Hawa Tako, Stories and Memory

Quick link: Who Was Hawa Tako?

I once asked this question on Twitter and got responses that ranged from: a heroine in the fight for Somalia’s independence from Britain to an imaginary person, a myth, a legend. Those answers only made me more curious about this woman. Who was she? What did she do? What does her life symbolize? Who gets to tell her story? Does it have any relevance for today?

somali culture

Hawa was either a mythical legend or a pan-Somali warrior killed either by a poisoned arrow or by a bullet either while helping a fellow fallen nationalist or while throwing stones at heavily armed Italian forces who were either fighting in desperate defense or viciously slaughtering peaceful Somali demonstrators who either wanted Somali independence or didn’t know what they wanted and had been stirred up by anti-Italian British officers.

As an oral people, Somalis have not traditionally kept foolproof, written, factual historical documents but rely on the verbal testimony of eyewitnesses and elders. As stories are passed down, they take on the personalities of their tellers and the contexts in which they are told. Memories take on the sheen cast by the story-shapers. Hawa Tako’s story is a powerful example of this.

To read about she did, how she died, and how she is memorialized, click here: Who Was Hawa Tako?

*image via wikimedia

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