In his poem “More Than Hero,” Twin Cities poet Abdifatah Farah recites the lines: “caught in a sense of our dreams being broken/ the youth have no choice but to sell their dreams for a token/ and old age is unnoticed, the youth unfocused, these scars don’t heal, because politics keep it open.”
Farah, known as Abdi Phenomenal, is featured in the 2017 documentary “Somalia: A Nation of Poets,” being shown next week as part of Minnesota’s Somali Week.
When refugees fled Somalia after the Civil War in 1991, they brought poetry and spoken word traditions. As a nomadic society without a written language until 1972, oral poetry became a means of storytelling and communication for Somalis. “Somalia: A Nation of Poets” is a way to teach younger Somali-Americans about their heritage. The documentary chronicles two younger and two older poets, to illustrate how Somali spoken-word has changed.
“We want to make sure the art industry of Minnesota is very much aware of the vibrant arts and cultural side of the Somali community,” said Mohamed Farah, executive director of Ka Joog, a nonprofit Somali youth organization founded in 2007.
Farah hopes that the documentary can help open a dialogue with communities throughout Minnesota to combat anti-immigrant ideas and Islamophobia. “We’re using the arts as a way to bring the community together and really talk about some of these issues,” said Farah.
The film will screen July 1 at the Southern Theatre in Minneapolis and July 5 at Twin Cities Public Broadcasting in St. Paul in conjunction with Xasuuso 1960, a yearly celebration of Somalia’s Independence Day on July 1, 1960 (“Xasuuso” means “remember”). The holiday marks the unification of the Somali Republic from the merger of the British Somaliland, a protectorate, and the Italian Somaliland created by the United Nations.
After the showing, there will be a discussion panel led by Farah and spoken-word artist Hodan Ugas, who is also featured in the film. A collaboration between TPT, Ka Joog and the Somali Museum of Minnesota that was three years in the making, “Somalia: A Nation of Poets” also will be rebroadcast statewide on TPT MN, Ch. 2.2, on July 2 at 3 a.m., 9 a.m., 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.
For more information on Somali Week and to register for the event, go to somaliweek.org.