Colourful women

We aint in New York City any more.

When tourists travel to Europe, they usually go to see the buildings, the architecture, the monuments, the sculptures – the physical, immovable aspects of cities such as Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, or Barcelona.

Here in Somaliland, the draw is not the buildings, but the people. For the most part, the buildings amount to little more than peeling, tumbledown structures that frequently look flimsy enough to be wiped out by a heavy storm (if it ever came). The capital city, Hargeisa, is very dusty, dry, and monochrome. Not a single building or architectural feature stands out as being even remotely noteworthy.

Against this drab backdrop, the people – and by people, I mean especially the Somali women – stand out as bright bolts of colour that bring the city to life, like a string of shiny and dazzling ornaments hung on a dead Christmas tree.

A friend here referred to the women in their technicolor dresses as jelly babies, and indeed with their bold and varied costumes they look like a pack of delicious candies. Feast your eyes!

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4 Responses to “Colourful women”

  1. Xoogsade Says:

    Three words describe every entry you’ve posted:

    essentialist
    euro-centric bias
    offensive (engendered and ill-informed writing)

    • africagrows Says:

      Cawale: Firstly, I don’t see how a single mention of Europe in one post, in a blog 100% devoted to Somaliland, qualifies as “euro-centric.” Secondly, as a woman myself living in Somaliland, I note that the position of women in society is very restricted in a number of ways (for example, in terms of labour force participation, political representation, and social status), and therefore I find it ironic that you suggest my blog is “engendered.” A number people would argue that many things in Somaliland are gender-biased, and indeed this is a comment I have heard directly from Somali women themselves.

      Thirdly, as for “ill informed,” this blog is about my personal experience living and working in Somaliland and is based on my first-hand experiences and conversations with people locally. I am a foreigner living in Somaliland, and therefore my knowledge will always be limited as compared to Somali people. However, I still think that this blog serves to inform, especially given how little most people outside of the Horn of Africa know about Somaliland. If there are specific things I write which you think are wrong, I encourage you to correct them so that readers can be better informed, rather than making a blanket statement about it being “ill-informed.”

      Finally, I note that there is a dearth of information about Somaliland, in particular information that is written by Somalilanders and accessible in English, on the internet. I therefore encourage you, if you dislike my view points, to start your own blog about Somaliland and I will gladly share it here with my readers.

  2. Funny picture but why did you choose to post a picture of two women when they had applied their facial masks ?

    It is just that I don’t think this truly represents the women of Somaliland in their everyday life. After all, it is not as though they walk the streets or go about their lifes with facial masks apllied (bearing in mind that people who have never been there would assume that perhaps that would be the case).

    Being a follower of your blog, I am giving you my honest opinion and I hope you have it in you to take my seemingly continuous (constructive) criticism.

    Cheers and keep it coming.

    • africagrows Says:

      Hi Tom, thank you very much for your comments. I appreciate your feedback, especially when it is specific and constructive, as this adds to the discourse and debate. This blog is primarily about my personal experiences in Somaliland, but if there is something that I write that readers view as incorrect or disagree with, I encourage them to comment and that is why I have been in the habit of approving all comments, even if they are critical.

      In terms of the facial masks, women do actually walk about the streets with facial masks applied. I see this frequently in my neighbourhood in Hargeisa. I have also seen it in other cities, such as Berbera, where this photo was taken. The women in the photo are standing in front of the door to a bakery (not their house) and they had been walking around the streets with the facial masks. Of course, it is just a treatment like women in many countries do, and they don’t wear it all the time. But I do see it on an almost daily basis.

      I chose this picture simply because it is one of the few pictures I have of Somali women. Out of respect, I do not take pictures of people without asking their permission first. Women in particular often decline to have their photo taken, so I have very few pictures of women. In this case, the women agreed.

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