one of the famous traditions of Banaadir, Henna, a dye used in the Arabian Peninsula and Orient, comes in red and black powder, with red henna being the most commonly used. The source of the powder is a tropical shrub, the shoots and leaves of which are used to make this dye.
Among women, hand and foot painting, sing henna and khidaab dyes, are popular. The artist is generallya women who uses the plant-based dyes to apply elaborately stylised paintings that cover the foot up to the ankle or the hand up to the wrist. Its application often signifies happy occasions, such as a marriage.
The Banaadiri Music
Music and songs are probably the most emotional forms of human expression.
Banaadir music is not written, and its composers and musicians are not literate in the Western sense. Typically they learn from an individual teacher or a succession of teachers, not from books; many are self-taught.
Banaadiri music combines African and Arabic influences. Traditional instruments are the shareero, a type of lyre; the Oud, a Yemenite keyboard lute; and the buun and simbaar, types of trumpets. While dancing to music is important in Banaadiri culture, people dance mainly during ceremonies and courtship.
Banaadiri songs are most frequently popular love songs dealing with romance, joy, and sorrow.
By mixing the performance with music and plays, banaadir appeals to a greater variety of people, as well as, the famous Kabebey, dance with its energising movements which brought so many awards and prestige to Somalia in the past inter-African or international tours and stage performances.
Banaadiri’s most famous musicians are: Dr Daahir Nuur Raafi, Aweys Geeddow, Iikar Sheeikh Ali, Amiin Haji Ahmed Macoow, Ahmed Naaji Sacad, Ali Osmaan Daroog, Suufi Ali, Qaasim Hiloowle, Macoow Aw diinle, Ahmed Cawad Rabsho, Abdulqadir Nuureyni, Suldaan Amiin Sheekh. Faduma Qaasim Hiloowle, Luul Jeylani Ali, Casha Cabdow and etc.
The Banaadiri Food
The Food of the Benaadiri people is among the most delicious in Somalia. This was mainly because of the contact and blending of Arab and Oriental cultures.
Traditionally breakfast start
Sambusi - one of the main dishes of Ramadan
s with a cup of Arabic coffee and Dango which is popcorn. You are then served with Sharur which is whole coffee beans, pan cooked with oil under a wood fire oven. This is followed by Cambulo, which is red beans with sweet corn cooked and eaten sharur, a little bit of sugar may be added. The above dish is prepared for people who go to prayer early in the morning and usually served after prayer.
A very popular lunch is the Soor (polenta), which is, crushed grain cooked in boiling water, this is usually served with meat or fish or yogurt. The rice is cooked on its own with Arabic or Oriental spices or with the meat. During the last few years the traditional Banaadiri food has changed, especially under the influence of the Italians, who have introduced food like Spaghetti. A variety of side dishes and salads are served dressed simply with fresh lemon juice.
Fish was also widely available at the market fish stalls. It was eaten often in Banaadiris home and was cheap and very delicious especially for dinner with Mufo which is corn meal bread.
During Ramadan (fasting month) and at special occasions, people like to eat Sambusi which is pastry parcels filled with meat, vegetables, chillies and onions, and also Bejiyo which is mung beans, mixed with garlic, onion and chilli. There are also a few sweets in Banaadir culinary culture; for example Xalwo, which is made of sugar, corn flour and ghee, and is used mainly in ceremonies such as weddings and religious festivals, is very popular Shushumo which is a kind of cookie made of flour and sugar. Sisin seasame seeds with sugar. Singooni is a pastry parcel filled with coconut and sugar. Meso is cooked eggs, sugar and ghee.
In a Banaadiri house meals are arranged on a cloth or mat that is spread out on the floor with separate dishes and platters of food, plates and cutlery. A few years ago, and also nowadays especially at wedding ceremonies, you would perhaps experience eating from one large platter using the fingers of the right hand..
In a country like Somalia, coastal towns, especially Banaadir, which have been exposed for centuries to contacts with the Arabs, Persians, Indians, Swahilis and with the Muslim world in general, influences in style are to be expected and can be observed in the architecture as well as in the language, in the jewels, clothes and objects for everyday use.
These objects offer more than just the potential to charm a collector. In fact they are a significant resource for ethnological research. Although no study has been carried out so far, their quantity and the skilled craftsmanship often reveal them to possess an important place in Somali culture.
Banaadiri Arts, Crafts & Lifestyles
The geographical proximity to the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf, and the Banaadiri’s seafaring and trade practice resulted in constant traffic of commerce and human interactions and exchanges of ideas, which have profoundly influenced the motifs of the arts, crafts and lifestyles. Therefore, the workmanship of the Banaadiri’s, and their expertise in woodcrafts, jewellery production of the Qallinshube (well-respected silver-minter group) and mastery in fashioned clothes is well recognised
The first industry established along the Banaadir coast was weaving, dating back to the tenth century and today cloth weaving remains one of the area?s main art forms.
In 1330, the Arab traveller Ibn Battuta wrote of Somalia's thriving cloth industry:
In this place (Banaadir) are manufactured unequalled woven fabrics named after it, which are exported from there to Egypt and elsewhere.
As a crossroads between Africa and the Middle East, Somali
Necklace with pendant (Gablalow xarfo iyo gabasha iyo qasab)
A, especially the Banaadir coast, was a pivotal point of trade, linking ports from Egypt to India. Its capital of Mogadishu sits on the Indian Ocean, 1300 kilometres from the Gulf of Aden and equidistant from Cairo, Baghdad and the trading cities of Indias south-western coast. It was once a major centre of the trade in spices, aromatic gums, ivory and textiles. Somalia had rich crops of papayas, grapefruit, bananas, and mangoes and, above all, cotton. The fields of the Juba-Shabele land plain were dotted with cotton plants. Somalis produced over 350,000 pieces of cloth annually from the fertile ground. Because the ginning and weaving processes traditionally fell to lower-caste Somali tribes, the product was cheap enough to export successfully to countries like India, Egypt and Kenya.
