Birthed out of the frustration of the mostly negative and one-dimensional depictions of their country, and armed with the “responsibility of building a better Somalia”, the curators behind the blog Discover Somalia make use of imagery and other sourced information in an attempt to “change the negative perceptions and stereotypes” about their country.
Dynamic Africa spoke to them about this new project aimed at showcasing the diversity of life in Somalia.
Can you tell us a little bit about who the people behind the “Discover Somalia” initiative are?
Discover Somalia was created by a group made up of Somali diasporans, mostly college students in United States and the United Kingdom who are very much up to date on current affairs in Somalia and/or are involved with Somalia in their respective studies. After seeing how Somalia is portrayed in the mainstream media, we wanted to take ownership. We … as free Somalis at this historic moment in our country wanted to help define and shape the country we want. We never got to experience [what] a stable Somalia looks like, but we want to take responsibility of building a better Somalia that can live up to the promise of all its peoples.
What are the main objectives of your blog? What inspired you to create it?
Discover Somalia is an online photography blog that attempts to change the negative perceptions and stereotypes of Somalia. Somalia is not a place of war and famine and destruction and all these horrible things we so often hear in the mainstream media, but it’s a place where normal people do normal things all the time, just like we do. We wanted to start a project that could be more all encompassing, we wanted a collection of images that showcases Somalia’s progress and normalcy. We have many present and future objectives, but for now we want display images progress and history of Somalia, so that people understand that there is [more] to Somalia.
What would most readers gain from your blog?
For decades, mainstream and Somali media have documented and continue to document a seemingly endless cycle of wars and famine in Somalia, exposing otherwise ignored tragedies to the global audience. But too often the subjects of these images seem to be reduced to symbols, and viewers do not encounter them as fully rounded human beings. And we rarely see photos of the Somalia’s progress or the cultural heritage and history of Somalia. A complicated country is often reduced to caricature. So when people come to our blog we want them to instantly see a different Somalia that they don’t witness elsewhere.
Photography seems to play a huge role in your blog’s aesthetic, do you plan on including other forms of artistic/media narratives?
Everyone sees things differently. Put 100 photographers in a room and you’ll get 100 different photos. The way you see the world is unique, and photography lets you share that perspective with others. We saw too many people focusing on images of the deadly explosions in Mogadishu, while turning a blind eye to the entrepreneurs, footballers, beachgoers and the reconstruction of Mogadishu. We believe that even though Somalia is busily rising out of the ashes, to the majority of the world it will remain, for a long while, the land of starving children, AK47-wielding rebels and greedy big-stomach-small-brain politicians. It takes a long time to change a bad image … but we can do it, one photograph at a time.
Visit the blog at http://discoversomalia.tumblr.com/
Dynamic Africa is a multimedia curated blog focused on all facets of African cultures, African history, and the lives and experiences of Africans on the continent and in the diaspora – past and present. Visit the blog and connect with the curator, Funke Makinwa, on Twitter.