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The First Contemporary Art Institution in Somalia

Most people know Somalia for its decades-long civil war. As a result of the conflict and instability, many citizens are living outside of the country. Sagal Ali is part of the two million diaspora. Unlike others who sit back and complain about how things are “back home”, she has chosen to get involved in a different kind of effort to rebuild her home country. Ali’s weapon is art, and her vehicle is the Somali Arts Foundation (SAF). Based in Mogadishu, SAF aims to increase public enjoyment and understanding of contemporary art. Ali wants to use art to help build a more peaceful, prosperous and harmonious society in a country that is often labelled a failed state. Ali sees art as a means to allow people to examine their environment, to critically engage with it, to question and challenge it, while carving out spaces to imagine better futures. She insists that art, at its best, can offer spaces to dream, and enact real change in society. “Contemporary art in particular can be a path to interrogating Somalia’s recent traumatic past,” she adds, “while serving as a channel for enquiries into present day-to-day life.”