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Somali artists prepare for presidential inauguration

Friday, August 31, 2012

A group of artists perform at a political event in Mogadishu on August 8th. Singers are busy preparing for a performance to celebrate the presidential inauguration at the National Theatre. [Adnan Hussein/Sabahi]

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Somali artists are busy preparing a performance to celebrate the inauguration of the next president to be held soon at the National Theatre in Mogadishu.

Parliamentarians elected the new speaker and his two deputies on Tuesday (August 28th), and are meeting this week to determine the timeline for selecting the next president.

The much-anticipated presidential election marks the end of the transitional period in Somalia and the first time in over 20 years that elections will be held inside the country.

Singer Surqa Abdullahi, also known as Surqa Yarey, said she is enjoying rehearsals and has pledged to do her best to entertain spectators who are expected to fill the theatre, which seats 2,000 people.

"I will sing on stage, as will many other Somali music bands from the diaspora living in Britain, the United States, Sweden, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates," she told Sabahi.

"We will surprise our people with beautiful performances and a play that deals with love of our homeland and making political compromise," Abdullahi said. "We will also raise awareness about the danger of terrorism and violence that goes with it."

The National Theatre was closed for 21 years after the collapse of the central government. It re-opened in March, but an attack by a female al-Shabaab suicide bomber in April killed seven people, including two sports officials, forcing it to close again.

The Mogadishu-based Centre for Research and Dialogue (CRD), which funded renovations of the National Theatre with the Somali government, announced the completion of work last week.

Jibril Ibrahim Abdulle, director of the CRD, said the centre financially supports artists, poets and playwrights, and will also sponsor songs, games and plays that promote peace and stability.

"Our approach is to foster creativity and personal initiative, as well as to reinforce high values including a sense of national identity, a spirit of dialogue and respect for differing opinions, and introducing a culture of consensus on common interests with regard to social and national issues," he told Sabahi.

Singer Biyood Ali said artists are eager to celebrate with the newly elected president. She said she hopes reconstruction of the theatre will put an end to the problems faced by Somali artists when al-Shabaab took control of Mogadishu. Somali and African Union forces ejected al-Shabaab from Mogadishu in August 2011.

Ali said that dancing, theatre and art exhibitions encourage communication, and that it is important to create a suitable environment that attracts national music bands.

"My colleagues and I will overcome these difficulties," she told Sabahi.

Singer Mukhtar Sharif, from the Waaberi band, told Sabahi he has been on the path towards fame rather than money throughout his career. He said he will present songs about love and patriotism, hoping to dazzle the audience.

Sharif said he will sing in both Arabic and English during the ceremony, which several heads of state and regional and international organisations are expected to attend.

Famous composer and guitar player Jiim Sheikh Mumin said he cannot wait to perform on stage again after 21 years of chaos and threats against artists.

"I can imagine going on stage and playing my instrument in front of the residents of Mogadishu and then I will hear clapping from all corners of the theatre as I thank them profusely and express my love," he told Sabahi.

Musician Mohamed Waliiyow told Sabahi that art is returning to Mogadishu after it has found fertile ground that does not espouse or advocate al-Qaeda's takfiri ideology.

"We will spare no effort for our homeland and will be prolific in our songs and hymns praising our country so we can end the age of radicalism, ambiguity and secrecy adopted by al-Shabaab," he said.


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