Art And Culture

The Somali 'mother-daughter duo' revolutionising comedy on TikTok

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Raadia's ability to merge ethnic intricacies with common comedy has won her over a huge following, transcending borders and connecting with Somali communities around the world.

Raadia Alinoor, a 34-year-old living in Nairobi, alongside her 20-year-old niece, Bahsan Abdirahman, are revolutionising comedy within the Somali community.

Through relatable content shared primarily on TikTok, they have garnered attention and reshaped cultural norms with their humour.

Their rise to prominence began in 2021 with a video in which Bahsan admits to having a lover, forcing Raadia to react in a traditional Somali fashion, mirroring the societal taboo around relationships for Somali women.

This debut video propelled them into the spotlight, catching the online community’s attention and gaining thousands of followers. Since then, they've made hundreds of funny sketches that appeal to their predominantly Somali audience. Typically, Somali women are not allowed to date or have a boyfriend, and males are not permitted to have girlfriends.

They have collaborated with other renowned Kenyan content creators, including Flaqo, which has expanded their reach.

Popular videos

Raadia recently worked with Flaqo, who played Mama Otis and shared a funny story about unexpected guests seeking Iftar during Ramadan. Shortly after, Mama Otis's son, dressed in a kanzu, arrives with Bahsan, also seeking Iftar. Mama Otis is astonished, questioning when her son became a Muslim and how he acquired the kanzu.

This video has garnered over 780,000 views on TikTok and more than 1,100 comments.

One of their most popular videos features Raadia pretending to be a Somali M-Pesa attendant in a shop, serving customers with attitude. Raadia's mastery of the reportedly Somali dialect in the video has resulted in over 1.2 million views.

In an exclusive interview with The Eastleigh Voice, Raadia shared the origin of her online persona, "Gwala," revealing that it stemmed from her high school days, where classmates affectionately nicknamed her "gwalagwala" due to being the only Somali student in her school. This nickname stuck, and she is now known as Gwala by her fans and friends.

"When I was in high school, my classmates used to call me gwalagwala since I was the only Somali in the school," she said.

Raadia Alinoor (left) and her niece Bahsan Abdirahman who are revolutionising comedy within the Somali community through relatable content shared primarily on TikTok. (Photo: Ahmed Shafat/EV)

Few people know her real name; everyone, including her friends, refers to her as Gwala.

Contrary to popular assumption, Raadia revealed that Bahsan is her niece and not her biological daughter. This disclosure will satisfy fans and friends who frequently query the age difference between them. "How can a 34-year-old woman be a mother to a 20-year-old daughter," they would often ask.

Bahsan's mother, Raadia's sister, died in 2016. Bahsan has lived with her ever since, constantly referring to Raadia as her mum.

Raadia further disclosed that she is a mother of two daughters, Aliya (6) and Sofia (12), both attending school.

Raadia's childhood in Nairobi, and her experiences working on Luthuli Avenue, influenced her comic style and audience appeal. Her ability to merge ethnic intricacies with common comedy has won her over a huge following, transcending borders and connecting with Somali communities around the world.

Raadia also experienced discrimination from certain Kenyan media outlets, which she believes overlook her because of her Somali background. She recounts losing job opportunities due to wearing a hijab, stating, "I've been offered acting roles and interviews, but they always demand I remove my hijab."

Unwavering support

Before delving into content creation, Raadia pursued makeup artistry, a skill she honed before her current content creation work.

Her family, particularly her sisters who live in Mandera County, and her husband offer unwavering support, alongside her two daughters, who are her big fans.

"They're my backbone and big supporters, it is through TikTok, that they know I'm doing well," she expressed.

Bahsan, credits herself for introducing her mother to content creation, citing Raadia's natural charisma and humour. She says her mother was always talkative and funny.

"One day, I suggested we make a video, and she agreed. That's how it all began," Bahsan recalled.

She emphasises their close bond, describing Raadia as her best friend and only parental figure. "Collaborating with my mum is incredible; it allows me to be myself, a privilege I cherish," Bahsan said.

As the brand's manager, Bahsan takes charge of seeking out collaborations with other content creators and oversees the day-to-day operations of their accounts. Despite being only 20, Bahsan harbours ambitious aspirations, she is aspiring to venture into filmmaking and television commercials, which according to her is fueled by her unmatched confidence.

On the 20th of this month, they will be hosting a comedy show at the Kenya National Theatre, featuring prominent Somali content creators and comedians. The event will also serve as a platform for mentoring aspiring Somali comedians and individuals interested in content creation. Unlike many Somalis, Raadia and her daughter incorporate Swahili and English into their videos, attracting followers from diverse Kenyan backgrounds.

Raadia and her daughter aspire to collaborate with large Kenyan brands and create high-quality content, a dream they feel will come true. They also hope to capitalise on Kenyan content creators' anticipated ability to monetise on Facebook after establishing a fanbase on TikTok.

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