In a city rising from the ashes of a brutal civil war, the Mogadishu Book Fair – August 17 – 20, 2016 – exposed the ‘other’ side of Mogadishu. The Fair brought together authors, poets, academics, playwrights, motivational speakers and literary scholars from across the Somali region and all around the world. It showcased more than 3,000 books covering all types of literature from comedy, drama and romance to satire, tragedy and non-fiction.
In the many sessions of the Fair, speakers and audiences brought to the forefront discussions on love, life, faith, history, heritage, and hope, voicing their aspirations through poetry, books and the mighty pen.
“In an environment of dialogue, beliefs and ideas were shared and discussed in a productive forum rather than fought over,” explained Mr. Mohamed ‘Diini’ Sheik-Ali Ahmed, the founder and organizer of the event.
USAID is the sole sponsor of the Mogadishu Book Fair (MBF), supporting hundreds of arts and cultural activities throughout Somalia. The Transition Initiatives for Stabilization program (TIS+) strives to renew a sense of shared Somali identity. In collaboration, the U.S. Mission to Somalia also donated more than 100 books to City University of Mogadishu, who hosted the MBF at the City Palace Hotel in Mogadishu.
“The Mogadishu Book Fair was a resounding success, attracting thousands a day. We are building a more peaceful, tolerant and literate Somali society through activities like this,” said USAID Deputy Mission Director for Kenya and East Africa, Steve Olive.
This year, #MBF2016, brought the likes of Abdi Latif Ega from Los Angeles, author of the novel ‘Guban’, part of a trilogy portraying Somalia from medieval times to the present day. Mr. Ega is currently writing a screenplay based on “Joe The Doorman” – a novel based on a genius Somali painter who is a doorman by day and a painter by night rejected by mainstream society based on ill-conceived prejudices, i.e. skin, accent and religion. It also brought to the stage Somali-Canadian novelist/journalist Hassan G. Santur, author of “Something Remains” and “The Youth of God;” as well as celebrated author Mohamed H. Ingiris from Oxford University; Andrew Harding, author of “Mayor of Mogadishu,” and former BBC Africa correspondent and; Sahro Koshin, author of “Isnino” and “The Sounds of Laughter” from Amsterdam/Garowe.
To mark the end of the Mogadishu Book Fair (MBF), the British Embassy Mogadishu on August 20, 2016, hosted a gala with a book launch of Andrew Harding’s “The Mayor of Mogadishu.” Along with many of the acclaimed authors, representatives from USAID, the Mogadishu diplomatic community, international staff and government officials attended.
USAID has supported the restoration of Somali arts and culture across the country, reaching an estimated 8000 Somali people. Arts and cultural activities contribute to USAID’s stabilization goals in Somalia by mitigating conflict, reducing the appeal of violent extremism, promoting peace and community cohesion, and increasing trust in local government.