The Somali Museum is the home of traditional Somali arts in Minnesota. Displaying a collection of over 700 pieces, and offering educational programs about Somali traditional culture that are not offered anywhere else, the Somali Museum offers an unrivaled opportunity for Minnesotans of all backgrounds to encounter and learn about Somali traditional culture.
The Somali Museum’s mission is to use this collection as a tool for education: making it possible for young Somalis who have grown up in the United States to connect with their culture, as well as Minnesotans of other ethnic heritage to encounter Somali art and traditional culture for the first time. The Museum's programs explore the changing role of traditional arts and culture as the Somali people move across borders and time. By promoting the highest forms of Somali creativity, the Somali Museum believes that it can also help to diminish harmful prejudice and misunderstanding.
For a century, there was a cultural history museum in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. In the last 23 years, amidst war and upheaval, that museum has been destroyed and its artifacts have been scattered across East Africa and the world.
The largest Somali diaspora community in the United States lives in Minnesota. Elders and parents in Minnesota’s Somali community increasingly worry that children born in the United States lack connection to their Somali heritage. In response, a diverse coalition of community members called for an initiative to catch hold of their traditional culture before it disappears.
In 2009 Osman Ali began collecting artifacts of his native Somalia’s traditional nomadic culture. Mr. Ali traveled between Somalia and Minnesota, and offered presentations of his collection at schools and community centers. Now, the Somali Museum operates a small gallery on Lake Street in Minneapolis.
The collection on display in the museum now includes examples of everyday craftworks as well as paintings and sculptures created by artists in Somalia and the diaspora. Most of these pieces have been collected and are owned by the museum’s founder, Osman Ali, and the collection also includes pieces that have been donated to the museum by families and artists in Somalia and abroad.
With a vision to establish an all-embracing Somali Museum of Minnesota, Osman Ali and other organizers are bringing together cultural historians, contemporary Somali artists, and keepers of community history to tell the Somali story in Minnesota.