Somaliland cultural festival stresses freedom and tolerance

July 2009 -

When does one qualify to be an autonomous state? When there is a government? A name? A president? Somaliland has all of these, and by the end of July 2009 it'll even have its own cultural festival. The Mooge cultural festival will be held between the 22nd and 27th in Hargeysa, the capitol of Somaliland. This autonomous region, with its own government and president, is bordering the troubled part of Somalia but is "absolutely safe," says Ayan Mahamoud who is organizing the festival.

For several years Mahamoud has lived in The Netherlands, enabling her to comment on this festival in Dutch, on the phone from Hargeysa. "Of course this festival alone cannot bring recognition of our country, but hopefully it can make people understand the reality on the ground," says Mahamoud. Somaliland's independence, which was declared in 1991 after the fall of the Somali dictator Siad Barre, is not being recognized by other countries, neither by the United Nations.

"On a cultural level there is completely nothing in Somaliland," says Mahamoud. Even though Hargeysa used to be home of the majority of Somalia’s theatres. The country underwent a war in the period leading up to the declaration of independence in '91. "Artists come from the Diaspora in Europe to perform at this festival. But there are also artists from Somalia who haven’t performed in fifteen or twenty years, and now start performing again."

The festival in Hargeisa is named after Mohamed Mooge Libaan, a singer/freedom fighter from Somaliland who was murdered in 1984 by supporters of the regime in charge. "Mohamed Mooge is the only artist from the region who hasn't commercialized his art. Naming this festival after him stands for freedom and tolerance," explains Ayan Mahamoud.

People interested in visiting the Mooge festival, which is funded by OxfamNovib, Dahabshill and Daallo Airlines, can fly to Hargeysa through Nairobi, Addis Ababa or Djibouti.