By: Mo Ahmed Ali-Medeshi
Somalilandsun – Following is a caption of the book : Weerane , the Mourning Tree written by Mohamed Barud Ali about his experience in prison that I have published in support of this interview . Mr . Barud was a role model and and icon for my fresher class of Sheikh secondary school that entered the school in the academic year of 1971 and is also a long time friend and a colleague of mine . The interview is in Somali language by HCTC:
Barud wrote : I was born in 1950 near Aware town, in what is now the Somali Region of Ethiopia, about 150kms south of Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland.
According to my father, we were on the move during autumn to bring the livestock herds to a better grazing area, and my mother, who was nearing her time, went missing with labour pains. My father and a relative, Jibril Botan, went looking for her in the seemingly identical fields of tall grass punctuated by pockets of acacia trees. They occasionally climbed one of the acacia trees to gain a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding landscape calling her name but getting no response.
The shadows were getting longer in the late afternoon and they were getting worried and were about to go to two different directions when Jibril, my relative, started shouting with alarm. He was pointing high at the distant horizon. My father looked at the direction Jibril was pointing. He was frightened. High up where they were looking was one of the most ominous signs of this terra incognita– a group of falcons flying in circles on the same spot. Without asking questions they started in the direction of the falcons. Moving fast in the effortless nomadic fashion, they were soon approaching the target area. There was a relatively large acacia tree right in front of their path and through the tall grass my father, who was leaving Jibril behind, saw some movement at the trunk of the big tree. Suddenly breaking into a run, he was there next to the trunk of the big tree and, lo and behold, there was my mother. Leaning against the trunk of the tree serenely holding me in her lap and wrapped up in the lower parts of her single white cotton wrap-around, was all of me, a tiny bubble of humanity that attracted the attention of all. My mother sighed “it is a boy,” answering the question in their eyes. My father, despite his happiness at finding us safe and being the father of a third son, did not hug her nor did he offer to hold me. This was a tough environment and men were not expected to display their emotions.
The placenta which had attracted the birds of prey and served as our savior at the same time was lying about ten meters away where my mother had dragged it. The men started digging the ground, with sharpened acacia sticks, for a hole to serve as a burial ground deep enough for the placenta not to be eaten by scavengers. We all left after burying the placenta, my mother carrying me and slowly following the two men, until we reached the new encampment.
The address where I was born at was not any old acacia tree. The tree under whose shade my mother had chosen to rest and against whose supportive trunk she had given birth to me was steeped in clan folklore. It was called “Weerane” -the Mourning Tree-. Two men of my father’s clan had been killed by a group of men from my mother’s clan in an act of revenge and their white cotton clothing had been thrown on top of the tree for all to see. The rags stayed there for many years, white being the mourning colour for Somalis.
My beloved mother died of a bout of untreated malaria about 2½ years later, six months after giving birth to my youngest brother, Adan. I was the last but one of five children, one girl and four boys.
At the time of my mother’s premature death, Adan, the youngest, was only six months old; I was two and half years old; Jama, the middle one, was five years old; Hassan-the second oldest was seven and Fatima, who was the oldest, was nine years old.
My mother was in her early thirties when she died. By all accounts, she had been a beautiful young woman when she had married my father though the dry and hot weather and the difficulties of raising a family in abject poverty took their toll by the time she died. Despite this, she was loved by all who knew her for her humanity, generosity of spirit, tolerance and unflinching loyalty to her husband.
Despite dreaming of my mother, in Labaatan-jiraw prison, entreating me to take care of her daughter when I left prison, I do not claim to remember her. Recently, reading a serial article in one of the local newspapers, I was able to look back at that dream with interest. The feature writer, quoting a leading Muslim scholar and an authority on the interpretation of dreams, explained that dreaming about your mother when you were in a difficult and life threatening situation meant you were going to survive that ordeal.