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Thursday October 19th 2017

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SOMALI MUSEUM: Now Right on Lake Street

Sarah Larsson, SACM, Outreach Director

A new museum celebrating Somali culture and art has just opened on Lake Street.

The world’s only Somali Cultural History Museum used to be in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. In the last 20 years of war in Somalia, that museum’s contents have been scattered across East Africa and the world. Now this community-led project offers hope to the large Somali diaspora.

On the block between 15th Avenue and Bloomington Avenue on East Lake St, in a basement office suite, a group of Minnesotans has been working for months to fill rooms with camel bells, goatskin water jugs, and ancient wooden writing tablets. It is the first time a collection of Somali cultural artifacts has been assembled outside of Somalia, and it is a new gem of the Twin Cities’ cultural landscape.

The Somali Museum was founded by Osman Ali, a local entrepreneur. When Ali traveled to visit his family in 2009, he saw a change happening in Somalia.

“Everybody is moving into the cities now, and the culture is disappearing,” explains Ali. Instead of traditional handmade crafts, Ali saw most homes full of imported plastic goods. “I realized that in America, it an even bigger challenge,” he continued.

“This museum is for the young people,” says Ali. “They have grown up without any connection to their culture.”

Ali envisions a Somali Artifact and Culture Museum to which parents and teachers can bring groups of children to learn about and reclaim their heritage.

“This is one of the biggest—no, it is the biggest collection of Somali culture we have.” Ahmed Mohamed Warsame used to be a director at the Somali National Museum. Now he is volunteering to catalog the Minnesota museum’s collection. At last count, it contained over 700 pieces.

“This is amazing,” says Muna Muhammed, a Somali-American woman in her late twenties. “I haven’t seen any of these things except with my grandparents, when I was a little girl.”

The Somali Museum gallery opened on Saturday, October 19, and crowds of young people like Muna pressed towards the artifacts to take pictures on their phones. Osman Ali looked on and smiled.

The Museum gallery is open to the public 11-5 on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, and by appointment all week at 612-234-1625. Groups of young people and school field trips are especially welcome. The Museum is located at 1516 East Lake St, Suite 011, and www.somalimuseum.com.

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