Jan ’17__COPENHAGEN _____________________________________
From January 14th to January 28th we will present a photo exhibition with beautiful photos from the cultural project “Egna Röster, Egna Bilder” in Blågårdens Bibliotek as a prelude to “I Am Also Somalia”.
“Egna Röster, Egna Bilder” is initiated by the Malmö based Svedish Somali culture organisation Hidde Iyo Dhaqan. The exhibition has with great succes been exhibited around in Sweden and we have now brought it to Copenhagen. It is therefore with great excitement and joy that we invite you to the vernissage at Blågårdens Bibliotek Saturday 14/01 where drinks and snacks will be served.
Hidde Iyo Dhaqans vision with the “Egna Röster, Egna Bilder” project is to portray the reality of the Svedish Somalis – how it feels to come from a country whos modern history has gone up in smoke. The project consist of a thorough collection of oral and visual stories from both the young and older generations of the Somali community in Malmö and it has given the Svedish Somali diaspora a much needed voice. The project has also been made to an impressive book with the same titel.
Read more about the “Egna Röster, Egna Bilder” project here.
Come and check out the exhibition!
OCT ’16__COPENHAGEN _____________________________________
Maryam Mursal, our Somali treasure whom we back in January located in London came all the way to Copenhagen to join the pre-rehearsals. It was truly an excitement and joy finally seeing her and the other two leading performers Moeisha and Bashir on the stage together.
The 6 days of pre-rehearsals were dedicated to idea testing and creative improvisations: This was the first time we had the opportunity to try out all the ideas we’ve been working on, for instance the complicated but truly interesting potential in working with different languages on stage, Danish, English, Somali and even Chinese! And even though our Somali is getting better and better for every day, we are very grateful to have some wonderful translators on our team.
It was indeed an inspiring and fruitful week where valuable lessons were learned.
And what more is: We are now on Instagram! Go follow our production process on i.am.also.somalia – Good stuff is awaiting!
FEB ’16__MALMÖ ___________________________________________
Some times you don’t see the wood for the trees – this is how we felt when we discovered this impressive cultural association, very close to us:
Hidde Ioy Dhaqan – They have amongst a lot of other activities been responsible for publishing the wonderful book „Egna Röster, egna bilder“, a collection of interviews with Swedish/Somali people about their past, present and futures. Camara visited Warsame and the other people at Hidde Iyo Dhaqan, and came back loaded with gifts, a.o. a honey produced by the community in Malmö.
And she also returned with a yes to a collaboration on a continuation of our storytelling workshop and reading!!!
So now we have to cross our fingers for good karma and funding from the Nordic foundation!
JAN ’16__LONDON _________________________________________
Decisions have been taken: The title of the performance will be I AM ALSO SOMALIA and the performance opens in February 17 at the theatre S/H.
Our working process is as usual to do a lot of research. This time the research led us to The National Theatre in Mogadishu, and an amazing story of cultural richness and diversity from its opening in 1967 to the breakout of the civil war in 1991.
We are now in search of artists, who were part of the theatre. One of them is Maryam Mursal, a successful singer, with an amazing biography. We managed to locate her in London, which is now her new home after she had previously lived in Denmark for many years. And we went to London to meet with Maryam! And best of all: Maryam agreed to participate in the performance!!
Plus she gave Ditte gifts from her own small store.
The storytelling workshop was a great success. And this success we are eager to share with other Nordic countries, also struggling with the underrepresentation of Somalis in the artistic world.
In October 2015 Ditte and Camara, the creative producer of of the workshop and reading, headed to Oslo to network. The background was the idea to turn the Danish Somali Storytelling Academy into a Nordic one, with Oslo as the next city to host a Storytelling Workshop of the kind that took place in Odsherred in the spring.
Ditte and Camara visited the inspiring Den Mangfaldige Scenen (DMS), that offers young people from diverse social and cultural backgrounds a platform where they can learn how to express themselves and get taught how to make theatre. Due to their impressive work DMS is considered a pioneer in working with arts and young people with different backgrounds. And we are thrilled to have won them as a partner for our project!
