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City Lands Somali Book Collection

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City Lands Somali Book Collection

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Somali language books

The library is stocking a range of books in the Somali language

Cardiff, Wales, November 29, 2005 (BBC News) – More than 100 books in the Somali language - which has only had a written form since 1972 - have been collected by Cardiff Library.

Librarians have gathered the books in order to serve the 8,000-strong Somali community in Cardiff .

Cardiff 's Somali community is one of the oldest ethnic groups in the city.

Their ancestors were originally drawn as seafarers at the end of the 19th century - shortly after the opening of the Suez Canal - to work in the docks.

Preeti Pathak from Cardiff Library explained: "It has been very hard to acquire the books because they are in such short supply.

"And when people tried to order the ones available, it could take up to two years because they were in such high demand.

"So when we came across the publications, we made sure we had access to them.

"We've got everything from children's books to adult fiction and non-fiction," she said.

The Somali community in Cardiff was swelled further in the 1980s by people fleeing civil war.

Ibrahim Harbi, of the Somali Integration Society, said that the books were important way of teaching young Somalis to be proud of their heritage and to encourage interest in the Somali language and culture.

"These books are a good way of generating interest in the Somali culture and for the young Somalis to have pride in their language," he said.

Latin alphabet

It is estimated that there are around 15m Somali speakers in Africa and in other parts of the world. It is one of Africa 's strongest languages, with speakers in Somalia , Somaliland - which broke away from Somalia in 1991 - in Djibouti , Kenya , and Ethiopia .

But it wasn't until 1972, that an agreed written form was established for the Somali language, which is based on the Latin alphabet.

The culture has a strong oral tradition, with a wealth of stories and traditional poems.

A spokesman for Cardiff Council said: "There has always been a shortage of books and resources in Somali language in the past, as it was a challenge for libraries to acquire resources in Somali language.

"As there are now some distinguished authors writing good literature in Somali it has been possible source material."

Zainab Hassan, 26, a support worker in Cardiff attended the launch of the Somali books at the library.

"This is a wonderful resource for people to be able to access," she said.

"It is going to be a huge benefit for a lot of people living in Cardiff ," she added.


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