Excerpts from interview with young Somali writer- The Star

“Hargeysa is a very beautiful and lively city right now; you see. I still feel sad when I hear the stories about how beautiful Hargeysa used to be before the war. I wish I could travel back in time and see the theatre and the museum Hargeysa used to have. There was a big theatre downtown that people used to go and watch Somali plays. They used to show different Somali plays and drama. Back then, there was a very rich culture of art and theatre. Hargeysa had a famous nickname: ‘the poet’s nest.’

There was also a large museum near the national theatre. The museum was designed and built in a very beautiful circular fashion; it used to look like a Somali traditional hut. Both the museum and the theatre were completely destroyed by the civil war in 1988.” That is the plaintive voice of the brilliant young Somali short story writer Muna Ahmed Omar. We’re in Hargeysa, the capital city of Somaliland. It’s 2pm and Muna has travelled from her work place to honour the invitation to be my guest on The Books Café on KBC, the premier literature programme in the region. For breakfast I avoided taking any solid food, instead going for Somali porridge with malap, honey. I do not notice when its lunchtime!

Muna was born in 1991 when British Somaliland announced its second independence after the disastrous marriage with Italian Somalia. Her childhood memories therefore are those of a country resurrecting from the ruins of the war of self determination. Siad Barre’s shelling and bombardment was not domiciled to the “flattened” Hargeysa; it was exported to other cities and villages in Somaliland territory. The physical destruction was accompanied with the gobbling of 60,000 human souls. The project of bringing all Somali-speaking people from Djibouti to Kenya under one country, as originally conceived by leaders from Somaliland, had aborted. Each region would pursue its own destiny.

Born the only child to her parents, books were Muna’s childhood friends. “I was surrounded with a wall of books,” she says. When did the writing bug hit you? “I liked reading at a very early age. My strong passion towards reading everything I met from newspapers to books made me fall in love with writing, especially short story writing. The first time I tried to write something was when I was in high school. I wrote a four-page story in a book which I lost. That did not discourage the aspiring young Muna to become a writer: “After high school I wrote another short fiction story. I kept this story and never showed it to anyone.”

Once I was done with it, I showed the story to some of my close friends and to my surprise everyone liked it. The story was about a young lady who commits suicide after failing her high school final exams which meant she wouldn’t be able to get admitted into a university. Although the story was a sad one, people liked my way of writing. They said my style of writing was different and unique. I couldn’t believe it. The feedback I got from the readers was really good and very positive. The overwhelming encouragement and all the love I was receiving at the time gave me all the inspiration and confidence I needed to kick-start my writing career. I picked up the pen again and wrote another fiction story.” Thus the arrival of Muna in the republic of letters presents the great promise.

Read here: Excerpts from interview with young Somali writer