Arawelo

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Arawelo or Arraweelo (Somali: Caraweelo) was a proto-Somali Queen in traditional folklore.[1]

Biography[edit]

Ralph E. Drake-Brockman was one of the first Western researchers to publish an account of Arawelo, in his 1912 book British Somaliland he states:

The legend says that thousands of years ago there lived in what is now the tract of country occupied by the Habr Toljaala tribe, a great black queen called Arawailo, who was greatly feared by her people owing to her eccentricities. Arawailo lived at a place called Murihi, so the story goes, for little save a huge mound of stones, under which she is said to lie buried, now marks the capital of her ancient kingdom. Towards the end of her life Arawailo began to show marked favour towards her own sex and great animosity towards her male subjects.[2]

Semi-biographical tales which give many personal details of this queen are given. For instance, Arawelo's mother was said to have been called Haramaanyo; but no mention is made in the tales about who her father was. She was the first born of three daughters and natural heir to the dynasty. Like many female rulers, Arawelo fought for female empowerment; she believed society should be based on a matriarchy. There is no solid evidence of her existence other than testimony. [3]

Location[edit]

Drake-Brockman reports that the location of her Kingdom was centred around a location called Murihi in then British Somaliland, today part of Sanaag region. Her throne was passed down to an unknown next of kin.

Defying Gender Roles[edit]

The queen defied gender roles of the time. Before she was queen, it is said that during the Buraan droughts, she and a team of women fetched water and hunted to prevent her town from migrating and to relieve starvation. During her reign, Arawelo's husband objected to her self-ascribed role as the breadwinner to all of society, as he thought women should be restrict themselves to merely domestic duties about the house and leave everything else to men. In response, Arawelo demanded that all women across the land abandon their womanly role in society, and started hanging men by their testicles.[4] The strike was successful, forcing men to assume more child-rearing and creating a role reversal in society. This didn't lead to greater equality, rather women took the superior roles men and men were oppressed and forced into subservience.

Arawelo thought this role reversal was necessary since she saw women as natural peacekeepers. Growing up she believed that women were not treated well and the men were more often instigators, participants and conductors of war and politics. She not only fought for the liberation of women in feudal society but for the dominance of women as she saw them as better and more efficient leaders.[5]

In Popular Culture[edit]

References to Arawelo in Somali culture today include nicknaming a girl/woman who is very assertive and dominant "Caraweelo". She is also, by one source, claimed to have been the Harla queen of the ancient Somali people [6] but this does not conform with the fact that she is just commonly interpreted as a folkloric figure, with there being no evidence that she existed. Opinions on her legacy vary widely, with critics denouncing her for her androcidal nature and introducing the practise of infibulation, a type of FGM, while supporters eulogize her gynocentric attempts at female empowerment.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hanghe, Folktales of Somalia (Uppsala, Sweden: Somali Academy of Science and Arts 1988)
  2. ^ Drake-Brockman, Ralph Evelyn (1912). British Somaliland. Hurst & Blackett. p. 169.
  3. ^ Mohamed Hassan. Sheekooyinkii Boqoradii Araweelo
  4. ^ Shafi Said, The Legendary Cruelty.
  5. ^ *Affi, Ladan, Arraweelo: A role Model for Somali Women
  6. ^ "Blackwoods Magazine". 238. 1935: 577. Retrieved 27 June 2016. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ Jaldesa, Guyo W., et al. "Female genital cutting among the Somali of Kenya and management of its complications." Population Council/FRONTIERS/USAID (2005).