Yasin Osman Kenadid

Yasin Osman Kenadid (Yaasiin Cismaan Keenadiid) was born in El Hur (Ceelhuur), Obbia in 1919 and died on 27th November 1988 in Roma (Italy). He was the son of Osman Yusuf Kenadid (Cismaan Yuusuf Keenadiid), the poet scholar who invented the first phonetically standard script for the Somali language in 1920s. This script Far Soomaali (the Somali alphabet) is also known as the Osmanya script, after his name.

Yaasiin studied linguistics and classical languages (Greek and Latin) at the universities of Roma and Perugia (Italy) from 1955 – 1957, and Slavic philology at the University of P. Lumumba in Moscow (ex USSR) in 1962. He got his Arts degree (Lettere) at the University of Roma – La Sapienza – in 1963.

Osman Yusuf Kenadid and his son Yasin Osman Kenadid

Yasin Osman Kenadid (Right) with his father Osman Yusuf Kenadid.

In 1949, he founded Goosanka Afka iyo Suugaanta Soomaalida – GASS (The Somali Language and Literature Society) within the Somali Youth League. The aim of the society was to open schools and print Somali language and literature books, with the Osmanya script. His perception to transform the Somali culture from oral to written was highly evident at that time.

He was the director of the Department of Culture in the Ministry of Education of Somalia, member of the Somali Academy of Arts and Culture in Mogadishu and one of the Somali intellectuals of the Somali Language Committee. In 1971 this Committee, made up of Somali intellectuals and foreign experts, had the commitment to decide about which writing script to be adopted officially for the writing of the Somali language by selecting one of the three competitors: Arabic, Osmanya and Latin characters. Finally, in 1972, the decision was taken and Latin characters were adopted as the writing system for Somali.

Yasin wrote numerous articles and essays for the newspapers and magazines in Somalia and abroad. He was the founder of two monthly journals: Sahan (The Explorer) and Horseed (The Vanguard). He was the director of the series Somaliya – Anatologia Storico – Culturale (Somalia – Histo – Cultural Anthology) printed in Somalia.

In 1980, he wrote Gabayada Cismaan Keenadiid (The Poems of Osman Kenadid) published in London, UK in 2007. His translation of the 30th chapter (Juz) of the Quran into Somali in 1982, is due to be published. His best known and most important books are Qaamuuska Af Soomaaliga (Firenza 1976) and Ina Cabdille Xasan e la sua attivita letteraria (Napoli 1981).

The Qaamuuska Af Soomaaliga (The Dictionary of Somali Language) is one of the few dictionaries existing for an African language; the first monolingual dictionary written for this language after its official transcription, and its adoption as language of instruction in the Country. It includes 15,000 words and represents a milestone for Somali lexicography. It has become the indispensable reference for all successive lexical works on this language. The book Ina Cabdille Xasan e la sua attività letteraria is based on the thesis he wrote for his degree, but is also the result of additional work. The aim of this work was to give a more complete picture of the Sayyid (as he is often simply called), an important and complex character in the history of Somalia. The aim is to show that he struggled, not only with arms but also with other means such as poetic duels, against foreign colonial powers, opponents and uninvolved people among Somalis. The book contains a short historical introduction and a section devoted to Somali poetry which includes poems by several authors including the Sayyid. The nucleus of the poems, which were already present in the thesis , is formed by 17 ‘gabay’ and two ‘masafo’; they give the reader a general idea of Sayyid’s personality and way of thinking. Some of these poems are not complete and as it always happens in transcriptions from oral tradition, there exist variations due to different sources. More writings and poems are added where the Sayyid mentions tribe and Somalis who did not share his ideals, relevant in the context of his time. The book contains poems by different poets who express positions in line or against those of the Sayyid and, finally, some documents and pictures are included. All the texts are translated into Italian, making the content available to a wider public. There are plenty of footnotes that illustrate and explain the meaning and the context of each poem as well as particular language usages and idioms.

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Source: Hidde iyo Dhaqan

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