Somaliland born poet, Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame Hadrawi, passed away in Hargeisa on Thursday. He was 79 years old.
Born in Burao, the capital of the Toghdeer region in British Somaliland, to a nomadic camel-herding family, Hadrawi graduated in literature and education at the Somali University in Mogadishu in the early 1970s, shortly after Somalia declared independence.
He grew up in the Yemeni port city of Aden as a child, where he lived with his uncle. Here, he became known for his vivid imagination and storytelling, earning him the nickname that would follow him for the rest of his life, “Hadrawi” (Abu Hadra).
Hadrawi’s illuminations on patriotism, love, and faith captured the hearts of millions of Somalis. His work, which numbers over 200 poems, cut across political, clan and economic classes. Hadrawi is to many Somalis what Shakespeare is to the English.
“Without poetry, we would not exist as a society. It can rouse thousands of people in a minute and demobilize thousands in a minute. As the stomach needs food, so the brain needs beautiful words,” Hadraawi once said.
As an influential commentator, his protest poems and plays against the military junta led by former dictator Siad Barre led to his imprisonment in the notorious Qansah Dheere for five years in the mid-1970s.
Hadrawi wrote some of the most famous poems and songs in contemporary Somali art throughout his five-decade career. His work has been translated into dozens of languages and has been the focus of several international poetry exhibitions.
In a country known for its rich oral tradition, poets and love of balladry, Hadrawi stood head and shoulders above his contemporaries. Hadrawi is to many Somalis what Shakespeare is to the English.
“Poetry is a weapon that we use in both war and peace. When we want to tell somebody something, poetry is the best way to convince them.”
In 2003, Hadrawi embarked on a peace march across Somalia, accompanied by his fellow poets, writers, and musicians. His journey gave him a first-hand look at the chaos and destruction caused by Somalia’s interclan conflict. During the peace march, Hadrawi refused an armed escort.
One of his most famous poems, Hooyo‘, which means mother, is an ode to Somali women and their societal role.
His most extensive work, an 800-verse poem titled Daba Huwan, which translates as “cloaked in black,” chronicles the hardships endured by the millions of Somalis forced to flee their homeland and settle abroad, which he experienced when he escaped Somalia’s civil war in the 1990s.
As a noted songwriter, he penned hits for some of Somalia’s biggest generational stars, including Beledweyn, performed Hassan Adan Samatar, Mahamed Mooge’s Saxarlaay ha Fududaan and Jacayl Dhiig ma Lagu Qoraa? Halima Khaliif Magool.