[1] she is reclaiming what rightfully belongs to

1
Fanon, F. The Wretched of the Earth Penguin
Modern Classics: London 1963 p.10

2
Ashcroft, B., Griffiths, G. and Tiffin, H. Postcolonial
Studies: The Key Concepts. Third Edition. Routledge: Oxon p.2013 p.14

3
Farah, N. Secrets Penguin Books:
United States of America 1998 p.58

4 ‘
I was the lucky witness to marvellous sights: of a marabou stork digging with
its beak deep into the open mouth of a crocodile taking his sunbath; I saw a
wading bird which, without fear of being harmed, pulled a fish out of a
crocodile’s mouth. I was fascinated to learn, from Fidow, that crocodiles had
friends among the birds.’ Farah, N. Secrets
Penguin Books: United States of America 1998 p.59

5
Farah, Nuruddin. Secrets. Penguin
Books: United States of America 1998 p.2

6
Mazrui, Alamin. Emerging Perspectives on
Nuruddin Farah: ‘Secrets: The Somali Dispersal and Reinvented Identities. Edited
by Derek Wright, Africa World Press Inc: New Jersey 2002 p.623

7 Secrets, p.2

8
Farah, Nuruddin. Links, Penguin
Books: United States of America 2003 p.128

9
Plumwood, Val., Decolonizing
Relationships with Nature., Adams, W., and Mulligan, M., Decolonizing Nature: Strategies for
Conservation in a Post-Colonial Era., London: Earthscan, 2003. From Ashcroft, B., Griffiths, G. Tiffin,
H. The Post-Colonial Studies Reader 2nd
Edition, Routledge: London p.503

10 Farah,
Nurrudin. Crossbones, Granta
Publications: London 2012 p.158

11 Plumwood, Val., Decolonizing Relationships with Nature., Adams,
W., and Mulligan, M., Decolonizing
Nature: Strategies for Conservation in a Post-Colonial Era., London:
Earthscan, 2003. From Ashcroft, B., Griffiths, G. Tiffin, H. The Post-Colonial Studies Reader 2nd
Edition, Routledge: London p.504

12 Derrida, Jacques.
“The Animal that Therefore I am.”
Critical Inquiry 28.2 (2002): p.392

13 Farah,
Nurrudin. Crossbones, Granta
Publications: London 2012 p.158

14 Farah,
Nuruddin., Secrets, p.108

15 Farah, Nuruddin. Links, p.65

16 Farah, Nuruddin. Links, p.66

17
Farah, Nuruddin. Secrets, p.58

18
Purser, R.E., Park, C., Montuoir, A., Limits
to Anthropocentrism: Toward an ecocentric organization paradigm? Acadamy of
Management Review 1995, Vol, 20., No.4, p.1057

19
Farah, Nuruddin. Secrets, pp.92-93

20
Huggan, G., Tiffin, H. Postcolonial
Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment. Routledge: Oxon 2010 p.191

21
Farah, Nuruddin. Secrets, p.93

22
Farah, Nuruddin. Secrets, p.60

23
Farah, Nuruddin. Secrets, p. 98

24
Farah, Nuruddin. Secrets, p.93

 

As the elephant takes the remaining tusks and
leaves with them she is reclaiming what rightfully belongs to the animal and
not the human. The tusks fuel Fidow’s economic gain by functioning as something
which can earn him money, but the elephant takes them back in one last act of
defiance which means they cannot be used for human profit once the elephant
leaves. When Fidow dies it signifies the end of the slaughtering of animals at
his hand which is a significant event within the novel as Kalaman’s narrative
begins to understand the importance of respecting the natural environment and
the non-human.

 

While Fidow’s death is commented upon by local news
broadcasters they place the sympathy with the elephant. ‘The world’s wirelesses
are broadcasting the news in as many languages as there are. To a radio, they
are repeating the amazing feat, the wherefores and mystery of an elephant
avenging his kin. They are speaking of an elephant stalking a man who had shot
dead half the members of his immediate family, taken their tusks, and hidden
them in his house. (…) Many of the radio commentators sound triumphant. One of
the local radio reporters boastfully predicts that from this day on we will
have a green movement in Somalia, the first genuine one of its kind in the
world.’24
By broadcasting Fidow’s death on several news mediums it allows the cost of
exploitation to reach a wider, national audience. This amalgamation of the
living neighbours and non-living items of technology collaborating to spread
the news ensures the event holds importance and is translated into an act of
morality by those who discuss it.

