Somalis: A nation of poets

06 April 2018

The Citizen Led Engagement Programme will deliver four community-based engagement pilot projects that build relationships and develop civic leadership in communities that currently do not have a ‘voice’ in City Hall. 

We asked Hanna Ali, Project Manager of Kayd, to tell us about their project, ‘Somalis: A nation of poets’

Please tell us what the project is about, and why do you feel it was important to do it? 

This project is designed to find out what poetry means to Somali Londoners and why it is so prevalent in the Somali community. There seems to be a high proportion of Somalis who consider themselves poets in the city of London and our aim is to find out why and what it means.

In our survey, we want to hear from new voices of all ages from the Somali community to find out if poetry is a useful vehicle to promote stronger integration in the life of the city. We felt that this was an important theme to research, because in understanding the context of the role of poetry within Somali culture, we can get an insight into the things that matter to so many Somalis. We can learn precisely what the issues, concerns and desires are for those who write and experience poetry in their daily lives. In short, we believe that in order to understand Somali culture, we must first look to Somali poetry.

What have been the challenges? 

Due to the high number of poets within the Somali community, the challenge has been to ensure that our interviews are not limited or biased towards those who have expressed an interest in poetry beforehand. We want to make sure that our research and data reflects the Somali community in London at large. 

What do you think are the opportunities? 

This research is an invaluable opportunity for us to research the role of poetry in the Somali community and culture. In focusing on the diaspora in London, we can also investigate how a new generation of British-Somalis has influenced Somali poetry by writing in English, and how this has affected the community. We also hope to showcase and unearth new talent and give a platform to those who otherwise may feel that there is none. 

What would you like to happen next?

Our aim is to nurture talent and give new poets the platform to showcase their work. This will be in April with City Hall as well as during Somali Week Festival in October. We will be following the journey of a poet from never having performed or shared their poetry to performing in front of a large audience!

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