Somalis + Minnesota

On view June 23, 2018-June 9, 2019, at the Minnesota History Center.

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Lead Release

‘Somalis + Minnesota’ Exhibit Opens June 23 at Minnesota History Center

For immediate release

Release dated: 
March 5, 2018
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen, 651-259-3148, jessica.kohen@mnhs.org 
Lauren Peck, 651-259-3137, lauren.peck@mnhs.org

‘Somalis + Minnesota’ Exhibit Opens June 23 at Minnesota History Center

New exhibit shares rich history of Minnesota’s Somali community

Minnesota is home to the largest population of Somalis in the United States. A relatively recent immigrant group, arriving in large numbers following the outbreak of civil war in Somalia in 1991, they have made significant advances in a short amount of time. This February, Rep. Ilhan Omar joined the Minnesota Legislature as the highest-ranking Somali American elected to office in the United States; in just a few years Abdirahman Kahin, owner of Afro Deli, has created one of the most successful restaurants in the Twin Cities with two locations, soon to be three; and in 2014 Kadra Mohamed became St. Paul’s first female Somali police officer, saying “When people ask, ‘Why me,’ I ask, ‘Why not me?’ Covering my hair doesn’t mean I can’t do this job.” These are only a few of the community’s success stories.

“Somalis + Minnesota” opens June 23, 2018 at the Minnesota History Center. Created in partnership with the Somali Museum of Minnesota and told through immersive settings, artifacts, photos and first-hand accounts, the exhibit tells the story of Somali immigrants, their arrival in their newly adopted home of Minnesota, and the successes and struggles they have faced.

“We are delighted to partner with the Somali Museum of Minnesota to bring this important exhibit to the History Center,” said Steve Elliott, MNHS director and CEO. “With Somali people in almost every sector of Minnesota’s workforce, now is the time to celebrate the strength and resilience of the Somali people and to help build bridges in understanding what it means to be an immigrant.”

“Many Somali people, especially youth, don’t know about their past because of the hardships they have faced fleeing the civil war,” said Osman Ali, director of the Somali Museum of Minnesota. “Seeing themselves in this exhibit will help them learn about their past, but also help them know that they belong here in Minnesota, a place they consider their second home.”

The 2,400 square foot exhibit features a reconstructed nomadic hut imported from Somalia; a collection of photographs and objects brought to life through commentary by Somali historians now living in Minnesota; and videos and interactive photo panels that introduce Somali Minnesotans from across the state. For exhibit-goers of all ages, a hands-on activity will show visitors how to load a camel for travel across the desert.

Exhibit Opening and Related Programs
The exhibit opens June 23, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., with a family celebration and free admission provided by the Knight Foundation and 3M. Activities are offered through 3 p.m. and include dance, poetry and storytelling performances; an art project; weaving demonstration; and samples of sambusas and Somali tea. Plus, meet the Somali teens who authored the new MNHS Press cookbook, “Soo Fariista/Come Sit Down: A Somali American Cookbook.”

This summer, July 28, 1-3 p.m., join a Somali American guide on a walking tour to get an insider's view of the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, home to Minnesota’s largest Somali community. Cost is $15/MNHS members save 20 percent.

Explore these programs and more at www.mnhs.org/calendar.

Somali Cookbook
“Soo Fariista/Come Sit Down: A Somali American Cookbook” (MNHS Press, June 2018) features traditional Somali family recipes with a modern Minnesota twist. The cookbook was created by Somali high school students who collected recipes and stories, researched techniques and ingredients, and then tested the recipes at the Mill City Museum Baking Lab. See separate release.

Related Resources
Explore the exhibit webpage to learn more about MNHS Press books including “Somalis in Minnesota” by Ahmed Ismail Yusuf, newly added MNopedia articles and the Somali Oral History Project, which will be featured in the spring 2018 edition of “Minnesota History” magazine.

