Letter from the Editors: Xagaa 2018

Thus we found ourselves mid-summer, preparing the Xagaa 2018 issue of Hargeisa Literary Magazine, and inundated with submissions touching upon this topic, including visual and poetic references to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and even suicide.

Rites of escapism

Dear Readers,

Some say that chilly winter months lend themselves to introspection and reflection, as well as feelings of listlessness and melancholy, existential anxieties, and the “blues.” While statistics show that season and sunlight indeed play upon our moods, in truth mental illness knows no boundaries. Thus we found ourselves mid-summer, preparing the Xagaa 2018 issue of Hargeisa Literary Magazine, and inundated with submissions touching on this topic, including visual and poetic references to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and even suicide. Mental illness weaves its way through several works in this issue, sometimes subtly and elsewhere, as in Ladan Abdi’s poem “Mental Health is a Bitch Sometimes,” more assertively.  Two important works of art from the Trinidadian multi-media artist of color Marinna Shareef—“The Mental Institution” and “I’m Melting”—make appearances as well, fitting in beautifully among creative writings about mental health struggles from Somali voices.  Anisa Hagi-Mohamed works to answer deceptively complex questions in “Maxaa Kaa Maqan?” while Karima Osman and Naaima Abdi lend strength and purpose to inner and outer battles in their respective poems  مكتوب (Maktub) and Poem, Untitled (2). Mental illness is an equalizer, affecting communities across the globe without exception. Yet, only where it is acknowledged and embraced can it be challenged. We stand with those on the path to wellness, and we celebrate creative outlets as a means of expression, self-acceptance, and wholeness.

We are proud to feature some stunning works of fiction from talented writers, including Asma Ismail’s “Hinterlands” and “الحلم الجميل (Beautiful Dream)” by Saloomi, among others. It is a joy to read such a breadth of style, from harrowing tales of escape, to practical discussions among friends, to phantasmagorical explorations of paradise and what lays beyond.

We acknowledge, as well, a dual trend of digital and analog art from contributors. In the twenty-first century, art springs forth from software and stylus as often as paintbrush and pencil. To wit, you will find on our pages charming and symbolic sketches like “Du’a (Prayer)” from Asha Mohamed, while Shukri Janagale brings “Abaayo and Awoowe” boldly into the modern age, and a collection of soft, loving portraits from Nuura Axmed, including “Macooyo and the First Granddaughter,” which we fell for long before we discovered she had rendered them from photographs on her smartphone! A series of fantastical digital artwork ties together these parallel lineages, featuring black-and-white drawings imposed on photographs, from a digital collaboration between two remarkable visual creatives.

And as always, we are grateful for the the wonderful photography submissions that give visual life to this digital platform.

Enjoy our second issue, made possible thanks to contributions from talented creatives and thanks to you, Dear Reader, for your interest and encouragement.

From Hargeisa, wishing you a healthful and creative Xagaa 2018.

Salwa & Erin, Editors


Ahmed Magare (Artist) is a multidisciplinary artist, poet, and writer and is a member of the Birmingham-based international writers group, Writers Without Borders. He is originally from Somalia. He migrated with his family to the Netherlands during the Somali Civil War, aged three, and lived there with his family for his teenage years, eventually moving to England to pursue an education in creative arts. In his writing, he explores the notion of hyper-dislocation and the experience of living in the West, through the poetic and static lenses of self-reflection and perseverance. He navigates mentally between Somalia and the West, questioning states of longing and belonging, and commenting on sociopolitical and cultural subjects in the spaces of global Somalis.

Find Ahmed’s books on Amazon: When Heroes Hide Behind Curtain Ropes, and Vessels.

Twitter@ahmedmagare

الحلم الجميل

I'm Melting

لقد حلمت حلما جميلا وناقصا ، رأيتني دخلت الجنة مع أناس آخرين لم أكن أعرفهم في الدنيا ، كان بعضهم في قبور مجاورة لقبري ، تلاقت أعيننا فور أن قذفنا من حفرنا ، جميعنا تعانقنا ؛ فقد كنا نلتقي لأول مرة منذ ان تجاورت بيوتنا ، كنت أسمع احيانا ضحكاتهم وأحيانا اخرى صوت جمجمة بعضهم وهي تتكسر كالزجاج .

