Said Samatar, renowned Somali scholar, dies in New Jersey


Said Sheikh Samatar, a prolific Somali author and prominent scholar, died on Tuesday in the U.S. state of New Jersey from an unspecified illness. He was 72.

Samatar was a professor of history at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He was also the editor of the Horn of Africa Journal, a key reference for academics with a keen interest in the Horn of Africa.

Samatar has authored several books, including “Somalia: Nation in Search of a State” in 1987, a book that “attempts to capture the complexity and the agony of Somali people, which haunts the society to this day.”

“An astute observer of the history and politics of his native region, Dr. Samatar was widely sought after by the media,” Rutgers University said in a statement. “He was a colleague engaged in the affairs of Rutgers and the larger world, a joyful dining companion, an engaging and popular teacher, and a true friend to his colleagues. His is a voice that will be deeply missed by all who had the privilege to know him.”

Samatar’s daughter, Sofia Samatar, tweeted this Wednesday morning.

On Feb. 21, Twitter user Ahmed Hassan tweeted that Samatar “sustained serious injurious after falling down from stairs in his house.”

 In an interview with the journal “Bildhaan” published by Macalester College, he described the joy of publishing his first scholarly work as an “awesome experience.”

“The first time I saw my name in print was like the first date or sexual act,” Samatar said. “It has an orgasmic quality about it. That was the greatest joy.”

Samatar was born in the Somali region of Ethiopia, and like many Somalis of his generation, the exact location remains uncertain. When asked about this by “Bildhaan,” the late Samatar quipped: “I don’t even know where I was born! Perhaps under a tree!”

Samatar is survived by his wife, Lydia Samatar; daughter, Sofia Samatar; son Delmar Samatar, and four grandchildren.

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