The culture of people of Banaadir (part 2) [Archives:2004/781/Culture]

October 14 2004
Henna - one of the famous traditions of Banaadir
Henna – one of the famous traditions of Banaadir
Sambusi - one of the main dishes of Ramadan
Sambusi – one of the main dishes of Ramadan
Irena Knehtl & Mohammed Abati*
For Yemen Times
[email protected]

Henna, a dye used in the Arabian Peninsula and Orient, comes in red and black powder, with red henna being the most commonly used. The source of the powder is a tropical shrub, the shoots and leaves of which are used to make this dye.
Among women, hand and foot painting, sing henna and khidaab dyes, are popular. The artist is generally a women who uses the plant-based dyes to apply elaborately stylised paintings that cover the foot up to the ankle or the hand up to the wrist. Its application often signifies happy occasions, such as a marriage.

The Banaadiri Music
Music and songs are probably the most emotional forms of human expression.
Banaadir music is not written, and its composers and musicians are not literate in the Western sense. Typically they learn from an individual teacher or a succession of teachers, not from books; many are self-taught.
Banaadiri music combines African and Arabic influences. Traditional instruments are the shareero, a type of lyre; the Oud, a Yemenite keyboard lute; and the buun and simbaar, types of trumpets. While dancing to music is important in Banaadiri culture, people dance mainly during ceremonies and courtship.
Banaadiri songs are most frequently popular love songs dealing with romance, joy, and sorrow.
By mixing the performance with music and plays, banaadir appeals to a greater variety of people, as well as, the famous “Kabebey” dance with its energising movements which brought so many awards and prestige to Somalia in the past inter-African or international tours and stage performances.
Banaadiri's most famous musicians are: Dr Daahir Nuur Raafi, Aweys Geeddow, Iikar Sheeikh Ali, Amiin Haji Ahmed Macoow, Ahmed Naaji Sacad, Ali Osmaan Daroog, Suufi Ali, Qaasim Hiloowle, Macoow Aw diinle, Ahmed Cawad Rabsho, Abdulqadir Nuureyni, Suldaan Amiin Sheekh. Faduma Qaasim Hiloowle, Luul Jeylani Ali, Casha Cabdow and etc.

The Banaadiri Food
The Food of the Benaadiri people is among the most delicious in Somalia. This was mainly because of the contact and blending of Arab and Oriental cultures.
Traditionally breakfast starts with a cup of Arabic coffee and “Dango” which is popcorn. You are then served with “Sharur” which is whole coffee beans, pan cooked with oil under a wood fire oven. This is followed by “Cambulo”, which is red beans with sweet corn cooked and eaten sharur, a little bit of sugar may be added. The above dish is prepared for people who go to prayer early in the morning and usually served after prayer.
A very popular lunch is the “Soor” (polenta), which is, crushed grain cooked in boiling water, this is usually served with meat or fish or yogurt. The rice is cooked on its own with Arabic or Oriental spices or with the meat. During the last few years the traditional Banaadiri's food has changed, especially under the influence of the Italians, who have introduced food like “Spaghetti”. A variety of side dishes and salads are served dressed simply with fresh lemon juice.
Fish was also widely available at the market fish stalls. It was eaten often in Banaadiri's home and was cheap and very delicious especially for dinner with “Mufo' which is corn meal bread.
During Ramadan (fasting month) and at special occasions, people like to eat “Sambusi” (See picture) which is pastry parcels filled with meat, vegetables, chillies and onions, and also “Bejiyo” which is mung beans, mixed with garlic, onion and chilli. There are also a few sweets in Banaadir culinary culture; for example “Xalwo”, which is made of sugar, corn flour and ghee, and is used mainly in ceremonies such as weddings and religious festivals, is very popular. “Shushumo” which is a kind of cookie made of flour and sugar. “Sisin” seasame seeds with sugar. “Singooni” is a pastry parcel filled with coconut and sugar. “Meso” is cooked eggs, sugar and ghee.
In a Banaadiri house meals are arranged on a cloth or mat that is spread out on the floor with separate dishes and platters of food, plates and cutlery. A few years ago, and also nowadays especially at wedding ceremonies, you would perhaps experience eating from one large platter using the fingers of the right hand.
Banaadiri hospitality and a feeling of welcome abounds, and guests are always served more than enough food.
In a country like Somalia, coastal towns, especially Banaadir, which have been exposed for centuries to contacts with the Arabs, Persians, Indians, Swahilis and with the Muslim world in general, influences in style are to be expected and can be observed in the architecture as well as in the language, in the jewels, clothes and objects for everyday use.
These objects offer more than just the potential to charm a collector. In fact they are a significant resource for ethnological research. Although no study has been carried out so far, their quantity and the skilled craftsmanship often reveal them to possess an important place in Somali culture.

References and further reading
Banaadir: The Country of Harbours, Yemen Times, issue 728 of 12th April 2004
Mohamed M. Kassim, Islam and Swahili Culture on the Banadir Coast, Northeast African Studies, Vol.2 No3 (1995), pp.21-37.
Abdirahman Sh. Issa. “Paper presented to the First Benadiri Convention in USA” (September 1999).
Alpers, E.A. “Futa Benaadir: Continuity and change in the traditional cotton textiles industry of southern Somalia 1840-1980”. Afrique, Paris (1983), 77-78.
Nuredin Hagi Scikei, “Banaadiri: The Renewal of a Millenary Identity”. Clueb, Bologna (2002).
Nuredin, Hagi Scikei. “Gli Arabi del Benadir e la loro influenza sulla Somalia”. Rivista Africa e Mediterraneo No 31-32 (2000): pp. 96-102.

*The author is a Banaadiri scholar and Coordinator of the Banaadiri Community in New Zealand