Tag Archives: Africa cultures

A new film set in Djibouti City presents a searing class critique of Somali girlhood.

In the popular imagination, Somali women are viewed as passive, oppressed subjects, the hapless victims of their patriarchal culture and religion. Where they are visible, it is often through the iconography of the veil and female circumcision. Lula Ali Ismaïl’s Dhalinyaro (Youth)—the first full-length feature film by a Djiboutian woman—is a radical departure from this corpus in depicting Somali girlhood in its full depth and complexity. Most importantly, it does this through depicting the mundane events of everyday life in Djibouti City. There are no wars here, or pirates, or terrorists, no young women escaping fathers, husbands, or the blade of a female elder, no white saviors ready for the rescue. What we see in Dhalinyaro is a coming of age story that shows Somali girls as they are.

The film’s storyline revolves around the final qualification examination for Djiboutian secondary students to enter university, the baccalaureate. The three main characters, Deka, Hibo, and Asma, are classmates at the Lycée de Djibouti but hail from markedly different class backgrounds. The Lycée space becomes one where the different segments of Djibouti’s population interact and form friendships, bonding over the shared ritual of studying for the baccalaureate. Yet, it is the question of higher education that renders class divides most explicit. For wealthy Hibo, who arrives at the Lycée each day in a chauffeured private car, there is no question that she will continue her education in Paris. Deka, who is securely middle class, is less certain, but with the funds saved up by her mother over a number of years, the idea of going to France for university is within the realm of the possible. Asma has no such choices available to her; poverty dictates that she must stay in Djibouti, unless she is among the few top students to receive a scholarship to study abroad.

The palpable burden of class difference saturates the film. One shot silently juxtaposes a well-dressed man at a cafe with a young boy on the street as he hands his shoes to the child to polish while drinking coffee. In another shot, women in wide-brimmed sun hats sweep the city streets at dusk to the sounds of ciyaar Soomaali, a traditional Somali folk dance. It is palpable in Asma’s hesitation to attend Hibo’s birthday party at the luxury Djibouti Palace Kempinski, and in the fuul bean stew her family eats at mealtimes, like the poor neighborhood children that come to Deka’s home for bread. When Hibo gets into an altercation with a group of schoolgirls outside of the Lycée, she disparages them as the “stupid Balabois”—residents of the impoverished Balbala suburb. An angered Asma, who tells her that she is “one of them,” accuses Hibo of believing that her wealth gives her more rights. Over the course of the film, Hibo’s character arc moves from a sheltered and careless rich girl to a more understanding and self-sufficient individual, a transformation made possible by honest friendships across difference.

The stunning cinematography with long shots of the sea and glimpses of the Port of Djibouti subtly signals the confluence and contradictions of global wealth and local poverty. This infrastructure of state capitalism—and, at the end of the film, the national radio broadcasting examination results—are the only glimpses of the state or politics in Dhalinyaro. Djibouti is among the most enduring dictatorships in Africa, ruled by an extended family since its independence from France in 1977. Its ruler, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, is famously a patron of the arts and culture, and Lula Ali Ismaïl has described the support she received for the film from both the private sector and a government eager to develop the country’s nascent film industry. While one can wonder about the possible implications of this government hand for artistic freedom, Ismaïl’s decision not to engage formal politics explicitly is another subversive act of representation, given that the region is mired in images of political dysfunction. Ismaïl’s political critique is muted and indirect, but no less searing. It takes the form of a city-wide power outage that forces the “haves” to turn on their private generators and the “have-nots” to light lanterns; it is in the figure of the elderly veteran telling Deka the forgotten stories of Djiboutian soldiers who fought for France during the Second World War; it is, at the metalevel, what the film itself embodies in its very existence, in its very refusal to conform.

What Dhalinyaro foregrounds is female sociality and intimacy as it unravels the complex layers of contemporary Djiboutian life. The film has a decidedly female gaze, decentering maleness to the extent that most of the male characters in the film remain marginal and unnamed. Instead, it is the inner worlds of Somali women that are fleshed out in full, and with the immense care and tenderness of a Somali woman behind the camera. When Hibo has a miscarriage in a bathroom stall at school, it is the conservatively-dressed Asma who immediately removes her abaya to cover her friend’s blood-stained clothing, stating that “girls look out for each other.” They openly discuss sexuality and their relationships, the lively female banter reminiscent of the Somali riwaayad (play) and theater tradition that has pushed the envelope on notions of female morality and modesty in Somali society since the 1960s. Markers of Somali womanhood are interspersed throughout the film: the breezy dirac shiid worn as loungewear at home, the fragrant uunsi smoke used to perfume one’s household, clothing and hair, the huruud face masks made of turmeric to keep one’s skin soft.

