Beginnings on Cleveland Avenue
Urur Dhex-Dhexad Ah/Community in Between
It is not a direct translation, and that is significant. Qorsho and I met for coffee last year during one of my trips to Columbus and got to talking about identity and representation issues. She mentioned an idea she'd been thinking about to showcase the ways that young Somalis were contributing to their communities, and I immediately jumped on board. I contacted a good friend at Dublin Arts Council about the idea, and they offered us a slot in their exhibition schedule and agreed to sponsor the development of this project.
Since this initial conversation, we've focused our inquiry on community-building among young Somalis in the diaspora, with aims to offer a counternarrative to the ways the Somali community is often represented, offer a series of role models for Somali youth through the development of posters to be hung in social service agencies and schools, further investigate diaspora community-building processes and identity negotiation among 1.5-2nd generation Somali Americans, and contribute to local conversations regarding race, religion, immigration, integration/participation, and representation. Our project includes a photonarrative exhibit featuring photographs taken by three high school female Somali photographers, each participants' story, and artifacts from each participant. We were able to offer a photography scholarship for the three girls, which included a camera and a three-day workshop with Toronto-based artist Riya Jama. More on that in a future post. It also includes a poster series exploring attributes of individual attributes that help build strong communities. A website is to come.
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Qorsho and I began interviews for Urur Dhex-Dhexad Ah/Community in Between in May and concluded our 18th interview on August 13. We collected over 800 minutes of video and audio and 342 transcript pages.
Our interviews focused on each participants' background (family, experiences growing up, journey stories, and education), a discussion of identity negotiation in the diaspora, vocation, and community-building (identifying assets, challenges, a picture of the future).
Dalmar TV generously let us use their space on Cleveland Avenue to record many of our interviews. The rest were recorded at Panera on Lane Avenue and at Qorsho's home.
We are now processing the interviews, identifying key stories, concepts, and the intersection of race, class, education, gender, and age in the process of identity negotiation. We're also exploring the ways that individuals perceive their role in their family and community, and how this influences how they talk about and contribute to community-building in the diaspora.
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Ruth M. Smith
Community arts educator and researcher. Drinking coffee. Home educating. Making art. Listening intentionally.