The Kismayo Book Fair 2019 was hosted in the Somali city of Kismayo from July 5-7, 2019. The festival theme was “empowering creativity.”
The Kismayo Book Fair, now in its third year, was three days of panels, poetry, book launches and everything you would expect to find at a literary extravaganza in both English and Somali. Academics, activists, poets, authors, government officials, lawyers and other professionals shared the stages in Kismayo to deliver an unforgettable fair to the city’s residents. Here are some of the highlights.
The Kismayo Book Fair hosted in Kismayo, the largest city in Jubaland or Jubbaland, an autonomous region in southern Somalia, is a unique fair as it has no support from any donors or private sector. It is fully supported by the Presidency of Jubbaland led by President Ahmed Mohamed Islam who at the opening ceremony welcomed the guests to the fair and invited them to enjoy Kismayo’s unique charms. Other speakers at the opening ceremony were among others Dr Mohamed Dahir and Mohamed Jeyte Ali on behalf of the Kismayo Book Fair.
Literary dos have to have panels where people speak on a podium about various topics that are of interest to those in the area of the fair. This event had many panels where the audience could observe panellists shared their expertise and/or opinions on a chosen topic. Here are some which happened with a focus on those that happened on the first two days.
Author and youth activist Daljir Abdulalhi Nor moderated the first book panel of the fair. The writers on Nor’s panel and their books were Abdikadar Abdullahi Abukar with Maldahaaddii Maansooniyadda, Abdullahi Tahlil Bubal with Dhulkii Qorfaha, Mohamed Ahmed Siiro with Maaree Noloshaada, and Farxiya Muhiyadin Lamafilan with Nolol iyo Jacayl.” Another book panel this time moderated by Bashiir Suuley featured Hashi Nor Abdulkadir with Halgamayaashii Huray Naftooda, Mohamed Hassan Shaaciye with U hiilli Naafada, Daljir Cabdullaahi Nuur with Qoraa-kaab/Khaliijka iyo Qorshaha Daahsoon ee Soomaaliya, and Aynu-shamsi with Hal ka baro.
Another panel you would expect to find at any book fair on the planet was “Importance of Publishing and Public Libraries” moderated by author and researcher Qalbi Taajir. On his panel discussing the role of libraries in a changing world were South West University’s Mohamed Ali Kalaay, author Anwar Ahmed Mayow who is also the founder of the Qirdaas Center, Garbaarrey Public Library’s Abdinajib Ali Abdulahi, and Hud Hud Bookshop’s Mohamed Wali Abdi.
The panels weren’t only “literary” in nature as the organisers opted to use the platform to discuss a variety of issues close to the hearts of Kismayo residents. “Empowering Creativity” the panel on the event theme was moderated by Nairobi-based novelist Mohamed Hassan Irro. The panellists were Somali novelist, playwright, journalist and scholar Dr Mohamed Dahir Afrah, Ahmed A. Hassan a State Minister, Adan Ibrahim Aw-Hirsi who is the Jubaland State minister of planning and international relations, and women activist and author Zahra Koshin. The panellists shed a light on the power of creative movement, how to raise a new ideas and sharpen life skills in supporting an individual’s mental health in different stages of life.
“The role of creativity in promoting a stable and prosperous Somalia” which also worked with the festival theme was moderated by author, journalist, and political analyst Zahra Koshin. On her panel were political analyst and author Prof. Ghaandi, Mursal Mohamed Khalif the Jubbaland Minister of health, author Muno Diirshe, and poet and author Sayid Ahmed.
Another panel was “Community development and volunteer ship” with author, researcher, Lawyer and Human right Advocate Ali Somali as moderator. He had community organizer Mohamed Abdirahman Barre, author and community organizer Ibrahim Abdullahi Guhad, political analyst, author, journalist, and social activist Abdirahman Sahal Yusuf as well as Idil Abdulkadir Hussein from Banadir University Kismayo as panellists.
Then there was the “Girl’s Education and challenges encounter” panel moderated by author Muna Dirshe who is also the director of the Adado Book Fair. Engaging on this important topic were a panel of Youth and social activist Asma Abdirahman, Somali Gender Hub founder Sahra Kooshin, women activist and youth mentor Hamda Arale, and author Kafia Osman Gani.
It’s a book fair so you expect books to be launched as a matter of course. One of the books which were launched at this year’s event were Warbaahinta iyo Wariyaha by Bishar Dool who is an author, journalist, motivator and social activist.
Literary festivals and fairs will always allocate time for respected authors or scholars to give a speech on a topic that either has something to do with the theme or that they hold close to their hearts. The Kismayo Book Fair this year had a few slots for this kind of activity. One of these was the “Literature in Africa” lecture delivered by researcher and Somali language expert Prof. Feiruz.
Also giving a lecture was Prof Mohamed Abdi Gaandi who spoke on the history of the Somali language, its dialects, ancient migration patients and the effects they had on the Somali language and culture.
Somalis are known all over the world for their love of poetry thus a festival in their country could not be considered as such without this genre featuring. It was on show all through the festival on its own as well as during breaks between most sessions. Over the three day period of the fair, guests enjoyed the poetry of among others Abdirihman Fiili, Abdikariim Daahir Dalmar, Baraa Jamal Abdinasir, Suhayra Xarago, and Suheyra Abdi. Below are some of the poets who performed.