After almost a quarter of century in chaos, Somalia’s hope to revive its art sees new light.AhmedAbdirisak, 22, fled from Mogadishu because of conflicts, he dropped out of school at the age of 19. He dreams to live in Holland. But, now he stares local films of a tiny industry that is just start to be on the rise,” I want Somalis to watch my contents as they watch other foreign soap operas.”He toldTMC.
He grew up watching Indian movies which is translated to Somali language in his suburb,Madina district, in Somalia capital Mogadishu, and he found of singing before he changed his heart to acting, ” I loved music and my hobby was to be a singer but later I found of acting, because I felt it’s a field that’s none existed in our society.”
SiadBarre held sway of Somalia last, and it’s military government collapsed a year before Ahmed was born. The country since was in chaos. Last year, Mogadishu hosted first democratic election in Somali soil more than 42 years. Hassan Shiekh Mohamud was elected as the Somali president, and many onlookers have betted that the country’s fortunes started to change for better.
Despite the occasional hit and run attacks by the outlawed terrorist group Alshabaab, Mogadishu is full of optimism. Arts which once were banned by Alshabaab revived, and several music concerts have been staged in the city in the recent past.
A sign that encouraged Mahad Ahmed, a producer and film maker based in neighbouring Kenya, use filming to transform lives of society through art,” I have been to Mogadishu recently. And the stability is encouraging.” he said.
Mahad, produced Ahmed’s latest short film Halista(Danger), a film moulds the danger of the internet and addiction of social networks. He believes, producing contents that resemble with the technology could be more effective for enticing viewers comparing to the centuries old other types of art, ” It would give more dynamic contents.” He argues.
Somali artis believedto beone of the oldest arts in Africa. For years, Poetry was a main means of communication, and the countrywas dubbedasthe nation of poets. Since Alshabaab withdrew from Mogadishu art was one of much activity that has revived. More than 20 paintings reflecting the turmoil past of the country were erected different parts of the capital.
But, films were not popular among Somalis; they have just started to rise. It faces many challenges including financial terms. Also there is widespread belief that films can not reflect cultural reputation of the society hence they promote obscenity, “First, girls could not join because of cultural creeds, but these days we have them in,” Eastleighwood films director,Burahan Iman said.
Iman, a former businessman believed the need to counter negative media portrayal of the Somali community and important of contents that entice war riddled society from any sort of violence.
He started Eastleigh woodfilms.It comprised the first generation of Somali refugees and Somali-Kenyan casts. Among their contents were: short films; documentaries; drama; poetry; talk shows countering piracy, human smuggling and extremism, “Our contents are free of charge we only want to send the message out.” Burhan said. Eastleighwood based the eastern suburb of Nairobi.
Copyright infringement is rampant in Somalia. And,perhaps, generating fair income for their work is almost impossible, a fact Burhan and co resigned to. They even some times give up their share of hard work only to get air time for their contents at one of the local broadcasters, “Somali broadcasters have neglected local contents. They fail to collaborate with the local film industries,” Burhan laments to the local broadcasters.
Theme of the contents that Mahad produces, which is to transform society through art, can hardly influence his target audience at least has not gone quite well at the ears of Ahmed, one of his own team.
The future is bleak for the young actor, who travelled eight days to reach border to Kenya. He wants to immigrate to Europe, in the quest of better living then his home country.” my friends are all in Norway.” He said. It’s a dream for many young Somalis to immigrate Europe and for Ahmed is not different. But the only way to reach his destination is to board a small boat at the shores of Libya, a journey thousands of people take to reach Europe through human traffickers.
”It is sad that things of the country affect us so much. And it’s sad to know that Ahmed is among affected. I talked to him, but he is still eager to go.”Mahad said.
According to United Nation Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNoDC) estimated more than a thousand people, trying to cross sea from Africa to Europe lose their lives each year. It’s also believed that the number is higher than estimated.
I asked Ahmed if his parents knew about his plans he replied: ” they have no power to stop me.”
“my parents would rather choose my plan then going back to Somalia where I can be enticed by the warring parts,” Ahmed said, clinching his teeth. Perhaps he doubts rectitude of his decision; though, he prefers to return to his country if the fragile stability gained over the past year continue to strengthen.