Support and Awards
“Somalis + Minnesota” is made possible in part by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on Nov. 4, 2008. Additional support comes from Knight Foundation, 3M and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

Location, Hours and Admission
The Minnesota History Center is located at 345 Kellogg Blvd. W. in St. Paul. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays (admission is free on Tuesdays from 3 to 8 p.m.), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and Noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Auxiliary aids and services are available with advance notice. For more information, call 651-259-3000 or 1-800-657-3773.

Admission to “Somalis + Minnesota” is included with regular History Center admission of $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, veterans/active military and college students, $6 ages 5 to 17, free age 4 and under and MNHS members.

The Minnesota History Center holds the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society. The History Center is home to an innovative museum, engaging public programs, a research library, distinctive gift shops and an award-winning restaurant.

The Minnesota Historical Society is a nonprofit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. MNHS collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. Using the power of history to transform lives, MNHS preserves our past, shares our state’s stories and connects people with history.

The Minnesota Historical Society is supported in part by its Premier Partners: Xcel Energy and Explore Minnesota Tourism.

Somalis + Minnesota: Partnership

Somalis + Minnesota: Partnership

For immediate release

Release dated: 
March 5, 2018
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen, 651-259-3148, jessica.kohen@mnhs.org 
Lauren Peck, 651-259-3137, lauren.peck@mnhs.org

Somalis + Minnesota: Partnership

The exhibit was created in partnership with the Somali Museum of Minnesota (SMM), which houses a collection of more than 700 pieces and offers a wide range of educational programs about Somali traditional culture at the museum and throughout the region.

The Somali Museum’s mission is to use this collection as a tool for education: making it possible for young Somalis who have grown up in the United States to connect with their culture, as well as Minnesotans of other ethnic heritage to encounter Somali art and traditional culture for the first time. The museum’s programs explore the changing role of traditional arts and culture as the Somali people move across borders and time. By promoting the highest forms of Somali creativity, the Somali Museum believes that it can also help to diminish harmful prejudice and misunderstanding.

“When they learn more and they know each other more than they did before, that’s going to create a good environment.” Osman Ali, founder, Somali Museum of Minnesota. Ali moved to Minneapolis in 1996.

Visit www.somalimuseum.org

Osman Ali holding artifacts inside the Somali Museum of Minnesota

Somalis + Minnesota: Somali Cookbook

Somalis + Minnesota: Somali Cookbook

For immediate release

Release dated: 
March 5, 2018

Somalis + Minnesota: Somali Cookbook

Explore the new cookbook Soo Fariista/Come Sit Down: A Somali American Cookbook, MNHS Press, June 2018

Somalis + Minnesota: A Nation of Poets

Somalis + Minnesota: A Nation of Poets

For immediate release

Release dated: 
March 5, 2018
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen, 651-259-3148, jessica.kohen@mnhs.org 
Lauren Peck, 651-259-3137, lauren.peck@mnhs.org

Somalis + Minnesota: A Nation of Poets

Excerpted from MNopedia “Somali Poetry in Minnesota” by Ahmed Ismail Yusuf

Somali poetry is a unique art form with an ancient history and a living legacy. Since 1991, it has connected Somali and Somali American refugees living in the United States with those who remain in their East African homeland. In the 21st century, Somali Minnesotans have kept their poetic traditions alive by forming arts groups, organizing public performances in the Twin Cities and encouraging young people to become poets.

Historically, the most popular and powerful genre of Somali poetry has been gabay, one of several genres within the overall field of poetry (maanso). Poets turn to gabay to list, announce, and remember times of plenty as well as hardship, and to grieve over as well as celebrate the tumult of life’s uncertainties.

Somali poetry follows strict rules that dictate scansion, alliteration and pacing. The following poem was written in 1979 for the UNESCO proclaimed “International Year of the Child.” The proclamation was intended to draw attention to problems that affected children throughout the world. Poet Said Salah Ahmed moved to Minneapolis with his family in the early 1990s; he is currently a teaching specialist at the University of Minnesota.

