Can art save the world? Some are convinced it can. A series such as Meet the Somalis could offer a solution at times when mutual understanding between different communities is lacking. In fourteen comic shaped short stories, Somalis living in European cities speak up. Meet Magool, Baashi, Jamilah and several others.
At home in Europe
Meet the Somalis is the result of interviews artist Lindsay Pollock and anthropologist/writer Benjamin Dix had with Somali migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. The comics are a sneak peek of some results of a big European research project, At Home in Europe. This project strives for more equality for groups who are often excluded from civil, political and cultural life in Europe.
Seven cities, fourteen stories
Meet the Somalis presents fourteen real short stories of Somalis living in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Leicester, London, Malmö and Oslo. The comics highlight issues brought up during the At Home in Europe research process: education, housing, media, employment, political participation, and identity.
One story is Jamilah’s, who lives in Finland. Her mother fled Somalia when she was pregnant, and Jamilah herself found success in a fashion college in London. Just like Sagal from Denmark, she has to cope with rejection in a variety of contexts as a veiled woman. Sagal, when she is not allowed to enter a club: “I was born here. I speak Danish, I pay taxes – Yet somehow because I’m a Muslim I’m second class.” Then there is Baashi, who moved from Dutch asylum centre to asylum centre and goes underground after his application for asylum has been turned down. Another example is Magool, who lost her family during the war. She finds it difficult to leave the area she knows since she does not feel comfortable speaking Swedish. Faaid en Amiir, both from Norway, lead totally different lives. Faaid faces a Kafkaesque asylum seeking process that makes him want to go back to Somalia. Amiir’s children on the other hand feel no connection whatsoever with the country of their roots.
Informing yet recognisable
The series serves as a loudspeaker for a voice most Europeans are hardly familiar with. It is the voice of those who left their country and loved ones, seeking refuge from war and poverty. Of those who want to build up a life for themselves in a country that is their home and who want to be accepted as equals. At the same time, it is a voice that touches upon recognisable things: the importance of family, safety, well-being and acceptance by those who live around you. The personal and therefore realistic images portrayed in Meet the Somalis are most accessible. That is exactly the project’s forte, which will make sure it reaches its goal.
Images © Meet the Somalis
This post is also available in: Dutch