I visited Mogadishu this summer. I saw the land of my father and my father’s father, the breathtaking landscape that gave birth to my mother’s people. And in that time, greeted by the Indian Ocean and the stubborn remains of a breathtaking landscape, I felt a reluctant homecoming. And throughout my stay I was cloaked in a fragmented yet vivid sense of belonging.
I’m not entirely sure what I expected but walking into a region ravaged by conflict spanning just over two decades, I think I anticipated a palpable sense of brokenness. I might have envisioned downturned eyes and defeated shoulders. There was probably even space in my incomplete expectations for the darkened landscape of a post-apocalyptic region, illustrated so despairingly in the articles I’ve read. Much to my surprise, however, souls were not shattered. And although I looked, hope was not present either. In its place was something like a disconcerting acceptance, a quiet, throbbing despondence that rushes into hopes forgotten void.
Just beyond the rubble, and between the bullet-wounded buildings I saw a will to survive. Not only to survive in the literal sense, although this I observed this as well, I saw a desire to fully live. Having visited during the month of Ramadan, I was told again and again that I should stay after Ramadan. Since the city quieted down during the day due to the fast, people seemed frustrated that they couldn’t show me all that their city had to offer. I saw a generosity of spirit I have never experienced and I was taken aback. And I was welcomed. And I was at home.
Coming back to the state I’ve learned to call home, a sense of responsibility for the land my parent’s call Mother creeps quietly into my conscious. Responsibility for a peaceful and thriving future sits on my mind and heart like a birthright I don’t quite understand, or want to understand or even fully accept – and yet it weighs on me, was given to me and is mine to fulfill.
To those outside the diaspora this is a difficult concept to understand. But to those born somewhere between here and there, who speak in a medley of language, who dance to the largely incomprehensible beat of the middle – to the sons and daughters of paradox, this message of double allegiance makes as much sense as breathing.
Indeed, it has been a duty bestowed upon our generation the minute our fathers turned their guns on each other. And as they fled the chaos that ensued, they made sure to arm us with all the artillery we would need to combat their failures, they handed us pens and books to do our bidding. They ask us to begin the work that will take generations to complete. But louder than that, upon visiting the land that once lived only in the abstract confines of my mind, I heard a louder calling.
As I boarded the plane to Nairobi, I felt a curious pang in my heart. It was as if the sweltering tide, the breathtaking landscape, the generous people, the whispering wind all called to me, glorious and loud, “Return! It is your time. Return and bring your siblings! Return with your burgeoning mind and tender heart! Return with your doubt and apprehension! Return even if you are not sure! Return for your children! Return for yourself! Return with your contradictions! Return with vision, with love, with humility, with kindness! Return with your splintered language made beautiful with circumstance! Return to your mother! Just, return!”
Ilhan Abukar Dahir
Ohio State University