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Hidden Talent: Artists Re-emerge in Mogadishu

  • Gabe Joselow

After years working in the shadow of war, Somalia’s artists are stepping back out into public view and contributing to the difficult discussions of a country struggling to find its identity.
A garage in Mogadishu is a place of renewal for Somalia’s art scene. Known as the Center for Research and Dialogue, it attracts artists who kept their talents hidden during more than two decades of war.

One of the most prolific is Adan Farah Affey, who discovered painting as a child in a Catholic orphanage in the city.

“The nuns admired my work and would bring me paintbrushes and tell me to paint for them. And when I had a better understanding of my skills, I noticed I was better than the other kids,” recalls Affey.

Now, given a chance to express himself, there is no topic Affey is afraid of. Affey takes his inspiration from the world around him -- a country overcoming years of war. He blames many of Somalia’s troubles on a broken political system.

“We don’t have any natural disasters, we don’t have tornadoes, tsunamis or Hurricane Katrina. Our disasters are all political,” notes Affey.

The work of several artists is on display in an upstairs gallery -- much of it expressing the personal experiences of war and the struggle of the working artist.

Project Manager Mohamed Yahye says the center is working to give the artists wider exposure.

“Some of them are being taken to Europe, some of them are being taken to America for showing the pieces as an exhibition. So we’re hoping to get New York or Los Angeles in the next stages to push these artists to the next level,” said Yahye.

As the artists come out of the shadows of war, and into a new era of hope, it is their dream to one day show the world a portrait of a new Somalia.

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