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There are few nomadic societies that have been catapulted into the 21st century as dramatically as the Somali. 20 years of war have scattered hundreds of thousands of Somalis all over the world. People who were born in little desert villages and grew up herding camels are now young professionals in London, Toronto, or Minneapolis. And as their large families often live in a dozen different countries, many Somalis live uniquely international lives as modern nomads.

But while most of those who have left their country as refugees keep up their connections with home, and try to preserve their rich cultural heritage and history, a new generation of diaspora Somalis is growing up that has never seen the Horn of Africa. Raised in Western or Middle Eastern cities and surrounded by American, European, or Arab friends, they are more interested in pop culture than camel culture, and often barely speak their mother-tongue or know their place in the clan system.

As new catastrophes force new refugees into the West, and old diaspora members return to their home country, the clash of cultures within Somali society is being fought wherever Somalis live. Whether a family in the Netherlands, trying to teach their children the old traditions and values, or a family in Mogadishu, struggling with an influx of "Westerners", every Somali is confronted with cultural change, and everybody has to ask themselves what it really means to be Somali.

As visual peacemakers, we want to capture a cultural heritage that is in the process of being lost forever, and help the Somali people to remember and treasure their past. At the same time, we are hoping to document the amazing changes that are happening within Somali culture, and to catch a glimpse of the new rich and diverse society that is emerging out of the ashes of a long civil war.

 

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CONTRIBUTORS

 
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Joshua Smith

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Manal Fashi

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Courtney Huron

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Daniel Rossbach