 

During Fidow’s final moments he is trampled to
death by an elephant in his own home. This is considered to be revenge on
behalf of the animals Fidow has slayed during his career.  ‘The elephant comes to a decisive halt, right
in front of a compound belonging to a villager named Fidow. He stands his
ground for a long while, the elephant does, (…) so aware of his surroundings
that at one point he steps aside to let the women and children run past him and
out of Fidow’s compound. (…) The elephant issues a rank roar, then silence. He
repeats the roar several more times, and waits, maybe for the master of the
house to come out. (…) It is at this point that Fidow comes out of his
compound. He retreats, fast, only to reemerge, armed with a stout gun. The
elephant goes beserk, and as quick as death, thrusts his tusks into Fidow, whom
he throws to the side before trampling the corpse into a pulp. He steps over
Fidow’s dead body, the crowd, aghast, still watching him, and enters the room
out of which Fidow emerged earlier. By the time the villagers see him again,
the elephant is carrying with him dozens of tusks.’ 19
In order to understand why the elephant is thought to be enacting revenge on
Fidow it is important to understand the theory of Anthropomorphism. According
to Huggan and Tiffin ‘to speak of non-human agency, however, immediately
invites the allegation of anthropomorphism, potentially imputing to non-humans
a capacity for choice, decision-making and conscious planning often considered
by human beings unique to themselves.’20.
After Fidow’s death the event is discussed by local villagers to such an extent
that it makes local news broadcasts with claims that the elephant plans to bury
his ‘massacred kin21’
with respect. By applying emotions and thought processes to the elephant
usually reserved for humans it highlights Kalaman’s newfound respect and
self-awareness for the environment and non-human inhabitants. Kalaman blames
the elephants anger on human greed and indifference to the exploitation of the
animals in Somalia and experiences a change in attitude from the hunting trip
he joined Fidow with earlier in the novel. During the trip Kalaman displays no
empathy for the slain crocodile and describes Fidow’s scars as ‘immense scars
now healed, which he displayed as one did medals acquired in battle’22
which shows the scars gained from killing the animals are something to be proud
of. However, when Kalaman returns to Nonno’s house after Fidow dies, he
reflects ‘I concluded that the elephant’s anger had a lot to do with man’s
indifference to nature, humankind’s exploitative greed.’23  Whilst the elephant is mirroring the violence
inflicted by Fidow in Fidow’s own home environment it pushes the violence into
the public sphere and allows reflection into the treatment of the animals by
Kalaman and Fidow’s neighbours.

 

Af-Laawe’s actions connects with with Fidow’s
business in Secrets. Fidow is a
vermin catcher who also uses the dead to satisfy his economic desires, however
Fidow’s victims are animals. Both Fidow and Af-Laawe use body parts and their organs
as currency in their respective novels. Jeebleh reminisces ‘Fidow used to kill
crocodiles, hippopotami, and rhinoceroses on commission, (…) I also knew that
he would sell all the items found in the killed animals’ second chambers,
silver bracelets, gold earrings, watches, belt buckles and suchlike, which the
crocodile’s digestive system could not handle, to my father.’17
Like Af-Laawe in Links, Fidow uses
his environment for his advantage which places him at the top of his
anthropocentric world. As stated in Limits
to Anthropocentrism: Toward An Ecocentric Organization Paradigm? The theory
of Anthropocentrism needs ‘maintenance of the categorical separation (to) support
the claim that humans were morally superior to nonhumans, thus providing a
justification for the domination of nature.’18
By creating the role of the ‘vermin catcher’ he was able to

 

The presence of the dead in Links allows
more opportunity for those attempting to survive in their newfound environment.
Af-Laawe describes to Jeebleh, ‘Vultures, crows and marabous have been our
constant companions these past few years (…) There’ve been so many corpses
abandoned, buried. At the height of the four-month war between the militiamen
of StrongmanSouth and StrongmanNorth, the crows and the vultures were so used
to being on the ground foraging, they were like tourist pigeons in a Florentine
piazza. These scavengers have been well served by the civil war.’15 This creates the notion
of the ecosystem replenishing itself even amidst the chaos of war. He then
states ‘A cynic I know says that thanks to the vultures, the marabous, and the
hawks, we have no fear of diseases spreading (…) they clean things up, don’t
they?’16 The cycle of the
ecosystem replenishing itself is noticed by Af-Laawe, this is because he
recognises the importance of the vultures providing some sort of a cleaning
service for the city whilst using the bodies to sustain themselves. This
particular aspect of the war is noticed by Af-Laawe especially as initially he
provides a service which focusses on the burial of the dead, however Bile’s
sister, Shanta, informs Jeebleh that Af-Laawe is also profiting from the dead
as he harvests and sells their organs.