حوسبنا و نجانا الله ، ثم بدأنا نلتمس طريقنا إلى الجنة ،وفي الطريق لم أكن أركض بسرعة البرق و لم أركب حصانا طائرا مثل كثير ممن مروا فوقنا .

وبالرغم من أن سيئاتي لم تكن كثيرة ، وحتى بعد أن فشل جلدي وأصابعي في توريطي ؛ إلا أن حسناتي ذهبت مع آخرين ادعوا أنني غبتهم ؛ لهذا فقد توجب علي المشي مع أصدقائي الذين كان نصفهم يزحف على بطنه ، كنا عراة ، وكان الرجال يختلسون النظر إلينا ولا يتورعون عن التحرش بمن تصل أيديهم ، هكذا هم دائما .

لا يوجد رجل حي يفوت على نفسه فرصة النظر إلى امرأة عارية حتى ولو كانت في أرض المحشر .

أما نحن النساء فكانت عيوننا معلقة بالأعلى ننتظر توصيلة من أحد الطائرين ، كما عهدوا علينا في الدنيا ننتظر التوصيلات .

واحدة منا فقط حصلت عليها .

كنا حفاة ، والدم بسيل أنهارا من أقدمنا ، لم تكن هناك سماء أو أرض ؛ فقد طويت كطي السجل للكتب ،

هل يمكنك تصور ذلك ؟!

بقيت فقط الجنة والنار والطريق الذي بينهما ، اذهاننا اختلت ، وأفرغت من كل التصورات ، أو الذكريات ، الشيء الوحيد الذي بقي من أيام الزمن الجميل كانت هيئاتنا البشرية .

فقدنا صديقين في ذلك الطريق الحاد والمستقيم جدا ، وأيضا صديق آخر علق في منطقة تسمى باﻷعراف ، أخبرنا أنه قاتل مع طارق بن زياد في إحدى معاركه بدون إذن والدته.

لم أكن لأفضل رفقة رجل جاهد مع ابن زياد وبدون إذن من والدته !

وأخيرا وصلنا أبواب الجنة ، تنفسنا الصعداء جميعا عندما رأينا جناحا رضوان الخضراء .

كنا آخر سبعة دخلوا إلى الجنة ، و بعد أن اغتسلنا في نهر الحياة ، تغيرت أشكالنا ، وصار لوننا نحن الفتيات الأربعة خلاصة كل الألوان مجتمعة في أجسادنا المصنوعة من الكريستال ، سألنا الملك المشرف على ترفيهنا ما إذا كنا نرغب بلقاء ربنا ، واحدة منا أرادت ذلك ، وأخرى طلبت الإجتماع مع أهلها ، في هذه الأثناء صديقنا المتحرش اندس في بحيرة كانت تغتسل فيها حور لإحدى الصالحات ، وبدأ عمله فورا ، ابتسم له الملك وأخبره أن له سبعون يشبهن مثلهن .

فعلة صديقي تحمل في الجنة اسما آخر ، وبالتالي فهي لا تعتبر جربمة ؛ لأن الحور لم تخلق إلا لمتعة الرجال من اهل الجنة ، وأيضا نساء الدنيا ادخلن فقط لهذا الغرض .

الأربعة الباقون قرروا الإحتفال ، جاءتنا سرر مرفوعة تطفو كالسفنة على السطح ، حملتنا إلى خيمة واسعة ، وجميلة ، هذا كل ما يمكنني القول عنها ، كنت فاتنة وأنا متكئة على ذاك السرير ، أتتنا طاولات لا نهاية لها مليئة بفواكه تتلألأ وتأتي إليك بنفسها ، وشربنا حتى الثمالة بأكواب موضوعة .

احتفالنا استمر لمدة خمسين سنة .

كانت الجنة تعج بالنساء على عكس ما توقعت ؛ فكل رجل كانت له أكثر من خمسين امرأة ، وهكذا فالنساء كن أضعافا مضاعفة بالنسبة للرجال .

