USAID TIS Supports Arts and Culture Week to Engage Youth in Puntland

June 05, 2015

Traditional arts and culture contribute to peace and stability in Somalia. In a country where youth struggle to find education and job opportunities, and avoid piracy, crime and extremism, arts and culture can provide safe outlets for peaceful self-expression and socialization.

The Puntland Arts and Culture Week, held from May 30 to June 4, attracted more than 1,500 people—young and elderly alike—from different regions in an uplifting celebration aimed at reviving Somali arts and culture in Garowe, the capital city of Puntland. This event, funded by DAI-led Transition Initiatives for Stabilization (TIS), a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded project, not only helped improved the image of Puntland Administration within the wider public, but it also gave the relationship between the administration and communities all over Puntland a boost.

Artists from nine Puntland regions—including Sanaag, Sool, Mudug, Bari, Karkaar, Gardafuu, Cayn and Nugaal—performed their respective cultural dances and music, presented their food, and displayed their unique cultural arts and handicrafts. The event contributed to USAID stabilization goals in Somalia by promoting peace and traditional conflict mitigation tools, deterring youth from violent extremism, and other criminal activities.

On opening day, Puntland Vice President Abdihakim Haji said: “Arts and culture are among the most powerful tools to mitigate conflict. Any time the community comes together and focuses on what unifies citizens—instead of issues that divide them—is an accomplishment worthy of emulation.” In that vein, he then officially declared May 30 “Puntland Arts and Culture Day” to be celebrated every year.

“Youth in this city don’t have much to do in terms of entertainment and meeting others,” said Tahran Abdinour, a citizen of Garowe. “They often get into trouble and join extremist [groups] to find things to fill their time.”

Older attendees, such as artist Fadumo Abdullahi, lauded the effort to revive traditional practices and share them with young people. “When our country was peaceful, young people learned how to craft Somali arts. It served as income generation for them. Today not many even know the names [of the crafts] or the meanings behind it. Cultural art objects are also high in demand, yet fewer people know how to create them.”

The Arts and Culture Week targeted youth with the goal of reviving Somali arts and culture while promoting themes common identity, social integration, peace, and stability.

“Youth were given an opportunity to showcase their talent,” said 23-year-old Leyla Ali. “Youth invested a lot of hard work into the preparation. The time used here to produce this positive result could also have been used to create negative impact for the population. Making young people busy with events such as this will contribute towards bringing peace to our region.”

The event also provided a safe space for young women in particular to express themselves. Muna Ali, a 19-year-old participant, said, “The Arts and Culture Week has been very entertaining to me. As a young woman, I am often discouraged from participating in dancing. I am told that it is not appropriate. Coming to Garowe today and dancing, and seeing the reaction of the audience, I am very happy. What used to be seen as wasteful is now viewed as educational.”

Click here to watch a video of the event.

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