Use of bodies

The
landscape is discussed in Secrets as
it becomes destroyed by weapons of war. Nonno reflects ‘Ever present in our
thoughts and preoccupations, the odor (sic) of death overwhelmed us. I wish I
had a way of linking the pungent smell to the country’s slow march towards
collapse. (…) Item: Mogadiscio’s current daily civilian casualties, their
bodies hacked to death with machetes. Item: the environment. Item: Fidow and
his trampled on body. Deaths everywhere I looked.’14

The
landscape acting as a character within the novel is also discussed within the above
passage. As Dajaal discusses the scrubland he identifies nothing grows there.
The language used such as ‘barren’ ‘waterless’ and ‘drought-dry’ informs the
reader that the land is suffering due to the lack of care by its’ human
inhabitants and the bareness is a secondary factor due to the war. Although the
land cannot die, unlike the animals and the people that live nearby, the
language used shows its shared vulnerability and suffering with its nonhuman
and human counterparts.

            Also, as Dajaal considers the
individual species of animals he avoids the violence considered by Derrida whom
characterises the use of ‘animal’ to continue to Other the species inhabiting
the non-human world. As Derrida states ‘the animal is a word, it is an
appellation that men have instituted, a name they have given themselves the
right and the authority to give another living creature.’12 By taking into
consideration the effect on the separate species of animal Dajaal is showing
respect for their individuality and suggests a shared vulnerability between each
species. He states ‘Now and then the goats unearth the mines and they blow up,
slaughtering the goats that unearth them, as well as stray cattle; now and
again, the mines blow up in the faces of humans too.’13 This passage therefore
refuses to limit the measurement of suffering based on the human experience and
considers the non-human pushed to the forefront of the novel to measure the
full extent of the overall suffering.

During
Crossbones Dajaal reflects on the
effects of landmines being planted in the shrubland. As he considers the
suffering experienced by the landscape, animal and human inhabitants without
privileging the human experience overall he reinforces the ideology that
Eurocentric colonisation indirectly causes damage to the lands of the colonised
people.9 He reflects ‘The image in
the forefront of his mind is of cattle running amok, chased by unseen lions; of
goats driven by powers invisible from a place where peace reigns to a scrubland
where nothing, absolutely nothing, not even cacti, grows – a scrubland so
barren and so waterless that the goats feed on stones that they dig from the
drought-dry land. Close by, a short distance from where the cattle have now
gathered to graze in the fenced-off brushwood, there are mines buried in the
ground, mines planted by the various factions fighting for control of the
scrubland. Now and then the goats unearth the mines and they blow up,
slaughtering the goats that unearth them, as well as stray cattle; now and
again, the mines blow up in the faces of humans too.’10 There is no central
character to Dajaal’s reflection as he considers the effects that the presence
of the landmines has on cattle, goats, fauna and finally the humans in the
area. Whilst land was often justified as being unused or empty by the native
people in an attempt to disguise the colonisers unjust actions of taking
control11 Dajaal reflects on the
anthropocentric actions of the colonisers and how eurocentrism underpins modern
forms of European colonisation by not caring for the lasting damage their
weapons cause on the native homelands.  As
Dajaal considers the human casualties last, he contemplates the entire cycle
that takes place within the detonation of the landmines.

Landscape
As Character

 

The
connection to the ‘other’ In Links, Jeebleh,
who has returned back to Somalia after spending some time in the United States
of America is able to emphasise with the German Shepard dog who is being
attacked by a warlord’s son. By emphasising with the pain and distress the dog
is experiencing he is showing an ethical consideration for the tame animal whom
has been ‘othered’ by society after being abandoned by an Englishman who left
after a failed peacekeeping mission. The dog is ostracised by human society as
it is against the Islamic religion to interact with dogs, however as she is
tame she is at risk of being under attack from the native ‘bush dogs’, one of
whom she has become pregnant by or the human inhabitants of Mogadisco. When
questioning why the boy is not being prevented from harming the dog a nearby
man replies ‘Maybe the gun-men are the boy’s bodyguards? The young man mused.’8 This highlights violence
that the war-time environment promotes as the bystanders are indifferent to the
cruelty the dog is experiencing. However, for Jeebleh, who has not been in the
violence of the  

However,
the language used by Nonno to describe the journey taken by Sholoongo and the
lioness is emotive as she ‘adopted’ ‘raised’ and ‘abandons’ Sholoongo. By
anthropomorphising the lioness it places human emotions and thought processes
onto the animal. Nonno clearly states that the information he provides Kalaman
with is a myth and he is unsure of the exact truth but by placing the lioness
above the societal pressures of the Islamic religion and the Somalian morals it
suggests that the othering experienced by Sholoongo is only upheld by the human
world and not transferred into the animal world.

