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e n i z s c i t n a m somali se

issue ii

the somali semantics zine project was co-created by yasmin abdulqadir ali and sumaya ugas. the content of this issue (#2) was created and compiled by yasmin abdulqadir ali; inspired by and through many conversations with sumaya ugas.

No part of this work may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the written permission of the authors. All inquiries can be directed to


And We Back *Chance The Rapper Voice*: A Note From Ya Girls Maxaarabtaa? Mariam Mohamed Pop Off BB! You Are Blooming Fuck Off; or Beyond a Single Drake Lyric; or Some Thoughts on the Obsessive Commodification of East African Women Big Nose, Bigger Smile Ten Thoughts on Desirability, Intimacy, Love and Care I Don’t Belong To U Girlhood An Afternoon with Dionne Brand: On Space Women’s Tricks Somali-Canadian Childhood, or Lean Chicken Makes Me Gag Somaalinimo in Transition Hijabis Don’t Get Cold “You Can Be Beautiful or You Can Be Interesting” There Are Five Prayers in Every Day The Hookup: Essays, Books, and Albums Bops on Bops: A Playlist Halifax Feels Like The Edge Of The World

AND WE BACK *Chance the Rapper voice*: A NOTE FROM YA GIRLS Salaam my loves, Yasmin here from the Somali Semantics dream team. Can I get a collective mashallah? Issue 2 of Somali Semantics is finally here! This project began in 2015 with a lot of love in our hearts. Throughout the course of a magical summer we pored over every detail of our messy intersections as brilliant (and blooming!) Somali-Canadian girls. The end result was our first issue, and the response over the last year and a half has been incredible. We have received the sweetest messages, tweets and emails from Somali girls across the globe - from Ottawa all the way down to Melbourne (#diasporaflex). We can’t overemphasize how much this means to us. Our main goal is to make Somali girls feel a little less alone in an anti-black, misogynistic and Islamophobic world. It feels so damn good to see that intention coaxed into fruition. This affirmation and love was brought into the making of Issue 2. Grounded in our friendship, Sumaya and I continued to talk (often) and (honestly) about our lives; the places and experiences and people that have uniquely shaped us. Hood angst, deep familial love, bodies, resentments, alienation. Baasto and briis and sambuus. These conversations inspired both of us to commit to our respective artistry and grind hard for most of 2016. The content of this issue represents one-half of this process, showcasing my artistic journey over the last twelve months. I hope it makes you feel and think and dream. I hope it inspires you to create dangerously. I hope it makes you laugh. We deserve more joy, walaahi. I’d also like to give thanks to all the incredible black folks we’ve met this year around our project. We are grateful for you. Thank you for holding space for us, time and again. To every Somali girl who stumbles upon this lil zine: this is for you. We love you (so deeply) and we hope that you thrive and bloom even when this xaasid world tries to hold you down. I extend this sentiment to black women in general, y’all know we in this shit together. To everyone else: Bask in our glory. Read carefully. Continue to learn and un-learn. Do better by the black and Muslim women in your lives. Yasmin Abdulqadir Ali (on behalf of Somali Semantics Zine) PS. Stay on the lookout for releases from Sumaya in the near future!


this lovely little honeybun is now a boy with the aggression of a man doesn’t that just make you want to cry?

i often feel like i don’t know how to love him. it feels like we are speaking two different languages. he says carelessly violent things that make me question if we spent all those years breathing the same air, eating the same food, sleeping next door to one another.


POP OFF BB! * Exhibiting the characteristic angst that shapes her life, we witness the artist aggressively pop off in this striking artistic piece.

somali women move with power, they are imbued with strength and courage and vision. they have carried entire communities on their backs; they have compensated consistently (and severely) for the inadequacies of somali men. mothers who love the hell out of their raggedy ass western-born children.they make mistakes, they fumble, but they would do almost anything for us. daughters who navigate the murky waters of filial love, tinged with the weight of obligation and duty. women who are trailblazers; making magic out of all the bullshit that life throws their way. this is what I think of when I conceptualize women from the horn. not some convoluted 2-c curl pattern having, big bootied, wide hipped, thin-nosed wet dream. we. are. humans. resilience and power and radical imagination flows through us. fuck y’all for trying to reduce us to bodyparts. fuck y’all for objectifying us. fuck y’all for expecting us to be flattered. fuck y’all for calling it privilege. we need to do better, I don’t deny that. so many women from the horn buy into this sexist, exclusionary and essentialist bullshit. we have a lot of complicated work to do around proximity to whiteness. but fuck anyone who cosigns our treatment as objects and expects us to be grateful for it. fuck anyone who tells us we are safe from white supremacy, antiblackness and misogyny because of jileec hair and a thin nose. nah.

