Hadraawi: The Somali Shakespeare

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In Hargeisa, the capital of the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, everyone knows the nation’s most famous living poet – Hadraawi. They call him their Shakespeare. The poetry of Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame ‘Hadraawi’ holds a mirror up to all aspects of life. Born in 1943 to a nomadic camel-herding family, forged as a poet in Somalia’s liberal years pre-1969, jailed in 1973 for ‘anti-revolutionary activities’ without trial under the military junta, a campaigner for peace, Hadraawi’s poetry tells the story of modern Somalia.

Mary Harper, Africa Editor for BBC World Service News, journeys to meet Hadraawi at his home in Somaliland, just as the first rains fell after the devastating three-year drought. The self-declared republic is rarely seen by the outside world, as the shadow cast by the ongoing violence in Somalia to the south is long. But it’s a place Mary has come to know and love during 25 years writing about and reporting on Somalia for the BBC. It is a nation of poets, where poetry is woven deep into the fabric of everyday life.