At the heart of Dhalinyaro is the tension between visibility and invisibility in the desire for a particular kind of freedom. In an early scene, Deka, Hibo, and Asma quietly talk at their desks as their teacher—played by Lula Ali Ismaïl herself—explains the upcoming deadlines for students seeking to go abroad for university. “Think of the freedom!” Deka whispers to her friends, “no one holding you to account, no one looking at you and saying ‘you’re the daughter of so and so.’” These moments of recognition occur most often in their encounters with men. As the girls sit by the waterfront and jokingly evaluate the appearances of young men passing by, a man pauses and greets Hibo, telling her to say hello to her father for him. “There’s no getting away!” an exasperated Hibo tells her friends. In another scene, the searching glance of a male waiter at a restaurant where Deka is having an intimate dinner with the older married man she is seeing is enough to unsettle her and abruptly end the date. Yet, it is the same surveilling gaze—this time by women—that precipitates the end to the predatory relationship, after Deka’s mother hears about it. The communal nature of the Somali social world, while frustrating any notion of individual anonymity, fosters a sense of interdependence and female solidarity that uplifts the girls in times of need, as their friendship illustrates. Ultimately, Deka chooses this world by staying in Djibouti for university.

Ethnicity is conspicuously absent from the film. Djibouti, while dominated politically, culturally and demographically by Somalis, is a multi-ethnic country comprised of the Somali and Afar, as well as smaller communities of Arabs, Ethiopians and Europeans. That diversity is represented in the casting, with the three lead actresses themselves belonging to Djibouti’s different ethnic groups: one is Afar, one is Somali, and one is Arab Somali. Yet each plays a Somali character, in a Djibouti where only Somali people and culture appear to exist. However, there is some ambiguity to Hibo’s background that is not discernible to the non-Somali speaker and flattened by the limited subtitles. In the scene where Hibo is confronted on the schoolyard, a voice in the background, which does not make it into the subtitles, can be heard saying “the little Arab girl is being attacked!” in Somali. Her father, in other scenes, speaks one or two words of Arabic, albeit words that have entered the Somali lexicon. Asma and Deka’s households are completely immersed in their Somaliness, with illustrative scenes including Asma’s sisters playing jag on the veranda as their mother gives them advice using Somali proverbs, and Deka’s single mother listening to gabay poetry composed by a heartbroken Cilmi Boodhari. Hibo’s family, on the other hand, only speaks Somali at home when talking to their maid; they converse in French exclusively between themselves, listen to European classical music during formal dinners, and go to France for education. There is an unexamined politics of language and ethnicity yearning to be explored.

Dhalinyaro is a remarkable feat, particularly for a first full-length film by a self-taught filmmaker hailing from a country with a film industry still in its infancy. Though initially released in 2018, it has recently seen a surge in popularity when it was made available for free streaming as part of this year’s Cinewax Online African Film Festival, breaking OAFF streaming records. It is a beautiful film—a love letter to Somali girls—that deserves to be seen widely.

Author: Shakir Essa

Marriage proposals, dresses, feasts and dances – the story of two weddings in SOMALIland, with traditions old and new.

When it comes to weddings, Somaliland has many approaches. Some couples stick with tradition while others go for more modern marriage ceremonies.

This film tells the story of two weddings, one in a small desert village and the other in a busy city, while highlighting everyday life in different parts of the country. It also contrasts traditional ways of life with modern ideas that come from younger Somalis and social media.

In the remote rural village of Toon, herder Jamalli Muhammad Ahmed can only marry a local woman called  Hoda after first getting permission from her family. In a tradition going back generations, they all gather in the shade of a large tree to decide whether they are a suitable match. Only then can Jamalli and Hoda start planning their lives together.

Somalia Two Weddings - AJW

 Jamalli and Hoda’s wedding followed traditional Somali customs [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

Abdullatif Deeq Omar in Hargeisa city, however, first met his future wife Najma on Facebook. They eloped but eventually returned to their families who accepted their marriage plans.

Somalia Two Weddings - AJW

 Abdullatif and Najma’s ceremony was in the city of Hargeisa [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

Both weddings have the same pressures: buying outfits, inviting guests, finding a venue and arranging feasts – but each tells a unique story of family, community and tradition.

In Somali culture, many people also believe that getting married in the run-up to Ramadan ensures additional blessings on the couple, making the happy occasion even more special

Shakir Essa report.

