Somali Day. Culture and politics through the lens of Somali literature and orature


Video duration: 
2 h 08 min

This event will take place online. Registrees will receive a link a few days before the start of the event.

Click on the image to open the programme flyer.

On 1 July 1960 Somalia became an independent state. In the framework of 'Africa 2020', the ASCL, its Library and LeidenASA will pay attention to this complex region of the Horn of Africa, praised for its (oral) literature, marked by its civil war and voiced by its diaspora. During the 'Somali Day' on 29 June, the country will be addressed from a historical-cultural perspective by reconsidering Somali culture and governance through the lens of its literature and diaspora.

The organisers take and support the view on literature considered as “the best way to transform consciousness, the way through which you can get access into others people lives” (Ahmed Jimale Ahmed in an interview by Sampsonia Way, April 18, 2018). This insight is just one among a handful raised by plenty of other scholars, thinkers and writers who have made Somali poetry, fiction and history resonate in wider circles (to name but a few, Nuruddin Farah, Ioan Lewis, Bogumil Andrzejewski, Martin Orwin, Fiona Moolla). Their views allow us to interpret Somalia from the inside and outside, within the frame of the following themes:

  • political culture and religious discourse
  • writers and their engagement in literature
  • contemporary cultural expressions of identity formation

Showcase of Somali books purchased by the ASCL Library
On the occasion of this Somali independence celebration day, the African Studies Centre Library will present the latest collection of books recently purchased from the region, attesting to the remarkable huge number of texts in the Somali language on Somali literature, culture and history.

Read the web dossier on Somali literature, compiled by the ASCL Library.
Read the Infosheet 'Somalia at 60'.

Organizing committee
Jan Abbink, Professor of Politics and Governance in Africa, African Studies Centre, Leiden University
Annachiara Raia, University Lecturer, African Studies Centre Leiden and Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society
Gerard van de Bruinhorst, Information specialist and responsible for acquisitions policy and collection development, ASCL Library

Keynote speakers

Ali Jimale Ahmed is Chair and Professor of Comparative Literature at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Creative teaching is, for Ahmed, one of the cornerstones of academic learning.His poetry and short stories have been translated into several languages.



Martin Orwin is a Lecturer in Somali language and literature at the University of Naples 'L’Orientale', UNIOR. His research focus is on Somali poetry; metre and literary linguistics; and the relationship between language and music.



Dr Jama Musse Jama is an ethnomathematician with a PhD in African Studies specialising in Computational Linguistics of African Languages. He has extensive research publications in mathematics, ICT and the role of art and culture in development. Founder and yearly organizer of the influential Hargeysa International Book Fair, and currently Director of the Hargeysa Cultural Centre in Somaliland, Dr. Jama has also a Senior Research Associate position at DPU, University College London, UK.


Date, time and location

29 June 2021
14.45 - 17.30
Online event