Many of our parents left Somalia when the civil war kicked off; meaning we grew up away from our motherland. Therefore making places like London, Minnesota and Stockholm our new homes and adopting western culture as our own. However for our parents, their culture has come along with them. They wear their traditional clothes, cook their favorite meals and make sure that we do not forget where we come from and what our culture is about.
Some of us may be able to speak, read and understand Somali, while several of us struggle. A good chunk of us choose to embrace our culture in a number of ways such as wearing diiraac/baatii’s/macawiis or dancing to Somali songs we may or may not be able to translate. However that isn’t really the point of listening to such songs, well at least for me, I love listening to old school tracks such as Beledweyne by Hassan Adan Samatar which reminds me of the first time I went to Somalia. Sometimes I find myself just typing ‘Somali songs’ into YouTube and blasting it around my room.
Mobile devices and social media platforms have made communicating not only fun but much easier. I remember my mum’s siblings who all live in Africa adding me on Facebook, at first I was like ‘what how do they have Internet’ (ignorant me) but the use of social media did not only increase in the west, African too was online and ready to connect. At first I hesitated accepting any of my adult relatives, as these spaces were my own and I didn’t want them knowing what I do. I mean it was not like I had anything to be ashamed of. I always assumed that those living in Somalia would be much more judgmental than those who understood western culture. After procrastinating for a while I decided to accept, this was the best thing I ever did on Facebook it paved the way for me to build a stronger relationship with my relatives. I have seen more current photos of my grandparents within a week than I have in the last few years and met my newborn cousins as they were born. It allowed us to exchange photographs, in the past we would develop photos and give them to someone that was headed to Somalia. We have all heard people term Facebook as Fitnah book but to me Facebook and other platforms like it lets me better understand my family, my culture and the history of my motherland.
Apps such as whatsapp even allowed me to practice writing and reading Somali, by chatting to aunties and uncles either on the other side of the world or who lived 40mins away from me. Whatsapp now plays a significant role for my mum; she is constantly typing away having full on conversations with her sisters and friends living in Somalia. She is now one of us who cannot live without her phone; she can now get more regular updates on the well being of her family especially her old parents. Although she does not still understand Facebook like my dad does, she is happy with a form of communication that does not cost anything. I recently moved from UK to Canada and can say that if I did not have platforms such as Skype, Google Hangout, Whatsapp and Facebook I would feel much more homesick then I am now. I know what my family and friends are doing each day and they know what I’ve been doing, it makes me feel much more closer to them and at times I forget how far I am from them.
As the years go on I honestly feel as though more of the older generation will start to use social media and apps such as whatsapp. Soon every mother will give up yelling at their children to come down or do their chores, they will just text or whatsapp them giving their vocals a well needed rest.
Naima Elmi, Hiiran Online