ACCLAIMED Somali writer Nuruddin Farah yesterday told Wits staff and students “South Africa is not interested in improving education” in comparison with other African states.
The country’s attitude impacted on literacy and the ability to develop an African consciousness, he said. He was giving a lecture which he named “Green in the salad of my judgement”, a nod to Shakespeare. The reference was used to introduce Farah’s experiences growing up in Somalia, and being exiled for writing novels about his homeland.
Farah spoke of the “grotesque caricature” the media had made of Somalia, and how important it was to remember “there is still love” and humanity in Somalia. He emphasised the need to portray Somalis as equal to all humans, and therefore understand that “they deserve the same justice”.
Farah’s eloquent anecdotes from his childhood and time in exile demonstrated how much Somalia’s oral tradition had influenced his story telling.
Farah has been praised for his portrayal of female consciousness in his novels and has, in the past, said women could provide strong leadership in his war-torn country. Questioned on this during the panel discussion that followed his lecture, he said: “Women are never the initiators of war in history… However they lose very much. They know very well the consequences of war.”
Farah encouraged young Africans to produce their own cultural knowledge by reading in their native language, highlighting the removal of one’s original self when experiencing the world through a foreign language.
After the lecture, Maimuna AY Darir, a Somali student at the African Leadership Academy, told Vuvuzela: “It is interesting to me because there are not a lot of Somali writers out there telling this story in a non-fictional way… It’s really motivating for young Somali writers to actually believe they can do something better for themselves.”
The panel, which included Farah and Wits academics Prof James Ogude, Prof Véronique Tadjo and Dr John Masterson, discussed themes of post-colonial alienation, the role of women in the leadership of Somalia and representations of Somalia in the media.
See my live tweets from the lecture @Lisa_Golden_SA #NurridinFarah