This is a song on women’s emancipation which became a hit in the late 1960’s in Somalia. I love the feistiness that Maryan Mursal, one of our best singers, portrays. She is very clear on her outlook on life, on morality and free will. Almost 40 years down the line and we’re still debating the same issues.

A bit of context to the song: “This song also takes the form of a debate between a man and a woman, this time explicitly about moral womanhood. To the male, a good woman is a traditional woman: beautiful and well groomed, quiet to the point of being invisible to men, obedient and accepting of a marriage arranged for her by men. Modernity is cultural transgression, characterized by untraditional dress, mobility and visibility in the public sphere, and the rejection of familial authority. But she has other ideas and the songwriter lets her gain the upper hand. Unafraid to couch her ideas in untraditional, modern terms, she asserts the importance of leaving backward customs behind, actively participating in leadership and public life, and getting an education. She suggests that God created men and women as different but not unequal beings and depicts men who marry off girls as thieves handling stolen property. Although in the three songs presented here women’s morality and modernity are not represented as contradictory terms, the conservative equation of moral womanhood with traditional womanhood is powerfully articulated.” – Lidwien Kapteijns (2009)

He: 
In the old days it was custom that a girl perfumed her hair and braided it. 
She wrapped around her waist a wide cloth belt with fringes and an ornamental cord, and wore a white dress. 
But something has changed. Something weird with long horns they wear as hats on their heads and run all over the market. 
[Refrain:] You women have destroyed our culture. 
You have overstepped the religious law and destroyed our religion. 
Girls, won’t you behave? 

She: 
What was custom in the old days and a hundred years ago and what 
has been left behind, don’t make us go back to that well-worn road, for we have turned away from it with effort. 


Now we expect to run and compete for the sun and the moon and to lead people. 

First get some education and learn how to read and write. Don’t try to turn back, you country hick, people who have woken up! 

He:

In the old days it would happen that a girl would not address you for one or two months, and the men who went out looking would not see her for days.

But something has changed. In the evening a whole gang of them goes out, carrying fat purses, wandering about outside like robbers. 

She:

God calmed the waters of sea and river and made them flow together. 
Then he put in order the wide earth and the mountains and created his human beings each in a different way. 


You are a loser. No one is asking you to come along.

 
He: 
In the old days it was custom to pay as bride-wealth for a girl a whole herd of camels and the most exceptional horse, and a rifle on top of that. 
But something has changed. You are self-absorbed and ignore the advice of the family in which you were born.

 
She: 
Girls used to be exchanged for a herd of camels and short-legged goats. 
But the religion we learned and the Qur’an do not allow this. 
Today we have no need for those who deal in what they do not own and for this old-fashioned dividing up of women. 

Sang by Maryan Mursal and Maxamed Jaamac Joof (late 1960’s)

Translated by Lidwien Kapteijns

This is a talk given by one of the greatest Somali poets to grace this earth. Beautiful yet also so eloquent. Simply stunning.

Hi.
You probably didn’t know this at the time but my name is Hamda Yusuf.
Actually…
Scratch that.
My name is
Hamda Ahmed Yusuf Abdale Mohamed Hussein Mohamed Mohamoud.
And before you even say anything,

stop.

Because I already know that my name probably puts up more flags in an airport than a Mexican driving in Arizona.
Know that the deep piercing stares are directed at my hijab
And not my infectious smile.
Know that I’m already judged not for who I am
but for what I wear
and just for the record

It isn’t a towel.

But somewhere in all of that self-pity I realized that it really shouldn’t matter how you perceive me to be.
It should only matter how I perceive myself to be.

And I already happen to know that I’m Hamda Yusuf,
poet.

I’m Hamda Yusuf and my kind of a Friday night is a Star Trek: The Next Generation marathon.
I’m Hamda Yusuf and I’ve seen the Lion King 17 times and I’ve cried every time Mufasa died.
I’m Hamda Yusuf and Albus Dumbledore is my hero.
I’m Hamda Yusuf and I’m a mustache enthusiast.
I’m Hamda Yusuf and apparently I scare Juan Williams at airports.
I’m Hamda Yusuf and I’m Muslim.
Not Moslem
or Islams.
But Muslim.
It’s really not that hard to say.
I’m Hamda Yusuf and I’m sick and tired of hearing about countries banning the burqa to protect women rights when they’re really just taking away our right to choose.
And since when has it become okay to take off the layers but illegal to try and put them back on.
Is it me or is the world going insane?
Threats of burning Qur’ans and protests against building mosques as if we had done something wrong.
Besides fight for the American Dream we were told to fight for.
And you.
Knower-of-nothing-you, every-Muslim-is-a-terrorist-and-every-terrorist-is-Muslim-you, I-get-all-my-facts-from-conservapedia-you,
have the audacity to tell me there’s no such things as Islamophobia in the world?

Well I’m sorry.
Because I’ve been sent on a mission to talk to every single person who has ever called me a towelhead and unfortunately for both of us,
you’re on my list.

So how about you take a seat on my couch,
take a sip of my mother’s tea
and I’ll explain to you as politely as can be,
how my father has told me more times than I can count on my fingers that I can be whatever I want to be.
I can be that lawyer,
be that doctor,
be that engineer.
But I will never
ever
ever be,
just another towelhead.