The
myth surrounding Sholoongo’s upbringing is then furthered by Nonno stating ‘a
lioness adopted and raised her together with her cubs, then abandoned her at a
crossroads, where some travellers found her.’ 7 The idea that Sholoongo’s
survival is made possible by the lioness highlights that although she has been
ostracised from her own society due to its’ religious and moral beliefs, the
same societal rules do not apply to the animal world. In fact, the predatory
lioness extends sympathy to the human other by taking care of her and
Sholoongo’s survival is only possible due to the lioness. The female lioness
taking care of Sholoongo highlights differences and parallels between the human
and animal world whilst the lioness exhibits the control she has over her own
environment and the lack of control Sholoongo’s mother has becomes more clear.
This is because the lioness can decide to look after Sholoongo whilst
Sholoongo’s Mother must succumb to societal pressures placed on her by the
patriarchal rule of the village elders or face punishment herself.  

Secrets’
prologue begins by highlighting the societal othering of Sholoonga by Nonno and
Kalaman’s discussion of her upbringing.  Nonno says ‘She was born a Duugan, that is to
say, a baby to be buried. And that was what her mother tried to do: she carried
the infant out into the bush and abandoned her there. But Sholoongo survived,
and lived to haunt the villagers’ conscience, especially her mother’s’5. The othering of
Sholoonga’s character for being considered ‘duugan’ may be interpreted as a
representation of the Somalian woman being oppressed by the patriarchal society
she was born into6
as she is being punished for being born female and out of wedlock. These are
two circumstances out of Sholoongo’s control but something she is made to carry
the burden of and be punished for and is therefore othered and outcast from
society.

The
Animal Other

Secrets begins
in Somalia on the cusp of civil war due to extreme civil dysfunction under the
control of Siad Barre. The protagonist, Kalaman, lives in uptown Mogadishu; he
is a successful entrepreneur who provides translation and administration duties
to his native community. During the novel not only are the human relationships
explored but the physical boundaries of the city is too. The Mogadishu Kalaman
experiences consists of charred citywide landscapes with access dictated to by
clans claiming the land as their own. The exploitation of the nonhuman is
explored through Fidow as he profits from the capturing and killing of the local
vermin; this includes profiting from the swallowed jewellery found inside the
animal’s intestines3.
In contrast to the intensity of the daily gunfights within Mogadishu Farah
often comments upon the friendly interaction between other breeds of animals
such as the marabou stork and the crocodile4 inferring that peace
between the prey and the predator is achievable. 

The
ideology of anthropocentricism2 is highlighted within the
novels by placing priority on the experience of the human suffering over the
destruction of the environment or the experiences of the animals.

Secrets, Links and
Crossbones all explore the aftermath
of the westernised involvement of Somalia.  Frantz Fanon states ‘In order to triumph,
the national revolution must be socialist; if its career is cut short, if the
native bourgeoisie takes over power, the new State, (…) remains in the hands of
the imperialists’1.
Fanon’s theory proves to be true as
the once-thriving capital Mogadishu is struggling to retain its’ previous
economic and political standing within Somalia after westernised involvement
whilst falling into a civil war of its own followed by an intense period of
precarious failing reconstruction. 

There
are three phases of Somalia’s political struggle explored within Nuruddin
Farah’s Secrets (1998), Links (2003) and Crossbones (2011).
The following chapters will study the ecological interaction between humans and
non-humans within wartime Somalia and how the novels occasionally link together
or draw parallel to a shared suffering of the same event. 

            Nurrudin Farah’s novels Secrets (1998), Links (2003) and Crossbones (2011) focus on the human and
nonhuman world during his representation of the Somalian crises. This complex
interaction between the human and nonhuman in wartime ecology identify the
shared suffering faced by the inhabitants during the civil war. It is also easy
to see the anthropocentricism within the texts during an in-depth analysis of
the animals, nonhuman and land. Whilst reflecting on the

Whilst
reading Secrets, Links, and Crossbones it is easy to apply theories
from Frantz Fanon and Homi K. Bhabha to create an ecocriticism reading of the
novels. These novels supply an ecological understanding of neo-colonialism,
imperialism and colonialism. It is easy to read Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth and Bhabha’s Location of Culture as narratives in an environmental archive which
considers the ecological impact of colonialism, and combined they bridge the
gap between ecocriticism and postcolonialism. Whilst Fanon’s interests lie in
the spatial economy of the colonised people and the extortion of resources he
critiques the loss of biodiversity in Africa and elaborates the importance of
an African based ecocriticism. Bhabha’s deconstruction of the ‘human’ by his
status of identity allows the theory of hybridity to analyse the characters
within the novels, such as Sholoonga, Jeebleh and Fidow in their respective
novels. By focusing on the anthropocentric concerns of the African decolonisation
and political economy, the colonised people attempt to shake off the implied
notions in the portrayal of the African as animals. This links to the idea that
postcolonial theory was not considered until recently as it is a fairly new
topic to be considered.