many of whom lost their lives on that day. Speaking of this battle and other battles the Dervishes engaged in, Ismaciil Mire composed the following poem and speaks about the gravity of the situation.

History has it that Ismaciil Mire and his friend Maxamad camped at some people’s hut one night and a woman charged towards him and accused him of several things, including killing her sons, looting her camels and so forth, in order to set the local men against him in retaliation. Ismaciil Mire was at the time the leader of some regiments of the Dervish army, being the second in the chain of command after the Sayid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan. Relating the tale of the woman and her accusations as well as shedding light on the conditions of the battlefield, Mire said:

 

Gelin dhexe xalaan Maxamadow, geyrtay oo kacaye
Gam’ina waayey hadalkay i tidhi, gacallow naagtiiye
Adigay gabley tidhi markaad, geyshka wadateene

Midnight last night, oh Maxamad, with a jolt I awoke

And I couldn’t sleep, my dear, of what the woman told me

You murdered my offspring, she said, when you with your army came

Waxay tidhi adaa igu gondolay, garangartaan iile
Waxay tidhi aday guridhigoo, ma lihi gaadiide
Waxay tidhi adaa gelengel tubay, garayartaydiiye

She said that you have tied me to this uninhabited wilderness

She said you have rendered me home-bound and I have no camels*

She said you have, in the deserted fields, left my flock of goats

Waxay tidhi guyaalkii adaa, gaajo ii dilaye
Waxay tidhi gurboodkii adaa, geesaha u dhigaye
Guhaadeeda aan jirin bal aan, gabay ka soo qaado

She said you have, over the years, starved me to death

She said you have killed all the youth

Of her false intimidations now, let me recite a poem

Gumburo iyo Cagaarweyne iyo, geedkii Daratoole
Goobtii Jidbaaliyo Xargaga, guuldarradii joogtay
Gembigii ka dhacay Ruuga iyo, gudurigii haagay

At Gumburo* and Cagaarweyne* and the tree of Daratoole*

The location of Jidbaale* and Xargaga*, the defeat that prevailed

The turmoil that took place at Ruuga* and the Guduri* that feasted

Gabooddeeda Beerdhiga wixii, la isku gooraamay
Maydkii gabraday seerigay, Good ku tumanaysay
Gawarkaad maraysaba laftaad, galayaxaa mooddo

The tragedy at Beerdhiga* and the bloody slaughter that ensued

The death that filled the grounds where Good* had trampled upon

On every bank that you tread and the skeletons that dried

Gob ninkii ahaan jirey wuxuu, gibil madoobaadey
Giddigiis naflaa’iga wixii, gobolba meel aaday

When the noblest of men became emaciated with hunger

The entire population, when every region scattered to a place

Dayuuradaha gowliyo wixii, samada guuraayey
Daarihii gelgelintaa noqdiyo, gebiyadii ciiray
Wixii guuldarriyo hoog ka dhacay, dunida guudkeeda

The planes that roared and the things that travelled the sky

The buildings turned to rubble and the walls that collapsed

The defeat and devastation that overwhelmed the world’s pinnacle

Gembiyo jahaadkii arlada, gaday wixii joogay
Gaaliyo Daraawiish wixii, uunka kala gaadhay
Keligey ma wada geysannine, la isku geeryooye

The destruction and holy war that engulfed the earth’s inhabitants

The infidels and Dervishes and between the people what occurred

It’s not only I to blame, for both parties suffered countless casualties

Geyigii rogmaday oo dhan baad, guudka ii sudhiye
Waxbana hay gurraynine dembaad, galabsanaysaaye
Gartaa maaha naag yahay inaad, ii gilgilataaye

All the ravaged land, you have saddled on my head

So accuse me not, for you are only accumulating sin

You have no right, o’ woman, to threaten me

Gashi kaama qabo oo ma layn, gabannadaadiiye
Gambana kaama furan baan u fili, gulufyadaydiiye
Naa gefkiyo beenta daa yaadan gelin, godadkii naareede

I owe you no blood money, and your sons I did not kill

And I don’t think my regiments robbed you of your scarf

So stop the transgression and lies, o’ woman, lest you dwell in the pits of hellfire

 

Gaadiid = the actual meaning of Gaadiid is vehicle of transport. So, since the Nomads’ only means of transportation is the camel, Gaadiid hereby refers to camels for transportation – usually Hayin

Guduri = a bird that feeds on corpses

Gumburo, Cagaarweyne, Daratoole, Jidbaale, Xargaga, Ruuga, and Beerdhiga – These are areas, stretching from the vicinity of Laascanood, and scattered all the way from the Nugaal valley to Burco, are the sites where the Dervishes engaged in battles with the British forces. It is in the battle of Jidbaale where they suffered most casualties. An anonymous man was cited to have said…

 

Abidkeyba meel lagu jabaan jiqila buurnaaye

Dagaalkii jidbaaley ninkii joogey baan ahaye

Ilaahay I jecelaa muxuu jiray arwaaxdayda

I have always dwelled in the horrible places of defeat

I was the man present at the war of Jidbaaley

O’ how God loves me for he has protected my soul

 

p.s I have removed a few lines from the poem containing tribe names simply because some people have the tendency to read tribal names out of context. The lines i have removed too shed more evidence of the disaster that struck the Dervishes.

p.p.s Any corrections/suggestions to the translations would gladly be welcome.

