Hawa Jibril

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Ran away from home

Xaawo Jibriil Maxamed was born in 1920 in Wisil, a small town in Mudug, to a nomadic family. Her father was a religious teacher and poet, known in the community for his generosity. At a young age, Xaawo was intelligent and already composing poetry, even verbally attacking her younger brother over a piece of meat. She flourished under her father’s approval, although he once composed a poem rebuking her for neglecting her flock of goats and allowing them to escape. 

When Xaawo was sixteen, her older sister died. The widower believed he didn’t fully benefit from his marriage with Xaawo’s sister, even though they were married for eight years and she had bore him four children. He gave the father of Xaawo two options, either give him a maiden girl as a new wife, or return half the camels he had given them as the bride price for the deceased daughter. Unwilling to risk returning camels received in bride price, the family agreed to marry Xaawo to her brother-in-law. 

When Xaawo was informed of her imminent marriage, without giving her the right to refuse the marriage, she was also told to serve a bowl of milk to her future husband, who was lodged in a hut made especially for guests. When she saw the old man she was expected to marry, she flung the bowl and all of its contents into the man’s lap in a fit of outrage.

Abusive husband

Unable to challenge her father’s decision, Xaawo Jibriil  ran away from the village. After 2 days of scorching sun and moonless nights, going through thorn bushes and dry grasslands, she encountered a caravan headed to Galkacayo. The nomadic strangers took her in and helped her evade the man who was pursuing her – an experience that, in later years, would lead her painstakingly to assist girls who were forced to marry against their wishes.

Shortly after this, she married a young soldier serving in the Italian colonial army. However, they separated after five years of marriage. Her husband kept custody of their two older children whilst she kept the youngest. 

In 1943, Xaawo came to Beledweyne, where she swiftly remarried for the second time. Unfortunately her new husband was brutally abusive towards her. One night, he beat her with a stick whilst she was sleeping. His reasoning: ‘I am the man of the family, and a woman should accept whatever her husband does to her, right or wrong’. The very same night, Xaawo left her home, and the next morning she sent a message, by way of a poem, asking for a divorce and also telling him her reason.

Ii dhig madaxayga

  1. Inanyohow madluun baan ahoo, murugtay laabtiiye
  2. Maluuggayga uunbaad arkiye, moogid saan ahaye
  3. Iga maqal waxaan caawa marin, mihindiskeygiiye
  4. Waxaad maqashay naagaha dilkaa, lagu mahiibaaye
  5. Anse maahi taad mooddayoon, muran ka keeneyne
  6. Anigaan mudnayn baad dagaal, igu miraysaaye
  7. Muslimiinta oo idil hadaan, adiga kaa maagay
  8. Marwadaadii haddii aan ahoo, laygu kaa mehershey
  9. Oo aanan ka meermeerinoo, minanka kuu joogo
  10. Marxabo iyo aahey haddii, lagugu maaweelsho
  11. Mustareex haddaan kaa dhigoo, lugaha kuu mayro
  12. Wax macaan haddaan kuu karshoo, miiska kuu dhigayo
  13. Oo aadan maqsuud weli ahayn, ii dhig madaxayga 
  14. Muxubbo iyo jacayl kuuma qabo, mooggan dabadeede
  15. Masruufkayga Eebbaa hayee, ma-hadho hay saarin
  16. Ilkahayga oo maqan waryaan, naago igu maadsan
  17. Haddi kalese magac yeelo oo, ruuxa iga mooti
  18. Oo magtayda bixi waadigaa, dhiig macaansadaye
  1. O man, I am sad and my soul is in anguish
  2. You see my shadow but know not how I feel
  3. So pay attention, for tonight I will speak my mind
  4. You have been told that women are conquered by force
  5. But I am not as docile as you assumed
  6. Sneaking in at night, you beat me for no reason
  7. Of all men in the Muslim world, you were the one I fancied
  8. If I am your legitimate wedded spouse
  9. Who always pleases you and never leaves the home
  10. Entertains you obediently and obsequiously
  11. Makes you content and wash your feet
  12. Prepares good food and lays it before you
  13. If, in spite of this, you are still not satisfied, set me free!
  14. As of today I no longer have love or affection for you
  15. Since God is my sole guarantor, do not bring me shame
  16. Nor cause women to ridicule me for my missing teeth
  17. Otherwise make name for yourself and take my life 
  18. And pay the bloodmoney  as you are eager for blood

