Contemporary artists and visitors gathered at the Somali National Museum in Mogadishu for the country’s first international contemporary art exhibition on 24 July.
The newly-renovated museum had been severely damaged during Somalia’s civil war in 1991.
Somali National Academy of Culture head Abdulkadir Hussein said more than 4,000 cultural heritage items were looted from the venue.
Prior to reopening its doors, the national museum underwent a massive restoration project, managed by Abdi Baaruud. The infrastructure was severely damaged and required the work of architects, other experts and volunteers.
I did not have any idea what takes place in a museum
Baaruud’s first concern, however, was convincing dozens of internally displaced families to move out of the dilapidated building they had made their home.
“I feel a deep sense of pride and gratitude as I stand before the museum,” Baaruud tells The Africa Report. “Today, we celebrate the power of revival, the strength of turning tragedy into triumph, and the power of artistic expression.”
It was painstaking work, says the museum’s director, Osman Geedow.
“It is my honour to open the doors of the restored museum and reveal the first exhibition of Somali art since the civil war broke out in 1991, with each stroke of paint, sculpture and drawing carefully positioned,” says Geedow.
He was part of the supervising team that worked with 18 artists, who presented more than 60 works of art for the first exhibition, exploring the theme Hoy, which means ‘stay’ or ‘home’ in English.
“I am delighted to be a part of the first international art exhibition held in Mogadishu,” artist Sana Ashraf, tells The Africa Report while showing her artwork on display.
Reviving Somalia’s heritage
It was the first time for some visitors to experience an international art exhibition.
“I was born during the outbreak of Somalia’s civil war. I did not have any idea what takes place in a museum,” Ahmed Ali, a Mogadishu resident, tells The Africa Report at the opening.
“The opportunity to see this exhibition means a lot to me,” he says.
It will attract tourists who visited in the past
Senior adviser to Somalia’s Tourism Authority, Yaasir Baafo, hopes the restoration and reopening of the national museum will attract many tourists to the country.
“The restoration of the museum offers an opportunity for both the tourism sector of the country and the country’s heritage sector to develop as it will attract tourists who visited in the past [before the war] as well as newcomers to the country,” says Baafo.
Bringing tranquility back
Although foreign visitors could not attend the event due to logistical and security concerns, the reopening of the museum is a significant milestone for Somalia, education and culture minister Farah Sheikh Abdulkadir said.
“The revival sends the message that the era of fighting has ended and the time of peace and tranquility has arrived,” said Abdulkadir.
Hussein, also known as Maah, urged Somalis to donate anything related to their history or culture, or any significant item that could find a home in the museum’s four-storey building.
“After countless hours, sleepless nights and unwavering dedication, the culmination of our efforts has been viewed as a true expression of love and devotion. A moment that transcends the boundaries of time, culture and art,” says Baaraud.
The ‘Hoy’ exhibition runs at Somali National Museum until January.
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