Henry Cloud, a prominent author once said, a culture is like an immune system. It operates through the laws of the systems, just like a body.
If a body has an infection, the immune system deal with it. Similarly, a group enforces its norms, either actively or passively.
Through the support of Awjama Cultural Research and Reading Center, the heritage of Somali culture has been brought to the limelight in 2015.
The organization, which works to preserve cultures, has been at the forefront to revive the Somalia culture.
“The two major goals of the organization is to revive the Somali culture and to counter-narrate the negative image of the Somali community in the recent years,” says Fardowsa Jama, the Executive Director.
Although most of the programs are currently being run in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, the team hopes to extend the cultural awareness across the globe in the future.
Since the core objective of the organization is cultural promotion, she says, they showcase the Somali culture and give community members platform for creativity, empowerment while preaching peace, love, and unity.
Additionally, they promote the spirit of entrepreneurship skills and sustainable development to the needy and vulnerable members of the community through their numerous cultural programs.
Apart from educating people about their culture, other programs include promoting Somali authors, organizing book fairs, supporting research programs and annual Somali heritage week.
From October 5, 2017, to October 8, the organization successfully held the third annual Somali cultural festival dubbed Somali Heritage Week at Kenya Cultural Center, Nairobi.
There was a display of Somali traditional ornaments, fashion, Somali traditional dances such as dhaanto, saar, saylici, buraanbur and live social-cultural debates from renown public speakers, authors, politicians among other personalities.
The event attracted hundreds of Somalis and non-Somalis.
“We teach children the Somali language. We prepare the Somali heritage week inform of seminars and workshops to engage the youths and women,” says Fardowsa Jama.
Noteworthy is how schools such as Aga Khan come to participate in the story telling and open discussion about the rich cultural background of the Somali community.
For the women, she says, the economically empowering activities include basket weaving, henna design, jewelry making, embroidery, carpet weaving and hair braiding.
It helps improve their living standard since most of the activities undertaken are highly on demand.
This year, the theme being ‘Enhancing Inclusivity’, the deaf community was also engaged, where they performed on stage.
As measure of strengthening diversity among the Kenyan society, other communities were also given chance to perform their traditional dances in line with achieving the theme of the year.
Apart from fund constraints and poor community awareness, the program has been warmly welcomed by the Somali community.
“For us to help, we must engage people in our programs. Such engagement will reduce depressions and abuse of drugs related to idleness, particularly among the youths. The process of getting adequate resource poses a challenge.
And the other concern is that few people, especially the Somali community, take the culture issue seriously reducing the gap between them and their rich culture,” she notes.
Other activities in line during the heritage week were building Somali hut aqal hoori, children storytelling, panel discussions, film screening, display of traditional food utensils and paintings.
Considerate topical issues such as climate change, regional economic integration, cultural diversity, healthcare and religion were among the debated items on the four-day program.
She says that most of the traditional items are preserved in the Awjama Cultural Research and Reading Centre in Eastleigh’s first avenue, Tasneem Shopping Mall, opposite Day to Day plaza.
Some of the celebrated personalities who participated in this year’s Somali heritage week includes Ahmed Ali Egali, a musician and Maryam Sheikh, a human rights defender, a writer and a poet.
Other youthful personalities included Abdinasir Adan Ibrahim, a human rights lawyer and Balqesa Abdi Sheikh, CEO Northern Advocacy Organization.
The center is always open for the cultural fans and continuous programs will be on the discussion table for the benefit of the larger Kenyan society.
For those who joined the cultural exposure, the catching phrase remained ‘my culture, my heritage and my language is the very foundation upon which my identity is built as a Somali’.