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The Somali Diaspora

The Somali Diaspora: A Journey Away

Photographs by Abdi Roble
Essays by Doug Rutledge
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    The Somali Diaspora
    Book Description:

    The Somali Diaspora traces, through photographs and essays, the journey of a family from the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya to new lives in the United States. The work takes readers from civil war in Africa to the culture shock of arriving in the United States, growing roots in the Somali community, learning English, finding work, and—in a remarkably short time—participating fully in American life.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6649-2
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. The Somali Documentary Project: How It All Began
    (pp. vii-xiv)

    Abdi Roble, the son of a veterinarian, was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1964. Abdi grew up to become a professional soccer player in Somalia. In fact, as we trek around the world together, I am constantly amazed at how many people remember him from his soccer days. Before we get around to asking people if we can document their lives, we often stop while Abdi and his former fans recall specific plays from important games, games that themselves recall a Somalia of happier days.

    At the height of his career, Abdi decided to leave soccer and Somalia altogether. After...

  4. The Somali Diaspora in America
    (pp. 1-20)

    Somalis are the new neighbors of Americans. When people come from different backgrounds, it is often difficult for them to introduce themselves to each other. We would like to make those initial introductions through the words and photographs of this book, but as we begin this journey to meet new friends from distant lands, we should make ourselves aware of a few caveats.

    As Aristotle once pointed out, a person who lives outside of society “must either be a beast or a god.”¹ To be human is to express identity inside a cultural context. To change that context is no...

  5. Dadaab: That Dry, Hungry Place
    (pp. 21-52)

    Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya is home to more than 150,000 refugees who fled the violence that stemmed from the civil war in Somalia.¹ When President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, violence became endemic in this small country on the Horn of Africa. The cold war and the Ogaden conflict with Ethiopia left the country rife with weapons.² Consequently, when the central government in Somalia crumbled, people easily fell prey to competing warlords and ordinary bandits. Somalis have a saying: “When elephants fight, the grass dies.” Most Somali people were like the grass in the conflict that...

  6. From Refugee to Dependent: The Family of Abdisalam
    (pp. 53-94)

    While we were in Dadaab, we met and became friends with a family that was soon to be resettled to the United States. Most people in Dadaab feel trapped, but when we first met them, the family of Abdisalam believed that they would soon be going to a better world. Unfortunately, Abdisalam was to learn that the process of resettlement and adjusting to a new culture would not be as easy as he had been led to believe. The story of Abdisalam and his family begins as the story of people who are running from war. Moreover, as they are...

  7. Columbus, Ohio: Preparing for American Life
    (pp. 95-134)

    The rapidity with which the number of Somali people living in central Ohio has grown has surprised most mainstream Ohioans. Indeed, the Somali community in Columbus is thriving. More than 45,000 ethnic Somalis live in central Ohio. There are over 350 Somali-owned businesses in the second-largest Somali community in the United States, businesses that provide jobs for Somalis as well as other Americans. Hundreds of Somali students in Columbus are pursuing undergraduate degrees and many are working hard toward advanced degrees. The Somali community has come together to create several nonprofit organizations that provide after-school programs and ESL classes, as...

  8. Minneapolis: Participation in the Mogadishu on the Mississippi
    (pp. 135-180)

    While most Somali people in Columbus are still preparing to live in the United States, the Somali community in the Twin Cities is fully participating in American life. Nearly 100,000 Somali people live in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area. Approximately 600 Somali businesses hustle and bustle in the two cities. Scores of those businesses are housed in three exciting and busy Somali malls. Many Somali people, especially newcomers, live in the Cedar-Riverside area between downtown Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota, but Somali people live everywhere in the Twin Cities and surrounding towns. Although Cedar-Riverside is the center of the...

  9. The Future: Hope for the Somali Diaspora
    (pp. 181-184)

    Many of the images in this book represent hope for the Somali Diaspora in America and, in fact, hope for the Somali Diaspora around the world. Perhaps the distance between the photograph of Farhiya staring off toward Disneyland and the images of children celebrating Eid ul-Fitr at the Mall of America in Minneapolis most profoundly represent the extent to which that hope can grow and be realized in the United States. When we were in Dadaab, people kept expressing concern for their youngsters, saying, “The children are our hope.” They dreamed that their children would learn the economic and political...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 185-188)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 189-190)