Nurrudin Farah’s Hiding In The Plain Sight Is Not Offensive To Any Community

I read but with a lot of pleasure the story that was published by the media in Kenya on one of the recent weekends that Nurrudin Farah’s last book, Hiding in the Plain sight is offensive to the Somali ethnic communities in Kenya and all other places. The writer, Mr. Adow Kalil Jubat, pointed out the book is offensive to the Somali ethnic community because it has themes of inter-marriages, lesbianism and homosexuality, prostitution and urban poverty as well as terrorism being discussed by using characters identified as Somalis.

Jubat only congratulates the author for using Somali proverbs and for pointing out that Somalis as a community has been victims of alienation by the Kenya government.Jubat’s analysis of this book is both correct and wrong, however it is substantially wrong because the analysis was only a catapult of visceral overtones echoing ethnic axioms from a very parochial cerebral grasping of Nurrudin Farah as a writer that champions rights of the oppressed through literary cosmopolitanism.

First, the successive governments of Kenya and the people of Kenya have never alienated the people of Somali community. It is the people from the Somali community that have taken social positions that make their community to be self-alienated or self-marginalized. When any community refuses to mix with others because of religion, refuses to inter-marry with the rest of the communities in the neighbourhood on the basis of ethnicity, or refuses to take the girl child to school lest the girl child gets contaminated with bad ideas to be married away to a foreigner, then the community observing such primeval values will automatically get self-marginalized or self alienated.

It is strange for one to reason that a writer stands culpable for offending a certain community by using lesbian or sex worker characters in the novel having a plot based on that particular community. A lesbian as a biological and social creature can come from any community. Whether Somali or Arabic. Faith in Islam does not make any family or society extricated from social and biological diversities available in the nature of humanity.

It is out of such understanding that Nurrudin Farah’s writings boldly come out as a wake-up call for Africa to come out of pristine cultures that have oppressed women, children,slaves,the poor and the ruled for a long time. I have read Hiding in the Plain Sight twice; I have also read all the books of Nurrudin that were published by Heinemann under the African Writers Series. Nurudin as a writer uses the printed word as a weapon with which he fights dictatorships; political, cultural, religious, gender, economic and ideological dictatorships. He has always offered alternatives for the oppressor and the oppressed. He is a writer that fits well the accolades of championship for afro-politanism, afro-futurism, afro-optimism and afro-centralism.

His approach to writing is an evident protégé of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Octavio Paz, Pablo Neruda, Vitian Naipaul and Gunter Grass. In his first book, From the Cooked Rib, he challenges the evils of man’s tyranny over a woman, a social tyranny which always enjoys support from the ignorance in the crudeness of culture and religion to an extent of forcing a girl below the age of fifteen years into a marriage. In the Sweet and Sour Milk Nurrudin tackles evils inherent in selfish politics as observed in the soviet experiment with communist expansionism in Somalia and Somaliland through the two main characters Soyaan and Loyaan.Nurridin’s further attack on the cult of human selfishness is seen in his third novel the Naked Needle, in this book, he exposes tyranny of a woman over a man to be as bad as tyranny of man over a woman-hence there is no good tyranny. Similar themes are discussed in his other book, Sardines.

Thus looking at works of Nurrudin from the liberal perspectives of a modern society, one has to agree that Nurrudin is the voice in the dark area, he shouts for the mute and braves up for the chickened. Especially those that have been smoothened down into silence by brutal cultures like that of Mutanaby, an Arabian slave trader who had a philosophy that when you buy a nigger buy along with a stick for beating him and also that of Sigmund Freud who proposed psychological model that when you wed a woman immediately buy a whip. Nurrudin discussed the preceding two ideas in his book the Naked Needle.

(By Alexander Khamala Opicho
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Articles by Alexander Opicho