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Continuing on from my previous post on Somali Culture, here are a few other images that I managed to obtain from Somali heritage.

 

culay

Dhiil la Culayo – The woman in this picture is inserting smouldering branches into the Dhiil. Once inserted, they are left inside for a while and then shaken vigorously. This process is called Culid. The burning sticks of wood are known as Culay. When shaken for a while, a black residue is left inside the Dhiil. This process is effective in killing germs and all sorts of bacteria inside the Dhiil. The first milk that is poured into this vessel is said to taste very sweet.

Maybe Cawrala knew the taste of such milk and hence sought to entice her lover, Calimaax, with it by saying:

Casarkii haddaan weel la culay, caano kugu siiyo

Cishihii haddaan sarar cusba leh, kugu cashaysiiyo,

Oo waa caafimaad rage haddaan, cagaha kuu duu go

 

if by evening if provide you with milk from a shaken vessel (dhiil)

and by night feed you with salted morsels of steak

it is in the health of men, if I rub your feet

Do not confuse this with the process of Lullid – which is where milk is put into a vessel (Haan is always for this process, never a Dhiil) and then placed horizontally on the floor. It is then shaken vigorously by rolling it to and fro on a pillow or a cloth placed on the floor to separate the fat (Subag) from the milk. The Subag comes out thick. It is constantly checked by tasting or feeling for the thickness of the fat that forms on the surface and finally when all separates and the Subag is taken out, what is left is pure sweet milk.

The Haan, however, also undergoes a similar process to disinfect it. The process is called Aslid (haanta waa la aslaa lama Culo). This is done by collecting the bark from the roots (and sometimes stem) of trees such as the Qaroor and Muxur and Muqlo and then cooking them in water. The bark obtained is often reddish/reddish-brown in colour and a reddish mixture is the result of the cooking. This is called Asal. This Asal is then poured into the Haan and shaken to ensure that it reaches everywhere.

Update: While the Haan is being disinfected, women usually sing songs to accompany the routine. One of them is:

Garangara lagaa goosey
Geed dheer lagaa soo lul

Laba qaylo kaa yeedhay
laba qaalin kula buubtay

Laba qaar laguu kala jar
Geeljire ku qooraansey

May a Garangar be made out of you
May you be hanged from a tall tree

May two scream be heard from you
May adolescent camels fly with you

May you be cut into two pieces
May a camel herder ogle you

The Haan is never used without Asal being applied to it first. The Asal is left in the Haan for several days to disinfect it and mend any tiny holes it may have had. The Asal is also used as a coating for the Dhigo, Udbo, and lool branches used for building the Somali hut (explained here).

The Qarbad/Xab (the hide used to store water) also undergoes the process of Aslid. After this process is applied to the Qarbad, the water that is stored afterwards tastes very sweet and is reddish/brown in colour. The Galool tree is used in this process.

 

 1

Masaf/Xaarin – This is the same Masaf I’ve explained earlier in Somali Culture. It is used to separate impure particles from maize and is used particularly in the Southern regions of Somalia, since farming is almost non-existent in the drier North. After harvesting the maize, first the corn seeds are put in a Mooye mixed with a few drops of water and ground slightly – leaving the maize (Galley) seeds on their own, then the seeds are spread out in a Masaf/Xaarin above and left to dry in the sun. The Galley is now refered to as Galley buusha baxsan – meaning that the actual Galley seeds are left with all impurities and coverings removed. The Galley is then either ground to be cooked as soor or cooked in its state.

 

Babis

Babis – a Somali hand-held fan made from Caw.

 

Dhiil Dhiil 3 Dhiil 2 Dhiil 4

Above are different types of Dhiilo (sing. Dhiil). All the above Dhiilo are carved out of wood and are used in the Southern regions of Somalia. Nothern Dhiilo are not carved out of wood, but made from Caw and special tree fibres. The Dhiil on the top left is decorated with Aleel or tiny sea shells.

 

Gambar

Gambar – This is the classic Somali stool called made from cow’s hide.

 

heritage

Various forms of Somali arts and crafts. In front of the wooden camels are two carved wooden bells called Koor. These are tied to the camel’s neck.

 

Salliderin

Salli/Derin – this is another design of the same Salli/Derin I’ve explained earlier here.

 

xaaqin

Xaaqin – made from the leftovers of Caw. This is a brush used for sweeping the house/hut.

 

SaqafWaft 

Saqaf – This is a Somali comb. The original name of this comb is Wafti.

 

Birjiko

Birjiko – A Somali stove. Food cooked using one of these is only matched in taste by the food cooked using this Dhardhaar. ;)

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Salaamu Calaykum dear friends,

I have been rather busy lately and have been unable to update this blog, and probably would not be able to do so for the next few days either. So, until we meet again in a few day’s time, I shall leave you with this brilliant video. Do enjoy…

Native, I haven’t forgotten about the Somali weddings account
and as I promised you I will bring you an extensive write-up of what the custom
entails. Bear with me…

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