What would happen if you didn’t shower (no bath) for your life?

Himba-tribe-women-in-Damaraland-Namibia-768x512
1990 following the Namibian War of independence, Namibia had registered her presence in the global arena.

Namibia is a member of important global organisations including the African Union, United Nations, South Africa Development Council, just to mention a few. Also, apart from the glorious mountains that dotted the beautiful landscape of the country, the Fish River Canyon, gold-grass plains of the Kalahari, wildlife such as the black rhinos, elephants, big cats, etc. all make Namibia an interesting tourist destination.
sportnoy_20150319_4542
Apart from all these, however, the spectacular nature and custom of the Himba tribe in Namibia have brought her to international spotlight especially in recent times.

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The Himba people who are also regarded as the Omuhimba or Ovahimba people are indigenous people of Namibia living in northern part of Namibia especially in the Kunene region. Their numbers are big enough to form a city-state.

Himba´s_Tribe-768x511

What makes this tribe so popular has to do with their way of living, clothing, economy, and interesting customs. One of the grapevines is that they offer guests sex for free and another point is that they adorned every newborn baby with bead necklaces. But there are other interesting facts about them.

Just like the Japanese who lived in isolation for much of their history under the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Himba people practically live in seclusion and are wary of external contacts. Although they engage in cooperation with neighbouring tribes; they would resist any form of contamination to their beliefs and culture. This is quite curious in a nuclear age.

The Himba people are predominantly farmers. They raise different breeds of livestock especially goats, cattle, sheep, etc. The women are largely preoccupied with collecting firewood, sourcing for fresh water for consumption, cooking and serving meals and engaging in other forms of artisanship.

Some of them are socially inclined and religious, worshipping the gods of their ancestors. The Himba people believed in polygamy and many of their young girls married off at an early age. This is not peculiar to them as most traditional African tribes still practice this custom.

It is not the case however that they don’t bath even if it’s not with water. One of the reasons why the Himba people don’t bath with water is because of their harsh climatic conditions as they live in one of the most extreme environments on earth. The harsh desert climate and the unavailability of portable water prevent them from having a ‘normal’ water bath. Yet, they looked extremely pretty with their traditional clothes, some of which exposed their bodies especially the women.

Their lack of bathing however has not resulted into lack of personal hygiene as they apply red ochre on their skin and partake in a daily smoke bath in order to maintain their hygiene.

himba-initation-ceremony

Reuben Coussement described this process, “they will put some smouldering charcoal into a little bowl of herbs (mostly leaves and little branches of Commiphora trees) and wait for the smoke to ascend. Thereafter, they will bow over the smoking bowl and due to the heat, they will start perspiring. For a full body wash, they cover themselves with a blanket so that the smoke gets trapped underneath the fabric.”

In all of these, however, the Himba people are one of the warmest tribes in Africa and are courteous to strangers and visitors alike. They however frown at anything that will threaten their cultural values and traditions. Their frustrations at some interventions by the Namibian government, governments of Norway and Iceland, among others are evidence of this fact

Reposted from: FA2FA

Oriented by: Shakir Essa

Analysis across Africa shows how social media is changing politics

  • Kenyan government official’s attempts to block a local art collective’s music video that had been uploaded to YouTube
  • Social media’s complex symbiotic relationship with mainstream media is still evident in powerful ways.
  • Somalia specialist Peter Chonka, for example, argues that the blurring of public and private boundaries inherent in the country’s social media environment can be disruptive. It has resulted in a lack of coherence in political communication by state actors

Not only have digital media and mobile phones created pathways for African entrepreneurs and consumers to access local and global networks with greater ease and speed, but the technological sector that supports digital media – from mobile phones to laptops and internet connections – has come to require a digital entrepreneurship that benefits from the creativity of African citizens.

Young Somali women look at a smartphone at Dadaab refugee complex, in northeast Kenya, on April 16

Traditional and new media

Social media’s complex symbiotic relationship with mainstream media is still evident in powerful ways.

Somalia specialist Peter Chonka, for example, argues that the blurring of public and private boundaries inherent in the country’s social media environment can be disruptive. It has resulted in a lack of coherence in political communication by state actors. This further challenges their legitimacy. Tensions between traditional and modern forms of communication are reflected in the online clash of views over “appropriate” online content, moral values and perceived threats to national security.

