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Somali Week Festival 2018: Looking Forward by Looking Back

The 10th annual Somali Week Festival is in full swing.

From Bethnal Green to Barking, at City and at Chelsea Town Hall, Somalis and members of the diaspora have been gathering to celebrate the very best in Somali arts, culture, research and heritage.

This year’s theme, “Decade: Looking Forward, Looking Back,” puts a special emphasis on reflection.

By looking back at the contributions of former guests, the organisers hope to rejoice in the cultural impact of the festival over the last 10 years, while creating a dialogue on how Somali Week Festival can progress forward for a new generation.

In practice, this means bringing together old friends with new. Many of the standout artists from the past have been invited to return for the festival anniversary.

This includes iconic poets Dheeg and Weedhsame from the Horn, and British-Somali Poets Asha LulMohamud Yusuf and Mohamed Haykal, who will be examining the role of poetry in Somali society over the last decade.

Socio political discussions, musical performances and literary seminars will also be led by several esteemed visiting guests. Music composer Bashir Xadi, journalists Harun Maruf and Mohammed Adow, playwright Said Salah and human rights activist Boqor Ahmed to name but a few.

They will be joined by UK based artists and scholars: Dr. Martin Orwin, Dr. Yusuf Sheikh Omar, Professor Bill Herbert, Hodan Musa, QumanAkli, musicians Aar Maanta and Kiin Jaamac, photographer Mina Shoots and children’s programme creator Zaynab Dahir.

The breadth of expertise brought by these inspiring role models from all over the world demonstrates the diaspora’s status as a unique and diverse force for progress. In bringing them together with guests from the region, the festival also highlights our common Somali heritage as a source of unity and strength.

These values are the very essence of Somali civil society. Key to their preservation are cultural initiatives like Somali Week, which bring people together to discuss sensitive issues and express themselves in a safe environment.

This year’s festival is as committed as ever to providing an inclusive space to discuss difficult issues, such as issues facing minorities within the Somali region, which will be tackled in a Q&A session with King of Gabooye, Boqor Ahmad Warsame.

But when talking about the challenges of the present and how to look forward, we must also think about ways in which our history and heritage have shaped our identity, over time, and across borders.

That’s why, this year, Somali Week will be using performance art to connect learnings from the past with dreams for the future; to ‘look forward by looking back.’

A brand-new contemporary play based on the historical folklore figure of Arawelo has been produced, while a new collaboration with Project NOMAD will allow viewers a 3D experience of heritage artefacts.

Finally, the festival wouldn’t be complete without a nod towards the future. There will be a celebration of new poetic talents from both the Horn and in the Diaspora via as the Share Your Talent platform, organised in collaboration with the London Literature Festival in the Southbank Centre.

Initiatives like Somali Week are a key point of access for Somalis and non-Somalis alike. Through the events of the past decade, cross-generational narratives have captured and honoured along with symbioses between homeland and host countries. The result is an enriched understanding of identity and of each other; which has contributed invaluably to the wellbeing and cohesiveness of our community.

Here’s to another 10 years of magnetic performances and cultural milestones.

Follow @SomaliWeekFest for more details on the festival events