Friday August 17, 2018
By Patty Dexter
Faye Abdi, a
teacher at Eden Prairie High School, is one of more than 100 Somali
Minnesotans whose stories are told in the exhibit.Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society
Amal Mohamed grew up watching her
father work to build the life he created for his family after
immigrating to the United States from Somalia in 1990.
who was born and raised in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood,
now works at the Somali Museum of Minnesota as its communications and
marketing manager. Her father is a business owner in the Village Market
in Minneapolis and has been happy living in the United States, she said.
up I saw the dedication and the work he put in to support himself, his
family and the community to bring them the things they don’t necessarily
have here anymore,” Mohamed said.
That dedication and hard
work is important is important to Somalis and people pay attention to
what they’re adding to the community, Mohamed said. Now, the broader
community has the chance to learn more about Somali culture and how
people of Somali descent have contributed to Minnesota.
and other Somali Museum staff recently collaborated with the Minnesota
Historical Society on a new exhibit featuring Somali culture and history
at the Minnesota History Center. “Somalis + Minnesota” opened in June
and will be open until June 9, 2019. Mohamed’s father is one of the
people featured in the exhibit.
think a lot of people have put hard work and dedication into getting a
lot of the thoughts and stories out there for people to see. It’s a
collaborative effort of the community to get the story of the Somali
community out there to Minnesota and the world,” she said.
initial idea for the partnership came up about four years ago in a
conversation between the Somali Museum’s director and the History
Center’s head of exhibits, during which they discussed the benefits of
such a collaboration. The two organizations began meeting for the new
exhibit about 18 months ago, said Kate Roberts, Minnesota History Center
senior exhibit developer.
Historical Society is interested in the history of all immigrant
populations, including more recent immigrants. The organization had
already done some documentation on the Somali immigration to Minnesota
and the exhibit seemed like the logical next step, Roberts said.
The first Somali refugees arrived in Minnesota in 1991, according to Roberts.
“It made a major impact on
Minnesota. What we hope to get across with people who aren’t familiar
with the culture is to learn just enough to take the next step. If
you’ve always been curious about Somali cuisine or just want to strike
up a conversation, maybe this exhibit will give you a little background
to do that,” she said.
Somali visitors we wanted to sort of provide them with a sense of their
past that maybe has been lost a little bit as their lives were disrupted
and moved here.”
exhibit houses a collection of over 700 pieces, according to the History
Center’s website. Roberts said the pieces include stamps, letters and
religious objects. The Somali Museum loaned over 100 objects for the
exhibit including a reconstructed nomadic hut, known as an aqal
Soomaali, that was imported from Somalia.
said the exhibit is divided into three main sections. Most people start
at the aqal Soomaali in a section about traditional life which includes
footage of a Somali man explaining what people are seeing interspersed
with historic footage. There’s also an interactive piece that allows
people to pack a camel for different purposes.
history section has an easy to follow time line of Somalia’s history,
as an overview to give people a better understanding, Roberts said.
third section focuses on present-day life in Minnesota. The space is
surrounded by photos and quotes of Somalis. Over 100 people are featured
and they talk about their lives, how they got to Minnesota and the
importance of living in the state. The Somali Museum helped make the
connections to collect people’s stories, Roberts said.
from a wide range of professions — anywhere from teachers to medical
personnel to people involved in the arts and entrepreneurs,” she said.
Mohamed said the Somali
Museum is honored that the exhibit is being offered and the partnership
with the Minnesota History Center has been important.
important to us because a lot of people come to the Minnesota History
Center and its kind of a great opportunity for people who don’t always
hear about the Somali Museum to come and learn,” she said.
Somali language didn't have a written form until 1972. The following
year, the government organized a literacy campaign to teach reading and
writing across Somalia.Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society