An inspiring meeting with Amal Aden was also part of the Oslo program, and she told us about her newest novel that you can read about here. And Amal had more good news for us: She wants to be part of a potential new workshop here in Oslo! Great!
Now we cross our fingers that we can raise the money for this…plus find a Swedish partner…
After weeks of rethinking, reshaping and rewriting their texts, guided by Camara, Ditte and Christian, four participants of the Danish-Somali Storytelling Academy were ready to present their work to an audience!
At an Open Reading during Copenhagen Stage the artistic material that was produced up to this point was presented in Københavns Musikteater. This provided a platform for the upcoming artists to reach fellow Somalis and Danes, to express and share their feelings and stories. It further was a unique opportunity to bring together the local Somali diaspora, the regular theatergoer and the culture industry and give them time and space to talk, discuss and exchange experiences and stories.
The young Danish-Somali artists read out and performed their moving texts on Somali history, gender perspectives, the body and upbringing. With them on stage was the Danish Somali musician Bashir Billow and his guitarist Jakob Miang who enriched the program with their songs.
The weekend was dedicated to strengthening the artistic expression of upcoming Danish-Somali artists, and professional guidance was provided by American-Somali spoken word artist Abdi Phenomenal and the Norwegian-Somali writer and debater Amal Aden, as well as artistic director Ditte Maria Bjerg and playwright Christian Lollike.
Based on a common decision by participants and teachers several of the working sessions took place in the Somali language. Though it made it difficult for the Scandinavian teachers to follow big parts of the workshop, it was of great significance for the participants, as it made clear to them that this is an art project and a platform that is created for them! That this is a place where they are free to adapt their own majority perspectives and opinions!
But it was also a strong experience for some of the teachers. Amal Aden refers to the teaching in her mother tongue during the workshop as one of the strongest moments in her career, as it was the first time she ever had the opportunity to do so.
It was a weekend filled with honest and touching stories about civil war and flight, about lost parents and relatives, about the life as a refugee in Denmark, about veiled women and cultural misunderstanding. Stories that were step by step artistically transformed to find their way on paper.
Read more about the weekend and about Abdi, Amal and our great projectleader Camara here.
‚Unwanted immigrants‘, ‚problems‘, ‚outcast‘ – those are associations and prejudices Somalis are confronted with on a daily basis. This is what a report published by the Open Society Foundation revealed in 2014, identifying the Somalis as one of the most stigmatized and marginalized ethnic groups in Denmark.
The field work and analysis for the Somalis in Copenhagen report was led by Helle Stenum and Abdulkadir Osman Farah, and as part of their working process, focus group interviews have been conducted.
In a focus group with older women, one woman describes:
„Somalis are simultaneous black and Muslims, and in this way, there´s something extra about us. For example, Arabs are a bit fairer. We are black, we are Muslims….so we are the one who are black Muslims“
One of the interviewed social workers who is working with teenagers, described the position of the Danish Somali as a „minority within the minorities“.
The media has, according to the authors of the report, part of the responsibility for the marginalization of the Somali diaspora:
„A turning point in the public discussion was a media campaign in 1997 run by the tabloid Ekstrabladet … In this campaign a front-page picture of a smiling Somali man with two women and three children became the iconic picture of the unwanted stranger or alien.“
The report leaves no doubt: A change is needed! Somalis need to be accepted as equal, fellow Danish citizens to prevent a furthering of this social divide (and its consequences).
The report reached and touched our artistic director, Ditte Maria Bjerg, who decided to focus on Somali diaspora as the next Global Stories project.
Realising how invisible and underrepresented this minority group is, also within the arts, we decided to start working with young people and artistic empowerment. We want to renegotiate their position and representation in the Danish society through artistic means.
We are also hoping that the outcome of this work could be new collaborations for a performance.
This drawing is part of illustrated stories by the Open Society Foundation with the name ‘Meet the Somalis’. See the full story and other ones here.