Champion for women

Her husband was resistant, but eventually, in 1945, she achieved her divorce and moved to Mogadishu. There she received with reer Aw Maxamuud, sons of her uncle Aw Maxamuud Maxamed Ciise, who were among the distinguished residents of Iskuraran, an area of Mogadishu, and at the epicentre of the movement for Somali independence. 

She joined the Somali Youth League, pushing for liberation from colonial Italian powers. At that time the SYL was the only party that was committed to the cause of Somalia’s independence. Its leaders encouraged the people – men and women – to aim for nationhood; to stand united for the liberation of their country; and to strengthen national cohesion by repudiating tribal sentiments. 

Patriotic songs and literature inspired this nationalist movement, and Somali women were at its centre, raising funds, creating crafts, cooking, organising and taking part in rallies and demonstrations for independence. Together with Khadiija Muuse Mataan, Xaliimo Soofe, Xaliimo Godane and many other women, they made gabays and buraanbur exposing pro-Italian men and promoting the SYL.  patriotism and women’s rights.

Dhib badan baa ina sugaaya

  1. Calanka noo suran kuwii saaray, baannu nahay
  2. Allaa inna siiyee annagaa, u sabab ahayn
  3. Haddi aynaan u sara joogsan, waa signiin
  4. Dhib badan baa ina sugayee, ha seexannina
  5. Gabari inay samada aaddoo, samaan ku timid
  6. Dhulkana inay socoto waatii, la soo sawiray
  7. Sofyeetika boqol nin biyo waw, siin lahayd
  8. Dhib badan baa ina sugaayee, ha seexaninna
  9. Siyaasa Hindiya iyo Sayloonba, gabdhaa xukuma
  10. Midbaa Ingiriiska u saxiixda, sir iyo saab
  11. Sooshaliismada boqolkiiba, sideetan baa
  12. Siddiq yiraahdeenoo, amarkooda lagu socdaa
  13. Dhib badan baa ina sugayee, ha seexannina
  14. Kuwaa saddexdooda lagu yeershaa, sabab la’aan
  15. Sidii gacantaas ahoo suxursaaxud, lagu ogeyn
  16. Ninnana la su’aalin meel ay, ku sugan yihiin
  17. Dhib badan baa ina sugaayee, ha seexannina
  18. Su’aaluhu ma aha saygiinna, inad nacdaan
  19. Aqalkaa nabad laga sameeyaaye, samir ha jiro
  20. U sii saa’idiya noloshay, ku sugan yihiin
  21. Ilaahay haydin solansiiyo, saxarlayaal
  22. Dhib badan baa ina sugaayee, ha seexannina
  23. Komaandoos salalayoo, saamaha isla hela
  24. Salaan bixinaayoo qalbigoodu, saafi yahay
  25. Haddaan saansaankiinnu u ekaannin, ina sallima
  26. Nimanku waxay nagu sameeyaanna, inaku suge
  27. Dhib badan baa ina sugaayee, ha seexannina
  1. We are the ones who raised the flag on high
  2. God gave it to us  and we are the agents
  3. But we will lose it if we do not stand up in its defense
  4. Awake, Sisters! A long struggle awaits
  5. A woman astronaut was sent into space
  6. We saw the picture of her safe return
  7. The Soviets value her life more than a hundred men.
  8. Awake, Sisters! A long struggle awaits
  9. Women govern India and Ceylon 
  10. A woman ratifies England’s arms and secret affairs
  11. Women are the backbone of the socialist states
  12. And what they decide is acted upon
  13. Awake, Sisters! A long struggle awaits
  14. Our sisters are daily divorced for no reason
  15. Thrown out with not a stitch to shield them
  16. And for their fate no one cares
  17. Awake, Sisters! A long struggle awaits
  18. The intent is not desert your husbands
  19. For peace should start at home
  20. By all means, make their lives more comfortable
  21. For you are unblemished. May God guide you!
  22. Awake, Sisters! A long struggle awaits
  23. Like roaring commandos, march with united steps
  24. And giving the salute with firm determination
  25. Or else give up and deserve whatever men do to us
  26. Awake, Sisters! A long struggle awaits