stop sexualizing women from the horn of africa. stop sexualizing women from the horn of africa. stop sexualizing women from the horn of africa. stop sexualizing women from the horn of africa. stop sexualizing women from the horn of africa. stop sexualizing women from the horn of africa. stop sexualizing women from the horn of africa. stop sexualizing women from the horn of africa. stop sexualizing women from the horn of africa. stop sexualizing women from the horn of africa. stop sexualizing women from the horn of africa. stop sexualizing women from the horn of africa. stop sexualizing women from the horn of africa. stop sexualizing women from the horn of africa. stop sexualizing women from the horn of africa.

stop policing hijabis, thanks. they are not the moral backbone of this ummah.


sir naageed lamo sal garo

let’s shift the boundaries of soomaalinimo

let’s hold space for each other, yeah?

pro tip #6784: WHen someone tells you they’re somali, don’t fucking interrogate them about it. it makes people feel like shit, ok? pro tip #3201: extend as much kindness as you can to fellow somali weirdos. pro tip #1098: shitting on (cis-straight) somali guys is a really fun (and highly recommended) bonding exercise between somali women. pro tip #1028: don’t police other somali people’s level of religiousness. we all have our own personal and complex relationships and histories to Allah, islam and our Deen. refrain from being a self-righteous asshole. pro tip #856: when you see a fly-ass hijabi, take the time to compliment her. hijabis get stared at a lot, and its nice to know the stare is coming from a warm and affirming place. pro tip #2299: Read up on canadian AND african history. learn about canada’s fucked up settler-colonial existence. about the arab slave trade. about hollow multicultuRalism. about white folks splitting up somalia. about bantu somalis. about the myth of pan-african ideology.

there are five prayers in every day {Salat al-Subah}

She licks her lips, swings her left foot over her bike, steadying herself. With a whisper she quickly begins to recite. Laa ilaaha illalaahu laa sharika la. Lahul mulku walahul hamdu. Wa huwa ala kuli shayin qadiir. ‫هل كيرش ال هدحو هللا الا هلا ال‬، ‫دمحلا هلو كلملا هل‬، ‫ريدق ءيش لك ىلع وهو‬ There is no god but Allah, alone, without partner. His is the sovereignty, and His the praise, and He has power over everything.

She begins to bike down Hotel-de-Ville, feet pedaling like molasses. Gaining her stride, she moves quickly, almost on the brink of losing control, though not quite yet. She shifts gears, slowly pressing down on her brakes as she nears Duluth. In just a brief moment she is off again, shoulders tense with focus. She is gliding, gliding – inhaling deeply. It is early June and she can smell the humidity in the atmosphere, the heat. The invariable reality of sticky lower backs and dripping brows. She looks down at her brown thighs as she pedals, passing Prince Arthur Street. They are sprinkled with hyper-pigmentation, little dark marks peppering her skin, from her thighs all the way down to her calves. Over the years, she has come to admire them with a begrudging tenderness. They leave her body marked with time in the most literal sense; physical evidence that her body is indeed here, comfortably placed in the past and in the loudness of RIGHT NOW. Turning on the corner of Jeanne-Mance, she realizes how ashamed her mother would be to see her brown thighs glistening in the seduction of early June. How she would assuage her to show some modesty, to put on a longer skirt, pants that graze the ankle. How she would shout that she should have never given birth to children in a kuffar land, that she is corrupted, that the Shaytan is yelling right into her ear and that she is too weak-willed - her deen is too weak - to do anything about it. She would tell her that she knows that deep down she is a good girl, a righteous girl, a faithful girl - but that she has fallen wayward, that she is off the RIGHT path. She would tell her that she loves her and that she is only trying to protect save rescue her from ceebnimo. She stops at the end of Jeanne-Mance, placing her feet on the ground, her dark blue dress sticking to her back, panting. As she pushes her bike towards the park, the summer air mingles with her thighs, and she can’t help but to feel a little free. Not in that convoluted white feminist, “I’m trying to save you from your barbaric religion, your barbaric family, you poor tortured repressed black and brown girl” kinda-way. But more so in a “I feel temporarily freed from my mother’s burning gaze and perhaps I won’t go to hell for showing my legs just yet and oh shit I need to go home and pray Salat” kinda way. She keeps walking through the park, further and further until she is just a shadow. A wisp of brown skin and soft flesh.

{Salat al-Duhr}

She is categorically tired. Holding a pen to her mouth, she lifts her face upwards with a sigh, towards the white ceiling. She has just been asked by her editor to write another piece on Islamic fundamentalism. What a fucking bore. What a played-out, tired, racist trope. She begins to laugh, realizing that a good friend of hers at another magazine had recently been asked to write an expose on ex-Muslims. How funny that so much time and energy was dedicated to the two most dramatic, least generalizable ends of Muslim existence. What about the grey area? she muses out loud. In her blue notebook, she scrawls, “What about those of us who occupy dense and murky nuances? Those of us that exist in worlds that are often real and contradictory? I want to speak to people like me, people who eat their halal burgers with boozy cocktails, who fast during Ramadan but masturbate at night, who mute their aadaan computer app to finish bumping the latest naija track, who stop making out with their boyfriends to go pray salah. I want to speak to those of us that walk on this tightrope, that hold Allah and SIN (SIN!!!) in an equally tight embrace. I want to speak to those of us constantly afraid of falling, tumbling aimlessly.”

