Ahmed Magare’s solo exhitibion The Better Side of Wings at Ort Gallery in Birmingham, UK, on 12-13 August, was a tremendous success. A team of the Writers Without Borders collective (including Femi Abidogun, David Rollason and Ahmed) performed poetry, a video with poetry performances was projected on a loop, Zoom played the drums, and the art installation, a live mural painting, and delicious Somali food made the day into a spectacular happening.
On the second day, a screening of Africa is You caused for interesting discussions afterwards. Below, Linde Luijnenburg and Ahmed Magare share some of the questions asked, and offer some commentary.
Someone asked “I know Somaliland and Somalia are different regions, are Somalis they same?”
(AM) Somalis are ethnically the same, have the same language with an expectation of different accents in regions but are politically divided through colonial history.
Audience members wondered “Why are the Somalis in U.K./Birmingham looking back/romancing to their homeland?”
(AM) I explained this in my book (When Heros Hide Behind Curtain Ropes), using various references on the Nomadic being/Somalis etc.
People wondered, “What do the people in the documentary identify as (first)? Somali? Dutch? British?”
(LL) This question might be the most common question. I find that fascinating, because I would think the one does not exclude the other; political boundaries are constructed, and I would argue that it is not a matter of percentages, but of fluidity and inclusivity. The nomadic culture also enables Somalis to create a feeling of homeliness quite easily.
Someone wondered, “How is Somalia politically recovering from war? Is the infrastructure changing/improving?”, and “Do we have Somali health professionals or educators in Small Heath, Birmingham?”
(AM) We have many graduates from many universities around the country and in Birmingham. We also had a big careers event in Birmingham (which I was invited to share my art background and to teach young Somali people that want to study art and writing at university. But unfortunately it was on the 12th of August which was on the day of the opening of my first solo exhibition!) and young graduates are slowly going back to Somalia.
One person asked, “When I went to Hilaac restaurant I experienced a lot of staring from men lounging in the place, I felt overwhelmed and then I left. Why is that men and women are divided, why do men dominate the coffee shops?”
(AM) When I replied kindly that in my opinion, this is a religious thing, and not a cultural phenomenon, the Somalis in the audience started to debate these ideas with passion, which I really enjoyed, because these situations create sensitivity, and sometimes uncomfortable moments, which we have to face in the community.
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