Funny lady

Xaawo Jibriil made more poems about seeking independence and exposing pro-Italian men, like the poem Odeyaasha Taalyaaniga raacsanaa [“The old pro-Italian men”]…

Eventually Somalia gained independence in 1960, where it became a sovereign state and together with former British Somaliland formed the Somali Republic. The joy and jubilation quickly made way for disappointment and misery, for the new government didn’t fulfill the promises made to the people of this newly formed country. Maandeeq, the much desired, bountiful she-camel that produces an abundance of milk, what was a metaphor for the Somali Republic, became Baaqimo, a camel that does not produce enough milk and is only good enough to be slaughtered for food.

In two buraamburs Odeyaasha ina akhiray [“The old men who are holding us back”] and Dulan nin wada [“The wicked men”], Xaawo Jibriil exposes politicians who, in order to keep a permanent hold on the Somali people, resort to old tribal passions, vote-buying, and rigged elections.

Even though Xaawo Jibriil was creating poems about serious topics, she also made poems about things she experienced in her life, like the time she got a marriage proposal, which she declined, giving her reasons in her gabay Jawaab talo guur, or the time she consumed jaad. 

Damac Jaad

  1. Dooqo waa belo e damac jaad, miyaa i galay
  2. Kala dubaab badane miirow, miyaan dalbaday
  3. Majin markaan diirtay ma, sagaal kalaanku daray
  4. Gowskii may daalay carrabkiina, may damqaday
  5. Maysku daba daaray, sakareedka dabacasaa
  6. Shaahii maan deyne biyihii, miyaan daldalay
  7. Sidii diinkii ma dhigay, kaadi diiqalyaa
  8. Hadal ma deeqsiiyay darintii, intii fadhiday
  9. Daakiraddii sariirtii, miyaan dultegey
  10. Nalki ma aan damiyay, oo daaqaddii ma xiray
  11. Kulayl may daaray, oo dhidid mayga dililiq yiri
  12. Mar mays duuduubay, marna daaha mayska rogay
  13. Anoon dad ila joogin, keligay miyaan dacwiyay
  14. Halkaan ku dillaamay, duhurkii miyaan ka kacay
  15. Jinnay duufsadaye hawshii, miyaan dayacay
  16. Ma waxaan doorbiday naftaydii, inan ku dilo
  17. Isugu daro da’iyo daal aan, danteed ku jirin
  18. Daawo uga dhigo caleentaan daroogadaa. 
  1. Craving is a sinful affliction, but I had a whim to chew qat
  2. I ordered miirow, the most potent kind
  3. Consumed a little bunch and asked for more 
  4. Made my jaws tired and my tongue so sore
  5. Chain-smoked the long filtered cigarettes
  6. Drank aplenty, tea and water
  7. Turtle like leaked drops of urine
  8. Entertained my companions with enticing chat
  9. At dawn on mu’adin’s call I went to bed
  10. Closed the windows and turned off the light
  11. I got very hot and soaking wet
  12. Tried to cover myself but tossed away the sheets
  13. All alone I started talking to myself
  14. Exhausted at noon, I finally woke up
  15. The tempting devil made me neglect my duties
  16. Old and weary, it was so reckless of me
  17. To seek relief in these addictive leaves