She closes her notebook and throws it into her purse. Opening her laptop, she pulls up Google Chrome, typing into the search bar: “radicalization fundamentalism young Canadian Muslims”.

What a fucking joke.

{Salat al-Asr} She kisses him hard, holding her breath, She smells of cumin and sweat; of sandalwood and anxiety. She tastes like she’s been reading too much Warsan Shire again, although she continuously claims there is no such thing. She is feeling unusually shy. I love you, he said. She doesn’t know what to tell him. She knows exactly what to tell him.

1) I can’t be your dream.

2) Repeat after me, I can’t be your dream.

3) I shouldn’t be the one you love.

4) I have religious baggage by the barrel.

5) Go fall in love with a white blue-eyed girl named Becky whose family’s religious fervor translates into a love for obnoxious Christmas lights and sickly sweet eggnog.

6) You don’t want my Islam. The frayed pages of my Kitab, the well-worn edges of my salih. The white plastic jug beside the toilet. The abayas hidden at the back of my closet behind rows of brightly colored t-shirts and thrifted sweaters.

7) You don’t need this kind of messy in your life.

{Salat al-Maghrib} She cries on the phone, tears falling down her cheeks, trailing down her neck, pooling in the hollows of her collarbone. Hooyo, she says. I’m scared hooyo, I don’t want Allah to punish me. The act in question is irrelevant. Instead, what is more relevant is the deep, gnawing fear she associates with Allah sometimes. Indeed, her mother had taught her that Allah is kind and merciful.

Despite that, fear always closely trailed behind these markers of forgiveness. Whether this was conscious or subconscious on the part of her mother, she was taught that her missteps, her divergences would lead to tangible divine punishments. Distracted during salah? Stubbed her toe on the corner of the dining room table. Masturbated in the shower? Failed her history quiz that afternoon. Fell in love with the wrong person? A car accident during the 8th month of the year. Not bad enough to kill of course, just bad enough to whip her back into line. A fear of Allah existed so deeply within her, lining her liver, swirling around in her stomach, pulsating inside of her arteries.

ther er mo

in h


ii d caan

o ma


oyn so, ha




td Do no


r cre e you

I’m tryi


d faintl

replie ng, she

{Salat-al-Isha} Walking towards the mahogany drawer, she pulls it open, tiny particles of dust released into the air. Ah, I’ve found them. She grabs a large stack of photographs and sits down, her back against her mother’s bedroom wall. Her feet are touching the edge of the wooden bed frame, carved with intricate detail.

Flipping through the photos, she is propelled into a thick nostalgia

1996. They spent Eid at Woodbine Mall. The carousel was her favorite. That year, her father let her ride it until she almost threw up.

2002. Summer dugsi. There was a Qur’an competition that year and the macalin had gathered all his students into a dusty recreation centre. Despite the drab set-up, the day was rich with pre-teen excitement. She giggled with her friends for hours, checking out all the cute boys from other dugsis. They ate pizza, wiping their hands on the bottom of their black abayas when the hooyos weren’t watching.

2007. Ramadan. It was taraweeh and the masjid was full of babies and mommas and more mommas and babies. It was the beginning of the holy month, and so they prayed until their lower backs ached and their feet were sore. They were happy.

She flips the stack of photos face-down, placing them back into the drawer. She grabs the salih from the edge of her mother’s bed and begins to pray Salat al-Isha.

Nawaytul Fardu Salah-Isha, Arbaca Raka-cat Lillaahi Tacaala Allahu Akbar.

When she finishes her prayer, she lies down on the salih, head touching the ground, making a du’a.

Oh Allah, she whispers. Thank you for everything. For loving me and protecting me. Please keep me sane. Please keep my family safe, if it is in your will. Ameen.

//essays that left a mark on me// The Frequent Trauma of Dating While Black and Female by Zoé Samudzi Sick Woman Theory by Johanna Hevda Moving Toward the Ugly: A Politic Beyond Desirability by Mia Mingus Hunger Makes Me by Jess Zimmerman Towards a Black Muslim Ontology of Resistance by Muna Mire The Shape of My Impact by Alexis Pauline Gumbs Romantic Love Is Killing Us: Who Takes Care of Us When We Are Single? by Caleb Luna Sex Talk for Muslim Women by Mona Eltahawy * I only stan for this essay, the rest of her work is pretty qashin tbh

//books that gave me all the feels// Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others by Kiese Laymon Colonize This! Young Women of Colour on Today’s Feminism by Daisy Hernandez What We All Long For by Dionne Brand A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

//Albums that snatched my edges// For All We Know - NAO Sept. 5th - dvsn Yes Lawd! - NxWorries (Anderson .Paak x Knxwledge) A Good Night in the Ghetto - Kamaiyah Zifukoro - Niska


e n i z s c i t n a m e s i somal


issue #2 of somali semantics was created and compiled by yasmin abdulqadir ali, in dialogue with sumaya ugas. a visual and textual represent...

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