Hargeysa International Book Fair’s Jama Musse Jama was hosted for an evening of Somali Literature, Culture and Heritage in Nairobi at the British Institute of East Africa on February 7th, 2017. The evening organised by the Rift Valley Forum celebrated the fourth anniversary of the establishment of the Hargeysa Cultural Centre.
Jama Musse Jama and his team started the first edition of the Hargeysa International Book Fair in 2018 which was the first in its part of the world. The festival was hosted in Hargeisa the capital of Somaliland a region that broke away from the main Somalia in 1991 at the collapse of the Siad Barre government in Mogadishu.
It has grown to become one of the most important space for literary voices from the horn of Africa. We here at JamesMurua.com attended the festival in 2015 and have to say that this is a most unique festival on the continent. You can follow our adventures in the dedicated 2015 page with text, images and video here.
James Musse Jama was in Nairobi to make a presentation about both the festival and the new facility that they started the Hargeisa Cultural Centre. It was a hastily organised event at the British Institute but either Jama’s star power is on another level or the folks at the Rift Valley Forum really know how to get a crowd. This was because there was full house at the Laikipia Road here to hear what was on offer as they were mercilessly eaten by the mosquitoes who had found new fresh blood.
Introductions were made by Yassmin Mohamed the RVI Projects Manager for the Horn of Africa and East Africa before Jama started his presentation. He ran a video on the book fair from 2015 that we referenced above which showed a very successful festival. He announced this year the featured country would be South Africa though there were to be no announcements on the featured guests. I suspect that in time that will happen.
He then spoke about the cultural centre that he set up four years ago. The reason for it was that the book festival was an amazing thing but it was only accessible one week a year and to those who could afford to make it to the venues hosting events. The rest of the year, there is nothing for residents of Hargeisa of a cultural nature thus the need for a centre which was a safe space, I know I know, where young Hargeisans can sit and
plot do cultural work.
Apart from the presentation by Jama we also had the treat of a two performances. One was by Kenyan poet Adhiambo Agoro and Somaliland singer Sahra Halgan. Agoro who is a student emerged on the scene as one those shortlisted for the Babishai Niwe Poetry Prize 2015 and blew the audience away.
The biggest draw however had to have been Sahra Halgan a lady who was coming from a performance at the Alliance Francaise, Nairobi over the weekend. She sung songs that evoked Somaliland as a nation and her set with the Somaliland flag draped across her shoulder was much loved.
With the end of the performances, people retired and chatted the evening away as they shared time with Jama Musse Jama.