Life as a qaxooti

In 1990, Hawa and her family lived in the centre of a battlefield. She did her best to assist her neighbours amidst violence and looting. However, after the immediate fighting had ceased, she learned of the death of several relatives and was prostrated by grief. Later, the compound in which she lived was invaded by gunmen, who killed one of their guards, and shot three men, one of whom was her son-in-law, a former minister in the Barre government. Hawa ended the crisis by handing over all the family’s gold and money. After this traumatising experience, Hawa sought asylum in Canada as a refugee, where she joined many of her relatives. Despite this, the transition to a colder climate and an unfamiliar language was difficult, and soon she became reclusive. 

Nolol Qurbo (Life in a new country 1994)

  1. Qofaan indho beelinoo, aafo ayan ku dhicin
  2. Addimadiisiyo lixaadkiisu, idil yihiin
  3. Dibedda aan aadinoo, soo adeegan karin
  4. Albaabka ka bixinoo, ka baqaaya inuu anbado
  5. Ilbax ismoodaayey, oy beenowdey inuu ahaa
  6. Eheladiisiyo saaxiibbo, u imanahayn
  7. Ilmaha uu la jirana kula nool, qariib kun edeb
  8. Iska adkaysanaya, noloshiina ku adag tahay
  9. Ilaahay ka baryaysa, ceebteeda inuu asturo
  10. Yowmul Aakhiro, albaabkii janna u furo
  11. Ifka intay joogto, uu siiyo waxaan idlaan
  12. Awood badanow Ilaahow, Arxame Raxiim
  13. Urugo inay hayso, waddankeedii olol ka kacay
  14. Waxa addoontaadu dooneyso, waad og tahay
  15. Adaana arki karaya, uurkeeda waxa ku jira
  16. Arwaaxa iyo faraxa ay doonayso, u ebyi kara
  17. Eheladeedii qaarba meel aaday, uruurin kara ee
  18. Sahal amuurteeda, oo Shaydaanka ka indhosaab
  1. A full-sighted person with no impairment
  2. Able-bodied and endowed with good health
  3. Yet dares not go out shopping
  4. Doesn’t pass her doorstep for fear of getting lost
  5. Thought herself worldly, but proved wrong
  6. Receives no visits from relatives or friends
  7. Lives with her grandchildren as polite as a guest
  8. Homebound, patiently enduring, in spite of the hardship
  9. She prays to God to not expose her lapses
  10. To open for her Heaven’s gate on the Day of Judgement
  11. And while still in this world to grant her endless rewards
  12. O Powerful, Most Gracious and Merciful God
  13. She is saddled with pain and her country is ablaze
  14. You know the longings of his humble slave
  15. Indeed you can read what is in her heart 
  16. And bestow the happiness that she desires
  17. So unite her scattered family
  18. And keep Satan from her door.

Back on the big stage

Fortunately, Xaawo Jibriil’s life in Canada wasn’t only confined to the four walls in her home. Through her involvement with Jumblies Theatre, an organisation that creates art with communities, and multi-year projects leading to large-scale productions, Xaawo was on the big stage again. With her community in Toronto she produced Bridge of One Hair, a play inspired largely by her life and poetry, which premiered in April of 2007. The play provided Xaawo with citywide and local recognition and respect, and has made her feel much more at home in Toronto. Together with her daughter Faadumo Cureeji, who also has an interesting story, by being the first Somali woman to receive a degree and becoming a Secretary of State for Education, Xaawo wrote a book about her life and her poetry, which got translated into English.

Still, until the end of her days, she remained a source of inspiration for her compatriots in the Diaspora and in her home country. urging especially young people, to make good use of the opportunities offered to them in the lands that have given them shelter. Only then, she insists, can they eventually be of help to Somalia. Ilaahay ha u naxariisto, Xaawo Jibriil Maxamed passed away in 2011.