The white cloth was also the Somali national dress. One length of it, known in traders Arabic as Futa, wrapped every mans waist as a long skirt. Another shorter piece, called Go’, draped the torso like a shawl. Women wore a long wrap called Guntino.
By the last decade of the last century, however, the white futa Banaadiri had been completely replaced by western clothes, grey sheeting manufactured by western countries to the dimensions of the Somali skirt.
The Italian colonists introduced European style clothing. A drop in the world cotton market made production and transportation elsewhere very competitive. These market forces led to the near eradication of the Banaadiri futa.
Today, as a result, Somalias southern ports of Marka and Barawa no longer bustle with commerce and their medieval fortifications crumble in the wind and tides. So far, the weavers have survived against the odds. They have survived because, resourcefully they introduced design and colour into their weaving, developing - or discovering - a new substantial market among their own people. Using locally grown vegetable dyes such as saffron and imported dyed yarns from India and Pakistan, the Banaadiri weavers began, in the late 1950s, to weave brilliant reds, blues, yellows, blacks and purples into their futas and guntinos, giving their people traditional cloths to use for marriages, funerals, furniture, war dancing and everyday farming.
Nowadays you see men wear a Ma’aawiis, a brightly coloured cloth, similar to an Indonesian sarong. With this they may wear a Western shirt or wear Western dress and cover their heads with Kofia Barawe, a Banaadiri cap.
Weavers invented dozens of patterns with names like teeth and goats in the sand dunes. These have become standard, and today are worn in major ceremonies and the religious festivities that keep the national spirit of this Islamic stronghold alive. The weaving methods are the same; the weaver first takes the dyed yarn in 24 batches of eight metre lengths, each tied together and marked with spittle and kohl. He dunks them into a sizing of flour and water to make the fibres stiff and strong. Then, in a stretching method called darisi, the threads are wrapped from one strategically placed vertical stick in the building to another and left to dry like a long L-shaped blanket
When the yarn has dried, it is wound onto a wooden spindle called the furfure, then unwound and tied into the heddle loops, following the colour pattern indicated by loose strings on the bamboo heddle. The weaver affixes the heddle to the loom and stretches the threads of the new warp out behind the loom to a single iron hook set in the floor seven and a half to eight metres away. There all the warp threads are gathered into one far knot, tied to a length of rope and attached to the hook. The other end of the rope is led back to the weavers seat. As weaving progresses and cloth is wound onto the cloth beam, the warp is fed towards the loom, anchoring it to the hook each time with a new knot further down the rope.
The style forms of Banaadiri jewels are typical of all the historic centres of the Indian Ocean coasts. Production techniques are traced back, generally to the technique used by the artisans of the Middle East and India. Jewels highlight the aesthetic sense of dress; many African people excel in their choice of clothing and the Banaadiri, especially their women, stand out for their regal bearing and dignity.
Most of the jewels are used in the coastal towns of Banaadir (Mogadishu, Marka, Barawe and Kismayo). They belonged to the rich merchant class of those centres, which, at the beginning of this century, appeared, at least outwardly, to be heavily influenced by Arab customs women used to go out veiled and wrapped up in black cloaks.
In the first decades of our century, we see therefore, that many families had strengthened their economic position and had accumulated considerable property, both moveable and immoveable. Also women, particularly through donations and heritage, had considerable wealth.
The wealth of gold displayed by the women of the Banaadir coastal towns was a sign of the favourable economic situation and served a double purpose; firstly, to stress the social status of the owner, in an environment characterized by a very stratified system of social classes that contrasted sharply with the ?pastoral democracy? of the interior; secondly, to constitute the womans own capital on which she could rely in the case, far from infrequent, of repudiation by her husband.
Gold ornaments were worn in everyday life, pairs of bracelets, one on each wrist, of the kinds called Buf-Buf, ?GosGos? and Gablalow. Very widespread was the Murriyad, a choker necklace made of hollow gold beads, which were filled with frankincense and gums and gave off a pleasant scent. It is especially during wedding festivities that, even nowadays, a great quantity of jewellery is displayed; the female guests wear rings on almost all fingers, two or three necklaces of different kinds and large heavy armlets (Sharuuryo).
During the dances, which mark the wedding ceremonies, Rajuul, thick silver anklets with little bells are worn. Each dancer wears one Rajuul on the right ankle and moves, beating the time with her foot, so that the bells tinkle. This custom came to Banaadir coastal towns from Hadramut (Yemen).
References and further reading
Banaadir: The Country of Harbours, Yemen Times, issue 728 of 12th April 2004
Mohamed M. Kassim, Islam and Swahili Culture on the Banadir Coast, Northeast African Studies, Vol.2 No3 (1995), pp.21-37.
Abdirahman Sh. Issa. ?Paper presented to the First Benadiri Convention in USA? (September 1999).
Alpers, E.A. ?Futa Benaadir: Continuity and change in the traditional cotton textiles industry of southern Somalia 1840-1980?. Afrique, Paris (1983), 77-78.
Nuredin Hagi Scikei, ?Banaadiri: The Renewal of a Millenary Identity?. Clueb, Bologna (2002).
Nuredin, Hagi Scikei. ?Gli Arabi del Benadir e la loro influenza sulla Somalia?. Rivista Africa e Mediterraneo No 31-32 (2000): pp. 96-102.
The author is a Banaadiri scholar and Coordinator of the Banadiri Community in New Zealand named Mohammed Abati.