The home in-between: Restoring art culture in Somalia
Art supplies and class for youth at Hargeisa Children’s Orphanage
A couple of weeks back, Mohamed Cadde, Hanad and I visited Hargeisa Children’s Orphanage in Hargeisa, Somaliland/Somalia. Back in March 2010, I founded Afrikanation Artists Organization, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization on a mission to restore and support past, present and future Somali art culture.
During the civil war, museums were looted and destroyed in his region, leaving ruins in their place. In this land, so historically rich, it is sad that the last 28 years of war have dismantled infrastructure that took thousands of years to build. Also, artistic practices that once thrived, such as mask making, are nearly a lost art form.
My father gave my mother a wooden mask before my birth that I brought to Hargeisa a few years back. Everyone I showed it to was shocked that it came from this region! And now, no museum exists in the country to hold these items nor gallery to share the work of current artists.
Afrikanation Art Supply Donation Drive
Disrupted trade, also a war bi-product, makes it very difficult for local artists to obtain basic art supplies. This includes acrylic paints and canvas that are readily available in neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya.
After interviewing artists in 2008 and learning about this challenge amongst others, our first project became the Afrikanation Art Supply Donation Drive. With the help of Oakland based musicians, poets and painters along with business owners in 10 cities in the United States and South Africa, more than 700 pounds of art supplies were collected and delivered to Hargeisa in our first two years. Through a series of fundraisers, these artists shared their talents in exchange for art supplies and monetary donations to cover shipping costs.
Our last major drive was centered in Oklahoma City in 2015. That year, supplies were delivered to Voices for Street Children in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Last month, we delivered supplies to Hargeisa Children’s Orphanage and 13 professional artists locally.
Youth Art Classes
When Madar, a passionate and dedicated artist began teaching children in his studio using the donated supplies, our youth art program was born. Sadly, this young vibrant man’s life was cut short, shocking everyone, especially his wife and newborn son. His brother, Inshaar, kept the classes going and allowed the youth around the neighborhood to continue coming for their sessions.
Hanad, a phenomenal painter, highlights everything from Somali culture to current issues such as irregular forms of migration through his work. Hanad was also an instructor for the Afrikanation After School Art Class, and when we delivered art supplies to Hargeisa Children’s Orphanage, he taught a class and shared how to use the various supplies donated. The children loved it!
We also took a tour of new facilities for 150 of the 400 youth who reside there. The youngest child we met was only 2 months old. Some of the children were abandoned in various parts of the city and some delivered directly to the orphanage. One major reason is financial constraints fueled by limited job opportunities that exist, and many of the children maintain relationships with their families. The Somaliland government provides food, shelter and basic needs for the youth, however much assistance is still needed including uniforms for many of the 270 school-age children.
For more information about Hargeisa Children’s Orphanage and to learn ways you can support them, please visit www.hargeisaorphanagecentre.org.
Ebony Iman Dallas
Ebony Iman Dallas is an interdisciplinary artist, founder of Afrikanation Artists Organization and former Cr