Intro-duction – The Art of Ahmed Magare

My Practise 

The core focus of my practice is heritage, identity and culture. I explore challenging avenues to depict personal journeys as an urban nomad, a traveller and storyteller.

I work in the formats of installation, sculpture and photography but I mainly specialise in ‘uunsiincense and henna drawing – I draw on fabriano paper, canvas, wood and fabrics (traditional Somali fabrics)

I tend to draw from memory, focusing on past events, which become childlike and playful drawings – these then form into written material for my poetic and performance work.

In particular, the nostalgic feel of ‘fabric drawings’ which I call  ”celebrate sculptures of past memories.” My interests lie in the poetic sequence, not remembering my words but rather reading out passages to remember lost thoughts.

I am currently focusing on the notion of cultural authority, ownership, displacement and sleepwalking as a meditative process in my performance.

Art & Writing

To further understand the developing progress of my practice:

My practice is split between art & writing.
Both disciplines stimulate my creative drive and support my practice development.

  • Art : physical work which is supported by the written material – both shift in contrasting order.
  • Writing : consists of writing my diary, short stories and poetry – and creating performance plays based on the written material.

In my writing, I question ‘nomadism’ and what it means to be a modern-day nomad. I explore identity through the idea of borrowing cultures. One way I do this is by using traditional, scented pigments/minerals as communication tools to connect with my own life and others.

I perform spoken-word poetry and am currently working on developing a poetry collection for publication.


‘My Sleeping Queen’ 

(my grandmother Khadijah)

In the early stages of my practice, I worked with the memories of my grandmother Khadijah who I visited in the summer of 2012. I have made photographs of my grandmother when she was asleep on a chair – during the day. The space that we both shared had a silent atmosphere and the photographs showed a relieved expression on her face. I found this powerful and fitting to her character and in the narrative of my work. This made me feel emotionally obsessed and relaxed whilst constantly drawing her throughout my sketchbook. The drawings later became a passage of remembrance.

I learnt a lot from my grandmother during my stay in Somalia. My grandmother told me about the importance of her traditional clothing and how it signifies the sunrise of Somalia. The simplicity of the nomadic way of living impacted on her character, and the modernising transition from her moving to the city is key to my work. I was influenced by her poetry, folk tales and personal stories – in which she told me about her life. These were vital ingredients for me to build my work.

My Sleeping Queen, (2012)

‘Uunsi Drawing’

I have developed a new type of drawing – ‘uunsi drawing’ which consists of ‘earthy materials’  a common practise which is used by Somalis worldwide in cultural domestic settings – the drawing aspect of using ‘earthy materials’ questions ‘cultural authority’ , ‘ownership’  and ‘normality’ in culture.

‘Uunsi’ in Somali translates the burning of frankincense and the fusion of mixing hot charcoal with frankincense + other scented minerals such as: Oud and Bakhour.

  • Henna: the human skin/texture
  • Incense: distorted landscape + space                                                                                                                                                                                                                             I have carefully studied the concept of each of the ‘earthy materials’ – and I have explored ways to depict smell, touch, sound and visual.

In short, ‘uunsi drawing’ is of ritualistic value, cultural expression,  spiritual meditative practice -and a celebrative-navigational medium to communicate with people within space.

The process of action drawing explores the performative side of sleepwalking which ties in me becoming the ‘urban nomad’

Untiled, (2013)

Becoming the ‘urban nomad’

I am not focused on finding my roots. ( not searching for Somalia as the physical belonging of the land rather the mental idea of it) Moreover, I don’t have to be on the land to connect with my heritage, culture or tradition. I am breaking the barrier- not fully understanding my culture but showing signs of neglecting, displacement and hope for the old forgotten culture (it is through my performance that I relive celebratory moments.)

Longing or belonging?

‘challenging normality’ and the moral ethics of how one culture is supposed to be viewed/practised. ( if you don’t fully understand the language of the land it takes away your cultural identity and membership. ( how can we then create our own path of understanding towards this odd culture? Possibly, by developing a new language of storytelling – how do I feel about my heritage, culture and tradition. (this can also relate to the wider perspectives of the new generation of Somalis living in the diaspora : ‘diasporic-relation’)

Furthermore, I see the Somali cultural artefacts as moving sculptures. Moving people, the artefacts have memorial + ceremonial value – I call them ‘survival packages’  I am interested  in the change of narratives and the common domestic use of the artefacts. By changing narratives, I build a new language this gives more value to the artefacts and explores the relationship between me and the objects.  ”These are essential vessels of life” just like the materialistic world we live in, these objects become of daily remembrance. I am almost obsessed with them. I read to them, speak to them and remember them.