“To the Midwife” by Said Salah Ahmed

The mother we don’t acknowledge;
The mother ignored,
Neglected
And unknown
Is you: the mother who is midwife.

A woman keens with contractions,
Labours under pain,
Utterly reliant
On your compassion and care:
You mother her, midwife.

Each tongue the world speaks
When a child is born,
The welcome
At the threshold of life
Is you, mother midwife.

From the day the egg
Implants in the womb,
As the earth’s
Troubles stir,
As the child is counted,
He gazes,
Hard-breathing,
He cries.
The first in awe,
Enamoured,
Is you: the mother who is midwife.

You are intent
On the baby’s being;
First guide on the path
Of his wobbly walk,
That he might be as good as he can:
One who atones for us.

Visitors to the exhibit can hear more Somali poetry and explore how this work is reaching worldwide audiences.

Somalis + Minnesota: Images

Somalis + Minnesota: Images

For immediate release

Release dated: 
March 5, 2018
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen, 651-259-3148, jessica.kohen@mnhs.org 
Lauren Peck, 651-259-3137, lauren.peck@mnhs.org

Somalis + Minnesota: Images

These images may be used for editorial purposes in magazines, newspapers and online to promote “Somalis + Minnesota,” opening June 23, 2018, at the Minnesota History Center. Credit information is listed.

 

Woman guides her camel

Somali nomads move often in search of good pasture and water for their herds of sheep, goats, cows and camels. Here a nomad is guiding her camel. In the exhibit a hands-on activity will show visitors how to load a camel for travel across the desert.

Photo credit: unknown

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Somali prime minister meets with President Lyndon Johnson at White House, 1968

Somali prime minister Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal with US president Lyndon Johnson and vice president Hubert Humphrey in Washington, DC, March 1968.

“No statesman is struggling harder today to realize the dream of democracy for his own people than the man that we honor tonight,” said President Johnson in his speech welcoming Prime Minister Egal. Hubert Humphrey toured Africa in 1968 visiting the National Teachers Education Center in Afgooye, southwest of Mogadishu. The purpose of education, Humphrey said, was the emancipation from fear and suspicion.

Photo credit: Edna Adan Maternity Hospital

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Nomads dancing in front of aqal soomaali

This is an aqal soomaali (AH-kahl so-MAH-lee), a portable house used by Somali nomadic families. It is made to be taken apart, loaded on a camel’s back, then rebuilt in a new place.

The aqal featured in the exhibit was purchased from a family living in northeast Somalia in 2017.

Photo credit: Ahmed Hussein Ahmed

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aqal construction at Somali Museum of Minnesota

A young woman helps construct an aqal Soomaali at Somali Museum of Minnesota.

Photo credit: Somali Museum of Minnesota

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Somali Museum Dance Troupe at Lake Street Festival 2017

The young men and women of the Somali Museum Dance Troupe study and perform traditional dances from all regions of Somalia. The dancers are high school and college students passionate about sharing their culture. They perform throughout the United States.

 

Photo credit: Mustafa Ali

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dhiil or wooden milk container

A dhiil (deel) is a milk container made of carved wood. Nomadic families milk camels, cows, sheep and goats. Milk is drunk fresh or eaten with boiled rice, sorghum or corn.

Photo credit: Nikki Tundel

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Group of decorative mats, called kebdo

This is a selection of decorative mats, called kebdo, which are woven from cotton and used as decorations.

Photo credit: Nikki Tundel

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Somali teens test recipes at Mill City Museum

“Soo Fariista/Come Sit Down: A Somali American Cookbook” (MNHS Press, June 2018) features traditional Somali family recipes with a modern Minnesota twist.

The cookbook was authored by Somali high school students who participated in the MNHS program “Wariyaa: Somali Youth in Museums” in 2016. Students interviewed family members, collected recipes and stories, researched techniques and ingredients and tested recipes at the Mill City Museum Baking Lab.

Photo credit: Andrea Reed, MNHS

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