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

IMG_9580 copydhiil : vessel

IMG_9564 copy

‘Survival packages’ 

the uncommon displacement of the objects 

IMG_9603 copy

IMG_9605 copy

IMG_9623 copy

IMG_9631 copy

IMG_9639 copy

IMG_9644 copy

IMG_9650 copy

IMG_9623 copy

IMG_9631 copy

IMG_9619 copy

IMG_9605 copy

IMG_9595 copy

IMG_9588 copy

My Sleeping Queen


mixed media + acrylic paint on Somali traditional fabrics, 2012

My Sleeping Queen


Follow my deepest thoughts
Follow my journey back to the rivers of my precious, blessings
Back to the rich essence of truth
My lovely heart
I call
Heal my scars
Pure soul
My queen, so blessed, I see you, sleeping inside the silent darkness I honour you regardless!
Wake me up with your summer-time-wishes
I miss your love
My heart is drowning in a thick mist, way up to the sky
Peace is promised in my fist
I keep it consisted
I’m twisted by different cultures, evicted by mine own shadow
– Rainbow twisters!
The west calls for my soul to gain riches
While I call for my culture, it is within you but I feel that no one listens!
Is it dying?
Where I’m I going?
Heal my blisters
My grandmother
My queen
Khadijah, Africa is you, you are more than my Africa
The mother of my mother
The guardian of my hido iyo dhaqan  (heritage and culture)
Dusty sandals of my sunshine
I paint my pain in a dark basement
Bright colour lights for every word I say
Let the pain age in time
Let the pain age in time
For experience is beauty, wrinkled in my grandmothers face

I pray for your dedication
Admire all your strength
Your history is in the name of my future
You’re welcome
I always keep a smile on my side, safely by you
My queen, I see you sleeping
You’re dreaming about my ambitions
Look at the way I drawn you in my pictures
I wish you could see
You far away, on the other side of the world
Please tap on my back if you hear me
I hear you
My culture is on hold, slowly fading, sleeping right beside you

Forgotten is more than a loss, forgiveness is a must!
My queen I wish you could see, I am way up – I feel so alive with your trust, protected by love
I wish you could see
Help me!
When I can’t save myself
I am falling, holding on the edge – scratching on the skin of my bed
Oh, how I miss your truthful words
Never ending nomadic traditions, folk stories and mythical visions You kept it sacred
You kept it sacred
My heart is favoured by these thoughts
Little bubbles fill up my memories
My past, born as a traveller
The sweet scent of decaying trees, keep it strong, this will lead us to peace
Please believe my tears, you forever true!
I thank you greatly!
I remember when you used to look after me
From a baby to a crawling monkey, running through the sand
You held my hand and you hugged me
And sometimes in your right hand you would keep your spiritual beads
Preciously perfect
Patience plunders her pearls in a cold evening
Struggle and she breathes…
Struggle with some ease…
Struggle with some ease…

So let the scent of our culture rise
And let the pain age in time
Let the pain age in time
And let pain age in time
For experience is beauty, wrinkled in my grandmothers face

This is my letter to you, before you leave this earth
Sleep and rest on your throne
For you reached a humble age
My queen
My queen
I promise you I believe
Sweet dreams…

-Ahmed Magare

©Copyright 2012

Instagram: i_am_yoses

Facebook: Ahmed Magare