The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 20, 2013

Twin Cities museum showcases Somali art, culture

A national gallery once existed in Mogadishu. But years of war led to its destruction

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A new museum showcasing Somali art and culture is now open in the Twin Cities.

The Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum opened Saturday and features paintings of nomadic life and photos of Somalia's capital Mogadishu along with traditional rugs, ancient writing tablets and lots of items made from animal skins.

Twin Cities businessman and restaurant owner Osman Ali says the idea of bringing the artifacts to Minneapolis came out of his desire to teach younger Somalis the story of nomadic life in Somalia.

"I came with this idea to create a new base for these people living out of their country to let them study their culture," Ali said.

He collected many of the items on five trips to Somalia, starting in 2009 when he returned to visit his ailing father.

A national gallery once existed in Mogadishu. But years of war led to its destruction. The new Twin Cities museum aims to fill the void.

The grand opening Saturday drew a mix on Somalis and non-Somalis who made their way through the museums's five rooms, each with its own theme.

Abdi Mohamud, 25, recently studied photographs on the museum's walls and said he asked the gallery director if the images are truly of Somalia.

"And he kept saying, 'These things, they were there. But now they are not there'" Mohamud recalled. "These beautiful places are destroyed places. It's anarchy. The people living there have a horrible life. It is something I can't imagine how it happened."

Born in Somalia, Mohamud and his family fled the country's civil war when he was 9.

"I was born in Somalia, but I did not see all these beautiful things that I see right now," Mohamud said. "These are things that I've never seen in my life. It's like something I want to relate to my identity, where I come from and what kind of people I belong to. I never knew one day I could see a Somali museum here in Minneapolis."

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