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ABDULLAHI MA’ALIM DHODAAN: The Legendary and Cognizant Somali Poet- PART I

By Ali Sheikh A. Dhagaweyne

Abdullahi Maalim Ahmed alias DHODAAN was born and brought up in Sirrow——a small village in Daratole district of Doollo Zone or Wardheer zone in the year 1941. Before death hounds him in the year 2013 at the aged of 72, Abdullahi Maalim Dhodaan was unbeatable star in the Somalis artistic theater (Poems).

Dhoodaan at the age of nineteen, due to his sensational love for exploring the outside world, was rather another push-factor that expedited his departure from his birthplace (Doolo Zone) so as to venture into the world all alone. Early 1958 was the turning point of what later became his political dogmatism that remained insuperable to separate from his wistful nationalistic poetic consciousness–an ardent belief that dominated all of his wits and wisdoms throughout his life. Mid of the same year, young Abdullahi Maalim Ahmed (Dhoodaan) joined Nasrullah Movement—a political party organized to resist the Haile Selassie regime in the Ogaden region. This marked as the first journey for his external contact and exposure to the outside world of conflicting ideology. Instantaneously, Dhoodaan took first-hand oath of loyalty and allegiance to Nasrullah Movement late in the same year of 1958. Subsequently, he was recruited and trekked to join the ongoing skeleton training sessions conducted in Daratoole with other recruits of that year.

Ali Sheikh keenly listening to poet Dhoodaan. Picture taken 2005 in Jigjiga

Abdullahi Maalim Dhodaan could not endure the corporal fatigue of the training sessions and instead thought of using his plentiful creativity to divert attention of his senior trainees. He then started composing patriotic poems to kindle jingoistic sentiments of the newly recruited youths as well as risible poetic lyrics to energize young trainees in the middle of the training sessions. His artistic prowess and poetic potentiality could safe him from strenuous training fatigue as it could cause his trainees brief inattention.

In those olden days, for the oral societies in the Horn of Africa [read Somalis], the only media venue they hard for communicating important messages–be it war alert between tribes, peace and resolution between or among tribes, external insurgencies to mention but few, was through the soft-art mainly poetic lyrics and songs. In those good days, that is when the seasons throughout year remained green with full of pasture and browse, diverse Somali tribes invited their best poets, singers, Dhaanto violinists so as to brag the might of their oral arts [literature]. In mid 1960, Dhoodaan was asked if he could participate in the Nasrullah General Assembly Conference held in Laan-Mulaaxo location that fell under Dhagahbour district in Jarar zone.

Hence, one of the reasons why Dhoodaan was invited to participate in the Nasrullah conference that was in support of Somalia gaining independence. This was then expected to occur in a matter of a few weeks. Thus Nasrullah’s rank and file members felt to show to the Somali tribes attending the conference about the emerging young Dhoodaan and his commanding but unabated poetic dexterity that eventually imperiled all senior celebrities’ Somali poets of the time. At the release of his first poem stanza gob-smacked everyone, his unique lyric tune utterly astounded thus persistently exposed everyone in the Nasrullah Conference into a state of frenzied admiration.  The Somalis’ love of oratory art was always in unabated circumstances and in so doing, it was unthinkable for such big event to pass without entertainment as well as inter-tribal poetry competitions. In such historical events or conference gatherings, those olden days were obviously reserved opportunities geared towards awarding the best poets of the year.  In May 1960 at the age of 21, Abdullahi Maalim Ahmed alias Dhoodaan was honored as the best poet celebrity among the Somalis in the Horn of Africa Region, a title he kept up until he succumbed to his death in May 2012.

Dhoodaan was first exposed to the Somalia (Mogadishu) soil in the years 1958 when one of his close paternal uncles, Sheikh Bihi Adan Sagal took with him for further indoctrination. Sheikh Bihi was among the founders and top leaders of the Nasrullah Resistance Movement in the Ogaden region. Dhoodaan was endowed with the possession of boundless inventory of poems. He was exceptionally new-fangled, ethical talebearer and a pointer of public immoralities reaping within the society. Dhoodaan designated to himself the role of self-anointed perfectionist of poems through the use of diverse poetic graces as well as other lyrical gimmicks as a balance sheet of his artistic might.

The balance sheet of his dialectical proficiency in the field of Somali poetry theatre was evidently indicated across all his rhymes especially when one listens to his verses. The mode and the modalities of his tune and truism pulls the parts of the pleasure and appeals to the panicles of the brains. To the extent, he submitted unconditional sympathy of approval the nature and uniqueness of his God given talent, even though one might have been his lifetime opponent. In all his nearly half a century of poetic life, Dhoodaan created a balanced achievement between descriptive themes and diagnostic similes to all of his lyrical poems. Through the use of both social and political metaphors, he mastered genuine trade-off between the objectivity and relevance of his wisdom; thus, his poetic rivals could hardly see or found any weaknesses from the sonata latent of his poems.

Dhoodaan maintained the confidence to accommodate criticisms, appreciate ideas of others as well as measure his critic leniently―a character he retained throughout his stay in the artistic auditorium. Thus, I opinionate to the fact, that in the last two centuries (20th& 21st centuries) hardly any justifiable senior Somali poet of his calibre has been seen. In that, Abdullahi Maalim Dhodaan had all the explicitly certified bravery character as it was exposed across his physical, emotional and instinctive poetic life.

He was a man who talked about the crisis, such as political gimmicks, disowned conventions, and the unfair treatment of certain social classes as seen in his Duraaqsi, Gardarro, Garnaqsi and Gocasho poems among others.The weighty message, the bulky bones and lungs, the superlative lyrics of styles and the mystic scheme of his poems are described as the highest poetic dexterity ever evidenced in the Somali language. On the contrary, Dhoodan was known for his stubborn character. He exhibited a figurative model in disproving emotional darlings to political leaders, business tycoons and other societal icons to corrupt and interrupt his wits and wisdom using resource package as quid pro quo.

He never took to precipitate in poetic decisions to respond to situations under political darlings or conditional influences of monetary deal even though he might he might have been under tough circumstances of need as some would have otherwise done. He is remembered as the most genius figure in the poetry theatre that perfected the art of gauging the state of affairs of the acts of status quo as a tester of time so as to match his poetic grandiloquence. He did so with the intention to correct or to revise inappropriate socio-political situations or as a whistleblower to forewarn insidious repercussions.

Dhoodaan was truly a craftsman of the Somali language with his own gifted tools to mould poetic words in the same way an architect does with visual designs, a chef does with culinary food designs, and the manner a musician plays with chords and notes. It’s true that the power of poetry does rest in its use of selective and appropriate words of the language. Thus Abdullahi Maalim Dhoodaan was endowed with such powerful tool to create and craft words of his choice using purely Somali language as opposed to other Somali poets who constantly borrow exotic or foreign words to bridge word-gap of their poems. In short, the late Dhoodaan protested against the false political consciousness of Somalia towards the Ogaden region– with so much of understanding their true political class positions as destructive forces than constructive—one of the highlight of his life.

Part II is coming soon—In shaa Allaah

Ali Sheikh A. Dhagaweyne
Email: [email protected]

Ali Sheikh is a socio-political and Cultural Analyst for the Horn of Africa Region.

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