by Saber Aidarus

How can I teach somali proverbs (maahmaah) to second generations somalis using animated storytelling?

2022 Animation Tiktok Social media campaign


Somali maahmaah are Somali proverbs/sayings that are on the verge of vanishing. With language loss happening across the Somali diaspora. This has become a problem. As a Somali designer, I will aim to tackle this problem by launching #maahmaah.

A social media campaign with the aim to raise awareness and teach second-generation Somalis about maahmaah. With the head focus being the platform Tiktok. As a creator on the platform (@PapaSaber). I build a following during the pandemic by creating trendy animations. During this campaign, I'm releasing animated shorts about maahmaah online.

By using TikTok's "stitch" feature Somalis can interact with this campaign to share their own maahmaah from their respective families. By participating in the activation or attributing in the comment section. The next stage of this campaign promotes traffic to Maahmaah.com, a collection of maahmaah governed by Somalis. This online library provides translations and commentary on maahmaah, the ability for anyone to add to the collection and report it wherever necessary.

What are maahmaah?

Somali maahmaah are somali proverbs which are part of the great somali Oral traditions. A Maahmaah is a statement that often speaks of an experience or event that a person has gone through and then omits wise words that measure his or her event and affect the daily life of the larger community in which he or she belongs verbally and culturally. 

Somalis are among the people who are highly regarded as having a rich language. This has enabled them to deliver meaningful expressions that carry deep meaning which can last as long as there are people who use that language. The saying: “Waxay Maahmaahda soo af jartaa hadalka”(“A proverb brings debates to a close”)

showcases how important the maahmaah is in our conversations. It often works as a truth bomb. The user uses them as arguments because they function as reminiscent devices helping listeners remember the moral of the story. While the original story behind the proverb is often forgotten through the passage of time, the meaning is imparted on the Somali conscious. Leaving a lesson that is cherished for generations.

Showcase #maahmaah


As a second generation Somali living in the netherlands. Something I have always struggled with is my heritage. Whether that’s the fact that I’ve never visited even Somalia or the fact that I don’t fully understand the somali language well (Although I do proudly proclaim being Somali). 

Personally, I wanted to reclaim some of my heritage by researching oral somali traditions. This topic is dear to my family especially my father. It's been a minute since I needed his help and it allowed for us to connect by working together on a project. As a somali person I would like to introduce the world and our own people to somali maahmaah. 

A study shows that an insufficient number of Somali proverbs and folktales have been published in Somali, which became a written language only in 1973, Moreover, the tragic events of modern Somali history have placed the national oral traditions on the verge of vanishing.


The internet has brought us many ways to attack this problem. However, considering the potential social media has, it is important to create content that is of high quality and consistent enough to make a significant impact on the problem. This is however currently not achieved by current solutions. 

Ethnic somalis currently lack proper representation in media. This is because of the tragic events of modern somali history and the lack of a positive narrative in the media. It is therefore important to showcase a somali culture in a positive way. To properly represent somalis. 

That’s why I as a Somali designer want to make the difference with this campaign. By delivering high quality animations releasing on my own tiktok channel @papasaber. With each video raising awareness and teaching somali maahmaah to second generation Somalis. Using the #maahmaah in the description and a prompt encouraging other somalis to share theirs on the platform as well

animations + stitches


To showcase the collection of maahmaah. The videos alone won’t cover much. For that reason the next stage of this campaign will be linking to a website where you will be able to read them off like a dictionary. Available in different languages and the ability for Somalis to add on to this collection. A data common of maahmaah made by the people and governed by them as well. The domain maahmaah.com was available and has been obtained for this campaign.

Here is a link to the prototype of the phone web app: http://maahmaah.com/