Media scholar Brian Ekdale highlights the debates around “morality” in social media content. He researched a Kenyan government official’s attempts to block a local art collective’s music video that had been uploaded to YouTube. Ekdale then considers what this shows about the ongoing tensions between global media technology giants and local users and regulators on the continent

What is especially interesting is the way in which African users have found ways to adapt and appropriate digital and mobile media, for example, developing codes to communicate via mobile phone without using airtime – so-called ‘flashing’ or ‘beeping’ (calling and hanging up before the receiver can answer so as to avoid incurring a call cost).

While this creativity can be celebrated as an ingenious way for African users to adapt digital and mobile media to their own circumstances, it also points to the often exorbitant costs of airtime and data which are obstacles to the use of new media technologies in African countries. Airtime comes at such a high cost in South Africa, for example, that it is often offered as a prize in consumer competitions, or airtime vouchers are given as gifts or freebies.

The advent of digital media has turned the media landscape upside down. The news cycle moves at lightning speed, thanks to live tweeting, blogging and citizen journalism, all unknown just a few years ago.  

To remain accessible, conventional media practitioners in Africa are adapting to a new media world that is time-sensitive and more interactive. Advocacy journalism, in particular, is growing exponentially—bloggers and citizen journalists are mobilizing for various causes, including good governance.  

Although a lot has changed in media technology and operations over the last 15 years, society still looks to the media to play its traditional role—to inform, educate and entertain. 

In Africa the media plays an even more critical role, that of deepening and institutionalizing democracy.

Citizens need to be informed as nations take on new responsibilities in a globalized world.

“Media plays an important role in buildding an informed society. Said shakir essa somali digital media and journalist news publisher at allafrica

Citizens need credible information from a media that can skillfully moderate debate and provoke meaningful conversations that can lead to transforming africa

the media must see itself as instrumental to ensuring and improving the quality of life in society. 

<p class="has-drop-cap" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">“Journalists see themselves as watchhdogs. Instead, I see the media as a leader. Watchdogs just sit down and watch, but a leader stands up and leads. You have to walk and work,” Mr. Chinje said in an interview with <em>Africa Renewal.</em> “Journalists see themselves as watchhdogs. Instead, I see the media as a leader. Watchdogs just sit down and watch, but a leader stands up and leads. You have to walk and work,” Mr. Chinje said in an interview with Africa Renewal. 

Africa needs journalism that innovates and supports innovation in a modernizing continent, he says, one that not only grows, but promotes growth and the development of society. It needs journalism that not only generates the ideas that are the engine of social transformation, but also moderates the debates that emerge from these societal changes.

Digital media and journalism as a sector is evolving, and there are plenty of job opportunities in the field. However, Aspiring journalists have to build their experience and gather certain skill sets to thrive in the industry, said: shakir essa ( shakir is a somali digital media and journalist news publisher at allafrica

If you’re interested in starting (or growing) a career as a media in east africa, then you have a lot to learn from shakir essa

Shakir started his career in journalism as an intern at the allAfrica news website and quickly scaled through his career as a journalist, amplifying African voices and stories.

Shakir Essa on, July 6th,2016 for a 30-minute Facebook Live session where he’ll be discussing journalism ans digital media as a profitable career choice, and the skills aspiring journalists need to acquire.

Register for this Facebook Live below and ask shakir all your pressing questions.

shakir essa facebook live

Some of the topics we’ll cover:

How to make it as a digital and journalist

Media career choices for young people in East Africa specialy somalia

Moving from employment to entrepreneurship

Personal PR: Social media etiquette and how it impacts your professionalism

Why young Africans should demand quality content from media outlets (African advocates of public interest journalism)

Facebook Live Details: shakir essa

2018  facebook live 

About shakir essa

Shakir essa is digital media publisher and PR consultant who is currently consulting at Media allAfrica news, as a radio producer, media relations trainer and digital journalism trainer. He also works as a volunteer youth mentor and freelance journalist.

Latest years shakir had a successful career at one of the africa leading international news sites and radio, the ALLAFRICA.

While working for AllAfrica,  he works as trucking industries on Amazon prime in USA

Also he led several productions including creating digital content for younger audiences and news coverage of somali politics

In June 2016, he took one of the lead roles in setting up somalia and the breakaway region somaliland 

For live broadcasting on social media His work helped direct the day to day running of the live broadcasting and training journalists on storytelling and social media skills.

Shakir Essa served as editor at allafrica news media and somali news tvs

Shakir Essa served as an Editor at allafrica news media and somali news tvs

The Shakir Essa Report, first aired January 2012, is a thirty-minutes, weekly report at allafrica on storytelling for African immigrant stories in northern Africa, Libya and Tunisia.

Shakir essa served as editor at allafrica news site’s,

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