Building a national library from scraps

This is a interesting piece on how a little scrap hoarding by someone back when (and I do mean scraps), has led to a “national library” from the ruins of whatever created your self-declared, still-unrecognized country in the first place. (Post only to highlight the library building, not to state anything political around it — this is still a place where homosexuality is illegal, etc.)

At the time, Somaliland was mostly trying to forget. For three years, it had been bombed into submission in a brutal civil war waged by Somalia’s government in Mogadishu. Up to 90% of its capital, Hargeisa, was destroyed. It had recently declared its independence, trying to build something new from the rubble. 

But one day, Mr. Jama thought, Somaliland might want to remember.

Three decades later, the papers he gathered in 1991 have become the foundation of the library and informal national archive he is building here in Hargeisa. Like Somaliland itself, the project is a radically DIY institution, built from the bottom up with little outside help. And also like the self-declared republic, which is not recognized by a single other nation, its very existence is an act of defiance. 

“This country is poor. Most of its budget must go to the basic needs of its citizens, I understand that,” says Mr. Jama in the melodic, Italian-inflected English he perfected during his years as a mathematics professor in Pisa. “But when you remove arts and culture from the equation of a society, you remove the thing that makes humans humane. I wanted to make sure that never happened here.” 

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