In fact, I am challenging ‘cultural authority’ and the moral ethics of culture, particularly in the Somali culture. Taking household practise such as incense burning into making art.

The artefacts remind me of the connection of people, personal relationship, spirituality, ancient practise and the belongings of my ancestors.

I’m focused on finding me, fixing broken pieces of my identity (parts of culture, language and lifestyle)

I’m interested in creating a new world (post- apocalypse time)  I see this in my dreams – and while I drift off, sleepwalking. ( I become this person of the future, the legendary nomadic hero I seek.)

Everywhere can be called home, but for me home is where I feel happy in my mind and in memory. (erasing/taking away the nomadic belonging to the land, however elements taken from the land + culture that can suggest belonging  and thus important to me because that is all I have for now – a document, a memory and a dead space of time. Through sleepwalking (spiritual reconnection) and performing with incense burning and henna drawing I get to come closer to this world and almost become this heroic nomadic character.


• restriction +resistance + to rebel : breaking boundaries of space + law ( bound by natural law of existence : study has elements of science and philosophy)

• sense of belonging – everywhere can be called home but the mind most attentive to the soul.

• time traveler, time travelling avatar (through sleepwalking performance + ‘uunsi drawing’ + and becoming the ‘urban nomad’

•  the legendary heroic nomad (mythical figure) of Somalia and by re-imagining  moments through meditative sleepwalking process, in this state of mind – I am transforming into the modern-day nomad – becoming art of my own. (the nomadic being)

The Artefacts 

the common reality of the objects

IMG_9567 copybarki : headrest

IMG_9558 copytip iyo mooye : pestle and mortar

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‘Survival packages’ 

the uncommon displacement of the objects 

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Digital Fusion & Nomadic Pop – Study of the Developmental Stages:

Nomadic Pop is the foundation and influence; Digital Fusion is the sequence development that satisfies the outcome of the work. Both combined become one. Nomadic Pop is first produced through watercolour drawings that are then developed further in the second stage of Digital Fusion. I use picture-editing applications from my IPhone 5 to digitally manipulate images. I am interested in notions of ownership, the role of technology, consumer authority and what role the individual plays in voicing their own narratives. Nomadic Pop begins to look at “Nomadism”, which can be described as a search for an authentic Somali-ness.  (to see more, follow my previous post – Manifesto – Digital Fusion & Nomadic Pop)

To further understand this,

  • Nomadic Pop : Internal outlook on the concept – nomadic state of mind, ‘hido iyo dhaqan’          (heritage and culture of Somalis)  and traditional element of fine art: drawing and painting.
  • Digital Fusion : External outlook on the concept – the element of fusion, ‘digital-force’ and bringing worlds together.

To start, I would like to share and explore concept of Digital Fusion & Nomadic Pop, by adding relatable terms and keywords that drive this project. This is shown below, were I break the words into ‘sub-terms’ and give a thorough explanation. After this, I will give an insight how I have developed the artwork in stages. (and also how this is guided by the concept of Digital Fusion & Nomadic Pop)

Key words to note

• Transition + transformation of Somali people. (now and then, from Somalia to the diaspora)

• Adaptable progression, particlarly looking at renowned Somali models, how they have blended in their new environments, spaces inside the diaspora, but still kept in touch with their heritage and culture – even if some of them don’t, I imagine them to be.

• Some aspects/points of the text might relate to the concept of Afro-Futurism.

• Storytelling and myths, to create mythical characters (or to recreate Somali mythology) – and to further look into the unique qualities of these mythical characters that shape this new world.


  •  Nomadic Pop is the foundation and the start of Digital Fusion.
  • Digital Fusion is the ‘predecessor’ and the ‘final outcome’ of the whole concept.

Digital: is ‘consumer authority’ and the ‘final outcome’ of my imaginative world, my dream. The power to google images freely and access the internet (digital universe)  with ease. I can manipulate, destroy, create, break, control, repair, construct and deconstruct  – this is relevant in the physical and mental state of the nomad.

