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Somali Oral Poetry and the Failed She-Camel Nation State

A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Deelley Poetry Debate (1979–1980)


Ali Mumin Ahad

Somali Oral Poetry and the Failed She-Camel Nation State: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Deelley Poetry Debate (1979–1980) examines the most expressive medium in Somali culture and politics, that is, oral poetry, in its ideological and discursive dimension. Oral poetry has a formidable impact on Somali society and its internal dynamics.
Somali Oral Poetry is the first critical discourse analysis of the connection between oral poetry and politics in Somalia. The book brings out contradictions and conflicts between the ways of thinking of a society structured in clans and a rightful claim for nationhood and the state of law. In addition, it highlights the difficulty the society finds in renouncing clan mentality that requires loyalty to the clan rather than to the State.
The present volume illuminates, through the critical analysis of the Deelley poetry debate, the circumstances and issues that preceded the civil war in Somalia. Therefore, the book is of particular interest for its original explanation and understanding of the extraordinary subsequent failure of the State in Somalia.
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Damal (The Damal-Tree Metaphor)

It is Hadraawi who introduces the damal-tree into the Deelley poetry debate. In the corresponding lines [D2:12–24], however, he does not use the term as a metaphor, but simply as indicating the location of the shir (open-air gathering) of the Somali men to discuss serious arguments. Together with the damal-tree, he uses the term shax, chess game, a metaphor which refers to the Deelley poetry debate itself. On a successive occasion, he uses the term daray as a metaphor for the tribal system.1 To distinguish between two different concepts referring to discussion or debate and the tribal system respectively, and having already utilized the damal tree in connection with the Somali male gathering, he now resorts to the term daray (which is a synonym of damal) as a metaphor for the tribal system.

Idaajaa, who will be the next poet to intervene in the poetry debate with the poem Daahyaha Aqoon-xumo, uses, instead, the damal [D3:24–25] as a metaphor for what Hadraawi [D2:52–60] has already vowed to combat and suggested destroying, that is the metaphorical daray-tree. Idaajaa has not noticed the sense of Hadraawi’s distinction between damal and daray, or rather he does not wish to agree with Hadraawi on such a distinction. He maintains that the damal-tree is vigorous and hard to fell using a single axe only. In addition, he maintains, there are young people who are...

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