Somalia Ethnography

By | December 15, 2021

The residents of the Somali peninsula can be traced back to four main groups: Somalis, Galla, Negri and pariahs of uncertain origin. Along the coast there are Arab groups or groups of other Asian origins.

Somalis are divided into five main groups: Isāq, Darod and Dir in northern Somalia; in southern Somalia Hauia (Hawiyya) and Dighil (see corresponding entries); of these five groups, only the first four are considered of noble and purer origin, while the last is considered inferior, and in fact the Dighil are from the noblest groups united with the ex-slave negroids in the name of Sab. In southern Somalia the groups inhabiting the north (Isāq, Dir and Darod) are in turn known by the nickname of Heggi.

The Negro groups live near the course of the two main rivers. On the Uebi Scebeli there are two main nuclei: one in the upper course of the river (Sciavele), the other in the middle course (Scidle); along the Juba, especially in its lower course, the so-called Uagoscia, Negroid tribes belonging to various and numerous groups, are gathered. The low caste populations, whose lineages have an ethnic origin probably analogous to each other in historical formation but different in constitutive elements, generally live together with the Somali tribes that have them under their patronage (in the north: the Yibir, soothsayers; the Tumāl, blacksmiths; the Midgan, hunters who live with the Isāq and the Darod; the Giagi, fishermen, along the coasts of the Indian Ocean, especially in the territory of the Migurtini; the Yaḥḥar, and the Eile hunters; the Darḍo, weavers who live with the Hawiyya; the Ribi, hunters; the Musa Ḍēryo, potters, live with the Dighils). On Juba and in the region between Juba and Tana, the Sanye and Boni hunter populations have their own autonomy, even though they are considered to be of low caste by the Somalis who surround them. In some localities of the coast there are also populations that must be considered absolutely in their own right, as they have nothing in common both from the somatic point of view and from the ethnographic one, with the Somali and Negroid groups; among these populations we should mention the Bagiuni and the Amarani. The former live in Chisimaio and in the archipelago located parallel to the coast between that city and Burgao; the latter live in Brava where they make up the great majority of the city population. In some localities of the coast there are also populations that must be considered absolutely in themselves, as they have nothing in common both from the somatic point of view and from the ethnographic one, with the Somali and Negroid groups; among these populations the Bagiuni and the Amarani are to be mentioned. The former live in Chisimaio and in the archipelago located parallel to the coast between that city and Burgao; the latter live in Brava where they make up the great majority of the city population. For Somalia 1996, please check pharmacylib.com.

In addition to the groups mentioned so far that represent the essential part of the residents of Somalia, we must remember a very significant number of Arabs, especially originally from southern Arabia, scattered a little everywhere in the inhabited centers where they carry out a small trade; in the cities of the coast and only exceptionally in some of the centers of the interior, the most important trade is in the hands of Indians, of which the most numerous nuclei are established in Chisimaio and Mogadishu; in small numbers, in the cities of the coast, there are also groups of Yemeni Jews.

Somalis are mainly shepherds, with a semi-nomadism that they practice in the relatively small territory reserved for grazing the flocks of each tribe; in the vicinity of the rivers and in the regions of the so-called “black earth” which is of great fertility, they also have fields that the noblest groups have cultivated by their ex-slaves, now free servants, belonging to the Negroid tribes. The Sab groups, on the other hand, partly cultivate the land, together with their freed slaves, and also engage in hunting, which, by the noble groups, is considered a degrading occupation.

Somali social organization is based on the gentile system of male lineage which is passed down from generation to generation by oral tradition, so that every Somali, at any time, is able to recite exactly his or her complete genealogy. The simplest element of this formation is the rer corresponding to the agnatic family; the rer are gathered in tol, or tribe, generally known, in the jargon of the offices, also with the Arabic name of cabila, which, according to tradition, belong to a common ancestor of all the rer that compose it: the various chables form the main divisions or groups to which it has already been mentioned. Ethnic groups can adopt both individuals and families of different origins. This is an important way of strengthening individual groups and has consequences also in the political and legal fields. The adopted ones are designated in the Italian Somali jargon with the name of arifa, which is a distortion of the Arabic ḥ al ī f. The tribe or kabylie and the rer obey a chief.

In many groups the leader is hereditary and, in this case, he (and his family, to a lesser degree) have special prerogatives deriving from the well-known ideas about the magical power of the sovereign: solemn sacrifice of the victims; “blessings” to the tribe given according to ritual formulas; magical power of the gaze, etc. In other groups, however, the tribal chief is elective and is accepted by the tribe’s assembly. This assembly, composed of men capable of weapons (ga š ā nq ā d: lett. “shield bearer”) of the tribe, meets at least once a year: with the Hawiyya tribes, on a traditional date and location for each tribe. The continuity of the government of the tribe is instead ensured by the council of elders which usually assists the chief. In some tribes there was also a particular magistracy for hospitality and assistance to foreigners (gogoll à ; martis ō ran, etc.).

Somalia Ethnography