Fusion: is to fuse, to blend, to merge the new with the old. Bring past and new generations together. It is forgotten culture for the young, it is patience for all, trying to reconnect to a place we can call ‘home’ (my dream). Where is this home? The dream of this project is to bring people together, to challenge, find comfort, ease and understanding.

Nomadic: is quite similar to ‘Fusion‘ but ‘Nomadic’ references the older generation and the global understanding of the nomadic character. One that has no place to call home, ‘placeless’ but walks from place to place, as a symbol of long term progression/process to find home in oneself.
I am redefining this through my personal experience (as a modern-day nomad) but also through my practise.

Pop: is the founding father of ‘Digital’ it is bright, colourful and glamorous. It is happiness, pink bubbles, ‘rich in space’ and celebration.
It is Warhol inspired, but not yet focussing on the material gadgets and must-haves but this project is giving more value to the figures/characters that shape this new world.

The project also looks at the golden era of Somalia (this could be from medieval Somalia to the current reconstruction of Somalia) , however I am particularly intersted in the post-colonial era of Mogadishu – also looking at Somali currency, vintage photography and post cards. (and again, how this links with the idea of  borrowing cultures, entering new/odd spaces, diaspora and the western influence that has shaped the landscape of  Somalia. Moreover, my dream envisions hope, I look back and listen to my parents and grandparents, how they had experienced ‘good times’ and shared romance and freedom – and how this dream can be lived again. (by generations to come)

The concept of this project also looks at modernisation and educating the new generation – that we as Somalis once lived free in prestige lifestyles and we danced wearing traditional attires – together in unity.(without any extreme religious/ideologic intervention)
Finally, it is all about celebrating forgotten times that we have left deep in our closets, buried deep in our cupboards that house us in the diaspora.

Digital Fusion & Nomadic Pop is celebrating times when men, women and children would stage to take pictures in front of imaginative ‘praised spaces’ and backgrounds. Was this something we couldn’t reach? Something we had in our lands but not cherished? (like our captivating nature: palm trees and sandy beaches) or was this something we imagined ourselves to be in?(in times of war, corruption and western imperialism) A dream?

They were more than selfies, these photographs were carefully set to document times of Somalia (times of peace) but also to share great moments with family/friends and distant relatives from the diaspora.
(Pop art)
Just as Warhol was inspired by his environment and the lifestyle of consumerism, that which is now called Pop art. I am simarlarly interested in my environment and how we are changing as people, moving  from place to place (focussing on the transition of borrowing different cultures) and adapting to new and odd spaces.
This is my journey of finding myself through this project, even though I’m not trying to find my roots in some way but feel enclosed between two distant cultures and feel more leaning towards my the land that I live in currently but I dream to reconnect to the land that ‘let’s my soul speak’ – in the process of ‘finding my place’ I would want to learn from the people that still have significant hold within the Somali culture, community and history.

For me “Nomadism” has unshackled itself from its traditional territorial borders by flowing within the current sphere of globalisation and through the diaspora. With the diaspora it has maintained its character by morphing into a ‘trans-border’ entity. This is in part why it has survived well into the 21st century. By combining the old and the new it has mutated into its current shape and this is reflected in my work, my dream.

So moreover, my dream ventures to capture this new world of togetherness and celebration. The concept of “Nomadism” transforms the narratives of Digital Fusion & Nomadic Pop through personal levels and relating with Somalis alike.

There are different definitions in defining “Nomadism” – I try to capture my definition through visual stories and imaginative figures that I create. I see them as folk tales and characters with individual personalities. So in fact, I am taking different aspects of my time and the times of my ancestors, by then creating a world where all generations can coexist.







‘The Crooked Swan, Jasmin Warsame’ (2014)





‘The Green Qalanjo, Ayan Elmi’ (2014)




‘Vogue Miya?’ (2014)



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‘She Lived Before Cleopatra, Iman’ (2014)




‘Diva Dahab’ (2014)




‘Dr Hawa Abdi’ (2014)





‘Dabaab’ (2014)




‘Cushitic’ (2014)








‘Our Child’ (2014)




‘Tales of The Sleepless Nomad, Classic in No-Man’s Land’ (2014)





‘Geeraar for The Forgotten Youth of The Diaspora’ (2014)












‘Sugraad, The Revolutionary Wizard’ (2014)




‘A character of Home’ (2014)

Text and work by Ahmed Magare

Instagram: i_am_yoses

Facebook: Ahmed Magare