African Poems

Oral Poetry from Africa

Tag: Somalia (Page 2 of 2)

The Mahdi’s Boast

A war song from Somalia. The Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad, was a nationalist and religious leader who expelled British forces from the Nile valley and governed the whole region for ten years before the British returned in 1898 to impose colonial rule. See also The Sacrifice.

No man exists who can lay hold of a wild elephant and lead him around,
No man exists who can grip a lion by the nape of the neck and give him a punch…

Her Lover

A love song from Somalia.

Oh, you are like a kilt which a young dandy set out to choose,
Oh, you are like a costly ring for which thousands were paid


Ten separate love songs from Somalia. Balwo means ‘sorrow’, and the subject of this type of song is invariably unhappy love which is described briefly in striking and unusual images. These songs are immensely popular in Somalia and are regarded by some as blasphemous.

Woman, lovely as lightning at dawn,
Speak to me once even.

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African Poems