Mogadishu going through artistic rebirth
Addis Ababa, July 23, 2013 (WIC) - With hope and transformation in the air as Somalia experiences its first sustained period of peace for two decades, a group of veteran Somalian artists have taken up their brushes again to send out a message for a better future that can be seen large and clear all around the city.
On the eve of the new-year 2013, a freshly painted billboard went up on the busy KM4 intersection in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. The timing of its unveiling was symbolic: it hailed 2013 as the year of changed fortunes and the start of an enduring period of stable nationhood in Somalia.
The painting took artist Muhaydin Sharif Ibrahim, a thin, stooped figure gnarled with age, almost four days to sketch, draw and paint.
"For me, it is not done until they take it out of this place and put it up on the street," he said, his hesitant smile easing onto his face.
Muhaydin was relishing the moment, and the paint, brush and canvas all seemed to collaborate to create his story of how Somalia has come of age. For almost two years now, as the war ebbs in Mogadishu, the Somali capital has been experiencing a sense of transformation and renewal that promises new opportunities.
A new government led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected in September 2012; construction is booming; commerce is thriving; and solar lights have been switched on in the city's main thoroughfares, causing welcome traffic jams deep into the night as people enjoy staying out late.
Amidst all this, a group of wizened and weather-beaten men have been making a quiet comeback. They have banded together to make their mark on history and to paint into memory the final act of a civil war that has lasted for more than 20 years. They are the painters of Mogadishu, who, with all their talent and great artistic skill, were reduced to nothing but a footnote in history by the country's brutal fortunes.
In a converted garage far away from the din of downtown traffic, a group of artists sets to work. Paint-stained hands moved deftly across sketch boards and canvases as each of the artists concentrated on his work.
Some, like Jeilani Ibrahim, like to sit up on a stool and use a blunt pencil. Others, like Muhaydin, prefer to take on the huge billboards with an armada of brushes. Both get the job done in their own way. Trained in Italy, Jeilani reminisces about a glorious past of gallery appearances and appreciation. ( the Africa Report)
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