بعد قرن من الزمن كنت أعيش فيها عيشة رغيدة وضجرة ،

وكنت اتمنى لو علقت مع المجاهد ، أو أن لا بنفتح قبري خطأ وأبقى منطوية مع الأرض إلى الأبد ، حينها جاء أحد صديقاي من النار بعد أن عفى الله عنه وأدخله في فسيح جناته ، ويبدو أنه – مثلي – مل من النساء والرجال إلى آخر تلك المياعة قال لي “وهل أنا طفل رضيع كي أشرب تلك الكمية من اللبن كل يوم” ثم أخبرني عن جهنم ، كانت مليئة بالأحداث المثيرة ، تحالف نابليون مع استالين ويصارعون في حكم سقرة حلفا آخر مكونا من الفايكنغ برئاسة هتلر ومعه أبوجهل ونتنياهو المتعاركان بدورهم ،[حدث في النار أن تحالف هتلر مع الساميين ] وقال أن سقرة يحكمها حلف نابليون .

بعض من شياطين الإنس انقلبوا على حراس زمهريرة ، ويخوضون حروبا ضارية ضد مالك .

اسكندر الأكبر أمر جميع العلماء الذين كانوا فيها – وفي الحقيقة كلهم موجودون هناك – أن يقوموا باختراع سلاح يمكنه من الإستيلاء على النار ومن بعدها الجنة وربما على العرش وإبليس يقدم مشوراته كالعادة.

الطموحون في الدنيا طموحون في الآخرة .

وودي آلان يخرج فيلما كوميديا عن أهل الجنة ويعرض في سينما [الحطمة ] المزدهر ، في الدرك الخامس بعد أن يتم شي المشاهدين وتبديل جلودهم .

كتيبة من الملائكة حضرت الفيلم .

الحكماء والفلاسفة يجزمون أنهم في الجنة وأن النار تقع في الجانب الآخر .

شكسبير يكتب نهاية سعيدة لروميو وجولييت ، وكل العشاق اجتمعوا معا .

أنا وصديقي عرفنا أننا جزء من تلك الأحداث وأننا لا ننتمى إلى الجنة ، دلتنا الأفعى وقطفنا تفاحة ، فلما ذقنا الشجرة بدت لنا سوءاتنا وقيل لنا اهبطوا بعضكم لبعض عدو ، ولكم في الأرض مستقر ومتاع إلى حين ، وأصبحنا آدم وحواء المطرودين من الأعلى .

صحوت وأنا أنتظر بفارغ صبر [ذلك الحين ].


Marinna Shareef (Artist) is a 20 year old Trinidadian multidisciplinary artist who specialises in manipulating both digital and physical media to portray her everyday feelings. She is inspired by the magnitude and mystery of her emotions that she experiences as someone who deals with bipolar disorder, using visual imagery to organize her thoughts into a way that she can better understand.

I’m Melting
Mixed Media collage on greyboard.
This piece depicts how a depressive episode feels when I’m fighting the urge to give up.

Instagram: @mahrinnart
YouTube: MarinnaS

Saloomi (Author) graduated from Hargeisa University, and writes in both Arabic and Somali. Saloomi resides in Hargeisa.

Maxaa Kaa Maqan?

Waxaa iqa maqan,
acceptance.
That depression is not a myth,
A conspiracy of gaalo,
A break from tradition,
A rebellion against religion,
A coup,

62 Amani _ Safa

Waxaa iga maqan:
peace of mind.
A respite from overthinking,
of resting at night, like others,
and entering the garden of dreams.
Instead I lie awake regretting what was before,
anxious of what is to come,
As the present continues to elude me.

Waxaa iga maqan:
a mental burden, lifted.
I carry the expectations,
of achieving dreams, unfulfilled,
of crossing boundaries, un-navigated,
attaining accolades and diplomas,
of carrying the torch of hope
with my bare hands.
of not wincing, not complaining,
As the fiery flames of this forced role
engulf me, completely,
leaving no residue of who I was,
or what I could have been.

