A SOCIETY that does not publish, perishes. Such was the candid and terse advice from Mohamed Diini, the chair of the upcoming Mogadishu International Book Fair when Goobjoog News sat down with him for an interview Friday.
And as if to borrow from the literary giant and Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel who observed, ‘Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future,’ Diini warns Somali’s cultural memory is bound to disappear unless Somalis themselves document their culture either through books, films or any other avenue available.
It is against this backdrop and informed by the overarching need to elevate Somali literature and art to international standards while providing a platform for young artists that the Mogadishu International Book Fair, MIBF came to being. “MIBF should by extension serve to preserve the institutional and cultural memory of our people by promoting a book culture in this country,” said Diini.
Billed as one of a kind and the first in Mogadishu, the MIBF is set to attract literary connoisseurs from far and wide across the globe while appreciating the finesse of local talent.
“Most of the writers we now have are in their 70s and ideally would not have a long way to go as the young people. We are therefore working to nurture young writers who can keep the Somali narrative alive into the future.” Diini.
They include celebrated playwrights and writers such as Professor Abdalla Mansur, Said Salah Ahmed, Mohamed Sh. Hassan, Mohamed Ahmed Jimale, refined architect Rashid Ali, photographer and essayist Zahra Qorane Omar among a host of other participants.
But unlike any other book fair, MIBF is a celebration of art at its very diverse form roping in other genres of art such as photography, architecture, documentary, film and traditional dance. The fete will also feature collectors of art, publishers and motivational speakers. For once Mogadishu will host Said Said M. Shire (Suugaan) the collector of one of the largest digitized Somali cultural literature in the world.
In what would s⌈ound like a veiled response to acclaimed Somali writer Nuruddin Farah’s comment on BBC some few months ago, that ‘cruelty has become our currency of exchange’, Diini says MIBF is set to be a rallying point for unity and cohesion among Somalis. “We share the same religion but religion has become a component of conflict in Somalia. I believe books can bring us together,” said Diini.
Literary and cultural events
To maintain continuity and impact of the book fair, Diini says they intend to develop literary and cultural events throughout the year which can provide a platform for young writers and promote a reading culture among the youth. “Most of the writers we now have are in their 70s and ideally would not have a long way to go as the young people. We are therefore working to nurture young writers who can keep the Somali narrative alive into the future,” adds Diini.
But doing this alone is no mean feat. Diini calls for the involvement of the government by facilitating the construction of libraries, cultural centres and public spaces so that more opportunities for artists and writers can be created.
From August 26 to 28th, 2015, Mogadishu will be home to literary greats, the crème de la crème in all the arts and a place to be for established writers and aspiring writers both young and of age.
For MIBF, the sage and philosopher, Plato sums up their quest-‘Books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.
MIBF Chairman Mohamed Diini