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Johnson, John William (1971) The development of the genre heello in modern Somali poetry. MPhil thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Modern Somali poetry is manifested in the genre called heello. It is at once an expression and outgrowth of a new period of history, and a potentially strong influence on changing Somali society. This thesis is an attempt to describe the development of this poetry, its structure and imagery, and the social and historical setting from which it arose. The characteristics of form and content of the heello are from four major sources. Firstly, it is within a traditional group of genres, here called the Family of Miniature Genres, that the history of the modern poem begins, especially with the last miniature poem to develop: the belwo. Secondly, the modern poem has acquired characteristics from Somali classical poetry. Furthermore, it has borrowed some features from abroad. And lastly, it has acquired some of its structure from its own development through time.. An historical approach, beginning with the belwo, is a fruitful manner in which to view the question. The belwo, begun in 1943/45 in the British Somaliland Protectorate by a man called Cabdi 'Sinimo', was the immediate forerunner to the heello. It was the product of a period of heightened change brought about by World War II, and it offered a new medium of expression. An immediate success with Somali youth and progressive' urban populations, as well as with the new elite of the country,, it was opposed by more conservative religious leaders and elders. The changes brought about by World War II helped to develop the belwo and change it into its next form, the heello Form A, actually a Hacking together' of many belwo into one large poem. Hargeysa, emerging as an important administrative and cultural centre, became the focal area for this change. Political and patriotic themes made their way into the text of the new poem and its form also altered drastically. The heello Form B, the next step of development, then became a major tool for the new elite, as cries for independence (usually hidden in the imagery of the new poem) could be heard regularly from the radio and from tape recorders in local tea shops. By the end of its first period of development in late 1954, the light belwo had been transformed into the very much longer heello and had adopted the traditional imagery of Somali classical oral literature, as well as the use of musical instruments imported from abroad. In 1955, political events surrounding the transfer of part of the British Somaliland Protectorate to Ethiopia led to political protests from the Somalis and to the second period of the heello. With this period a new and concerted effort was made by the new elite to attain independence, and their new genre of poetry had almost replaced' traditional poetry in urban society. With the coming of independence in 1960 came the third period of the heello. This period was characterized by the addition of new, matured ideas as themes in modern poetry. Anti-government poems, as well as ones debating the role of women in the new society, could be heard. The use of the heello in the theatre and on the radio continued to drive it forward. Important, internal, political events found their expression in it, as well as the original and still dominant theme of love. The heello continues to develop in Somalia today.

Item Type: Theses (MPhil)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:02

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