Waxaa iqa maqan:
belonging. To feel at home,
in my own home, in my own bones.
Not too black for this crowd,
too white for the other,
too foreign for this circle,
too western for the other.
How can I identify,
when all that I identify with rejects me?
I am a nameless, faceless ghost,
longing for and seeking out,
familiar leaves, friendly waters,
founded foundations,
something to call my own.

Waxaa iqa maqan,
acceptance.
That depression is not a myth,
A conspiracy of gaalo,
A break from tradition,
A rebellion against religion,
A coup,
Overthrowing all that you know,
Disregarding all that you do,
It’s an illness,
A dark cloud,
A swallowed pain,
A bottomless well of emptiness.

Waxaa iqa maqan:
honesty.
That you too hurt,
that in the wrinkles beneath your eyes,
and between the gaps in your teeth,
on the calluses of your palms,
that you carry pain
that traveled miles with you.
That you too, are hurting.
That bloodshed can be washed from your hands,
though not so easily from your mind.
That you feel alone,
that you feel without a home,
that you lie awake many nights,
worrying about what has been,
and what is yet to come.
That I put a name to your pain,
that I put a name to my pain,
that I put a name to our pain,
that together, we can overcome.


The above image is part of a collaboration between:

Amina M.
Instagram: @4nine2 
Website: www.4nine2.com

&
Safa M., professional photographer based in Vancouver, BC.

 


Anisa Hagi-Mohamed (Author) is a dedicated mother, wife, teacher and writer. She spends most of her time lost in thought or daydreaming, cooking/foodography and starting projects she knows she will never finish. She hopes to one day publish a novel, memoir and cookbook, all in that order. She blogs at www.anisahagi.com 

About her poem, “Maxaa Kaa Maqan?,” Anisa says: Often, when the elder generation inquires about the younger generations’ mental health issues and illnesses, their first reaction is usually to ask: Maxaa kaa maqan? Meaning what is missing (from you)? Shelter, a warm bed, food, and a plethora of material, tangible possessions are ticked off. Parents can’t fathom what might trouble a mind, if a stomach is full, if all the faculties of hearing, seeing, etc. are working.

Mental Health is a Bitch Sometimes

The Mental Institution

I’ve been trying to collect myself.
I’ve been told to take it easy.
But self care turns into isolation.
I feel like
I’m not worth it.
I looked at myself in the mirror and wonder if the pain will ever leave my face.
I make wudu and ask god to forgive the mistakes I’ve made.
I hold my hands up high and make dua and cry to allah to help me find happiness again.
I’m broken and still need fixing.
My new canvases are there unused and still in plastic.
The love I had for creating is gone.
This keyboard laughs at me with dust and a full battery.
It feels like the more push myself towards dreams, the faster I want to run away from it.
I’m stuck.
I’ve been in the same spot for hours and I can’t move.
The only thing moving is my thoughts.
And I’m here, creating, erasing, creating, rereading.
Without art I would have lost access to my most honest thoughts.
Thoughts that my mouth can’t say.
So I’m silent.
But, here I am creating, existing, and telling myself:
“You are worth it, you are beautiful, your work matters, and above all, you’re still alive. And that’s a beautiful thing.”


Marinna Shareef (Artist) is a 20 year old Trinidadian multidisciplinary artist who specialises in manipulating both digital and physical media to portray her everyday feelings. She is inspired by the magnitude and mystery of her emotions that she experiences as someone who deals with bipolar disorder, using visual imagery to organize her thoughts into a way that she can better understand.

The Mental Institution
Acrylic Fluid and Resin on Stretched Canvas.
The above piece was inspired by the collective chaotic thoughts that occur within a mental institution.

Instagram: @mahrinnart
YouTube: MarinnaS

Ladan Abdi (Author) is a Somali-American painter and writer born in Salem, OR, raised in Corvallis, and currently living in Portland. Her artwork represents her love for her culture, religion, nature, and warm colors. Ladan’s hope is that others can relate to her experiences and hardships through her writing. She has performed poetry for events, fundraisers, and art shows in the Portland metro area. In 2018, her artwork will be featured in the new Virginia Garcia Hospital in Beaverton, OR. On social media, Ladan posts art related on topics related to identity, self-love, mental health, and healing.

