Obituary: Hussein Sheikh Ahmed Kaddare

Renowned Somali writer, historian, educator and inventor Dr Hussein Sheikh Ahmed
“Kaddare” Hilowle aged 81 has died in Mogadishu. He played a vital role in the development of the Somali orthography.

Born in 1934 in Adale, a district in Somalia’s Middle Shabelle Region known for producing illustrious poets such as Mohamed Gacal Xaayow, Abdulle Raage Taraawiil and the anti-Italian poet Sheikh Ahmed Wacdiyow among others; Kaddare was born into traditional Somali pastoral household and from an early age received his religious education. Later, Kaddare would travel to Mogadishu to complete his secular education in schools taught by Italian missionaries. It was around this time that he joined the Somali Youth League, a nationalist movement which advocated for the independence of Somalia. Kaddare also became the chairman of the Somali Youth Council, an umbrella organization of the youth organizations operating in Somalia at the time.

In 1952, he invented the Kaddare script which he hoped would solve the confusions and challenges pertaining to the writing of the Somali language which until then has not been standardized. Numerous committees tasked to the creation of a Somali script were in agreement that the Kaddare script was the most robust and accurate indigenous script. Following the military coup of 1969, the military junta created a technical committee in 1972 which included Kaddare to standardize the Somali script. The committee ultimately selected the Latin Script with the Kaddare script coming in a close second.

In 1972, the same year the Latin script was officially adopted, Kaddare wrote his now famous novel Waasuge iyo Warsame which dealt with the issue of identity in Somalia.

Waasuge iyo Warsame a novel that relates the 30-day journey of two Somali men, Waasuge Waranside, and Warsame Hawl. The novel explores the various Somali identities who are brought together in a bus with Mogadishu as final destination. Waasuge, a well-known man who lives in the city of Jowhar. He comes from an agricultural family typical of many of the people from the region and he sustains his family on his agricultural work. Warsame, on the other hand, is nomad pastoralist from the Mudug region in central Somalia. The two men have both extensive knowledge about Somali history, culture and language, and are not too shy to brag about it during their journey to Mogadishu. Among the other passengers, is a young man with distinct European features named Dhaanraac.

Various customs and traditions are brought into light by epic stanzas of prose and poetry in a battle between Waasuge and Warsame, as each man proudly illustrates with words the beauty of their hometowns as well as imagery of sights they pass by. The novel further explores the notions of displacement and identity in a global setting, the global setting being Mogadishu, and in essence puts into question the homogeneity of the Somali people. The social and political discussions in this novel, together with the relevance of the lyrical poetic debates, and the infusion of important historic events that reflect the different moods of the Somali people, make this novel an important piece for Somali history altogether.

A prolific writer, Kaddare also wrote and directed numerous plays; among them, Nimaan joogin ma jiro (The absent man does not exist). Shortly after the publication of his novel, Kaddare was selected to head the Somali Academy of Arts and Culture in 1974. He was also a gifted poet who played a decisive role in the classic poetical duels of the deelleey.

Dr Hussein Sheikh Ahmed Kaddare also enjoyed a fairly successful political career. In the 960s, he ran for a parliamentary position from his ancestral town of Adale, in a campaign he ultimately lost. Following his unsuccessful campaign, he became a director of Radio Mogadishu. In 1991, after the election of President Ali Mahdi Mohamed, he was nominated to be Somalia’s Information Minister.

Dr Kaddare died in Mogadishu on February 1st of this year. He leaves a celebrated legacy in Somalia’s literal history.

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