An ad hoc committee of Canadian-Somalis in Ottawa informally requested the world renowned Somali writer, Nuruddin Farah, to come and deliver a lecture in Ottawa. The committee members were merely motivated by their admiration of Farah’s work and had no expectation that their invitation would be accepted. Farah, has not only accepted the invitation, but has gracefully waived his normal fees, which was a tremendous relief to the organizers who at that point did not have any sponsors.
The committee decided that what would be beneficial is to have a session where participants, through the exchange of views and ideas, share and learn from Nuruddin’s wealth of experience, and hear him talk about how he came to find his creative talent in exile. The organizers found an earlier interview where Nuruddin, in an article titled “In Praise of Exile” had succinctly articulated live in exile:
In contrast to the above quote, the organizers pondered on the fact that for many Somalis in the Diaspora exile has not been liberating, to the contrary, it is oftentimes painful, uncertain, and memory is a burden for many – remembering is heavy and often leads to unrealistic or over idealized past which makes the present less enjoyable and many look forward to a return of the golden past rather than moving forward. Hence, in this case memory is active to the extent it blocks creativity and living in the present.
With support from Carleton University’s Institute of African Studies, which hosted the event, other Ottawa community organizations, and CBC’s own Adrian Harewood as the MC, the Ottawa community came out, on a frigid winter evening, in large numbers and listened to what has proven to be a fascinating literary event. The organizing committee, and all those who came, Somalis and non-Somalis, were blown away at the richness of the lecture and the questions and answers session that followed. True to all the accolades he has received over the years, Nuruddin Farah has delivered a classic lecture full of wisdom rooted in his exceptionally very rich life experience, laced with few light-hearted self deprecating jokes, and an overall amazing delivery style, eloquent and articulate presentation.
The take-away message from Nuruddin’s Ottawa lecture, (there are more than one key message here), for the diasporic Somalis is this: if we want our children to thrive, then we owe it to them, and to ourselves, to plant roots in our adapted homelands. We should not waste the opportunity to recreate our lives by getting stuck and dwelling on what we have lost; rather we should focus on what we have gained, even if life in exile does not perfectly match our ideal aspirations of what should have been.
Contact: Fowsia Abdulkadir
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