Instagram: @flowers4ladan
Twitter: @afrocan_dream
Tumblr: afrocandream

Breathe In and Out

I refuse to sit with it, to make small talk
I am done writing about it,
giving it my undivided attention, to bathe in it
sometimes I look at the moment
when I coughed up small parts of my soul

thumbnail_IMG_1291

I did not find a forever home in my past
the trauma however sometimes comes back
for an acknowledgement, eye contact

I refuse to sit with it, to make small talk
I am done writing about it,
giving it my undivided attention, to bathe in it
sometimes I look at the moment
when I coughed up small parts of my soul and I think to myself

even in that moment I kept on breathing


Nuura Axmed (Author & Artist) posts poetry and personal essays about identity, mental health, and travel at her blog Thoughts of a Big Head. Nuura is also a visual artist who focuses on the attire (hijab) of her subjects, and the overall mood of the piece, in lieu of emphasizing facial features. She enjoys taking photographs of her grandmother, and making digital edits on her phone. She resides in London.

The above artwork is titled: Self Portrait

Instagram: @wordsbynourz

 

Warda Means Rose

In the evening she would return home to prepare dinner for Quran saar, swift fix to the supposed jinn residing in my body. There were endless hours of sitting, encircled by sheikhs, learned men with lengthy beards, some dyed orange red and others plainly gray.

A Submission 29

The man wearing the white jacket was much older this time. He dragged a wooden chair out in front of me and sat still. White papers hung onto his clipboard, a thin pen held over his right knee.

He smiled while studying my face. On his were wrinkles at every patch of brown skin. I thought of Awoowe, his gentle smile and frail body lying across my mother’s bed. The final hours of his life shrinking him away till he could take no more breaths.

“Warda, my girl. Thank you for seeing me. Can you tell me when you last received treatment?”

His smile was gone and the kindness in his eyes evaporated. I should have known him to be another informant, greedy for my secrets. I wouldn’t share a thing this time.

He peered down at the papers, flipping back and forth between them.

“It says you were on your own for some time.” Another smile, “Kaaligatha iiyo Kariimka…”

Just you and your Most Generous God.

It had been years since I heard that last.

My Hooyo came to mind. In the afternoons she fed me. After I would watch her small silhouette behind the beige and white dotted curtain beside my bed. She would roam around the home, holding sweet incense to every corner. Last was a gentle kiss over my head as she left me alone to my thoughts.

Back then the voices were less lethal:

“Why has she left you to yourself again?”

“She won’t come back this time.”

“They’re coming to get you.”

“You’ll be dead before you know it.”

Hooyo despised my illness and blamed it on the evil eye. Other days, on the jinn.

In the evening she would return home to prepare dinner for Quran saar, swift fix to the supposed jinn residing in my body. There were endless hours of sitting, encircled by sheikhs, learned men with lengthy beards, some dyed orange red and others plainly gray.

Ayats free falling from their lips. Some voices like thunder and others soft as velvet.

“When did your mother pass?” the old man asked me from his chair.

My eyes searched the room until I found her at the back, carrying the same incense in her hands, swaying alongside the smoke. She stopped suddenly,  to stare at me.

“She’s there, just behind you.” I told him. The old man turned back around.

“Don’t you see her? Don’t you smell it?”

“Smell what?” The old man asked.

Hooyo held a finger to her lips before slipping into the hall, leaving a trail of smoke behind her. She would return again when mentioned by name.

“You just missed her.”

The old man frowned and scribbled things onto his white papers. He was displeased at her leaving.

“Don’t worry, she’ll return soon. She always does.”


FARDOSA SULEIMAN (Photographer) is nineteen years old and from San Jose, California. She began taking photographs just one year ago.

Instagram: @fvrdosa
Twitter: @fvrdosa

HALIMA HAGI-MOHAMED (Author) is a Somali-American writer. She was born in Nairobi, Kenya and raised in Fresno, California. Her writing deals with themes of family, mental health, identity, and religion. Last year she published her first book of short stories titled Amilah.

Halima’s short stories can be found at halimawrites.com
Instagram: @halimawrites