Somalia’s National Museum Welcomes First International Contemporary Art Exhibition in Three Decades

Abdi Baaruud AT newly renovated National Museum in Mogadishu

In a remarkable display of resilience and artistic revival, the Somali National Museum in Mogadishu played host to its inaugural international contemporary art exhibition on July 24th. The event marked a significant milestone for Somalia, as the museum had remained closed for over 30 years following severe damage sustained during the country’s civil war in 1991.

The extensively renovated museum, which had undergone an extensive restoration project led by Abdi Baaruud, was at the center of attention as artists, enthusiasts, and visitors gathered to witness a vibrant showcase of contemporary artworks. Baaruud’s commitment went beyond mere restoration; he also faced the challenge of convincing internally displaced families to vacate the building, making way for the museum’s resurrection.

With an air of pride and gratitude, Baaruud remarked, “Today, we celebrate the power of revival, the strength derived from turning tragedy into triumph, and the profound impact of artistic expression.” The meticulous efforts of Baaruud and his team were evident in every corner of the museum, reflecting a collaborative endeavor by architects, experts, and volunteers.

Osman Geedow, the museum’s director and a member of the supervising team, expressed his honor at unveiling the first exhibition of Somali art since the onset of the civil war. The exhibition, titled “Hoy” (meaning ‘stay’ or ‘home’ in English), featured over 60 works by 18 artists. Each stroke of paint, sculpture, and drawing conveyed a sense of purpose, contributing to the overarching theme of homecoming and continuity.

For many attendees, the event was an introduction to the world of international art. Ahmed Ali, a Mogadishu resident, shared his experience, stating, “I was born during the outbreak of Somalia’s civil war. I did not have any idea what takes place in a museum. The opportunity to see this exhibition means a lot to me.”

As Somalia seeks to revive its cultural heritage and attract tourists, Yaasir Baafo, a senior adviser to Somalia’s Tourism Authority, emphasized the potential of the restored museum. Baafo stated, “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.”

Although logistical and security concerns prevented foreign visitors from attending the event, Education and Culture Minister Farah Sheikh Abdulkadir heralded the reopening as a sign of progress. “The revival sends the message that the era of fighting has ended and the time of peace and tranquility has arrived,” Abdulkadir remarked.

Abdulkadir Hussein, also known as Maah, called upon Somalis to contribute artifacts and items of cultural significance to the museum. Reflecting on the extensive efforts put into the restoration, Baaruud concluded, “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.”

The “Hoy” exhibition will continue to grace the Somali National Museum until January, inviting both locals and international visitors to partake in the celebration of Somalia’s artistic and cultural renaissance.

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