Friday June 26, 2020
Artists in Horn of Africa country fight misinformation, rumors and stigma surrounding
On her balcony in a small apartment in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, Nujuum Hashi Ahmed is concentrating on a new painting that springs from the depths of her imagination.
Armed with sheer originality, she moves a paintbrush across a piece of canvas, her hands slightly stained with paint, her focus always is to bring real-life looking characters to life using her pieces of art … Today she has completed a painting of herself with boxing gloves punching the coronavirus.
The young and famous Somali painter contracted coronavirus in Mogadishu. She does not know how she caught the disease but she attributes it to her community not being serious about measures that the government has imposed to curb the spread of the infectious virus.
“I don’t know how I got infected, I had to lock myself in my small apartment for a very long time which was a challenging time. During that time I made two pieces of art, the first one was of me taking care of myself with home remedies, the other drawing I did was me fighting and punching the coronavirus … literally boxing it,” she told Anadolu Agency.
Nujuum is saddened by how the Somali people are dealing with COVID-19 and believes they could do more to tackle the pandemic. She has observed that people are not taking the measures put in place seriously and lack information on the disease.
“If somebody wears a face mask, everyone is looking at them saying they have the coronavirus, it is like stigmatizing them, telling them “you are wrong,” yet these are people who are doing the right thing, this is something that really sickens me a lot.”
“It is really depressing to see the people behaving the way they are behaving here in Mogadishu, people are really careless about this pandemic, you see the restaurants and places where people meet are still open, friends are hugging, shaking hands and walking around … You see markets are full of people buying and selling stuff … you see young people having coffee and sitting very close to each other, they are not even thinking about the problem that the disease is causing … it really disturbs me.”
Since the start of the outbreak, Somalia has confirmed 2,878 coronavirus cases with 90 recorded deaths. A total of 868 people have recovered from the disease in the Horn of Africa country, according the official figures.
A COVID-19 survivor, Nujuum is using her art to spread awareness about how deadly the disease is and how to avoid it across Somalia.
The European Union has stepped in to help Somalis in different genres of art to raise awareness about the disease throughout the country. The painter believes that with so many illiterate Somalis, this is the best way for artists to tackle COVID-19.
“Art reaches many more people. In the Somali community, a majority of people do not know how to read or write, so they need art to understand how dangerous this problem is. We are sending the message to all Somalis both educated and not educated, including the ones who cannot hear but see. We will work hard to spread this message to our people.”
In a statement the EU Delegation in Somalia said that it joined hands with young Somali artists to create awareness about the outbreak in the country.
Affirming their support in a statement, the EU in Somalia said that “Somali youth and artists have a crucial role to play in the Covid response, underlines the EU Ambassador Nicolas Berlanga-Martinez.”
“The fight is not only a fight against Covid-19, it is also a fight against misinformation, rumors, and stigma around the disease. With their voice and talent, youth and artists can share crucial information, within their community but also among their fans, to engage with a large audience in response to the crisis. The EU recognizes this potential and seeks to amplify their voices by displaying and supporting their work.”
Somali musicians have released numerous songs promoting social distancing, wearing of face masks among many other measures. Other artists across Mogadishu who spoke to Anadolu Agency lauded the move and promised to spread the message to every corner of the country.
Somalia has been described as a powder keg waiting to explode with one of the worst COVID-19 measures put in place in the African continent.
COVID-19 has affected livelihoods of thousands of Somalis who are battling calamities such as a health crisis and acute food shortages due to pre-existing climatic shocks, including floods and droughts, leaving communities vulnerable to the disease.