‘Historic night’ as Somalia screens first film in 30 years

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Viewers wait for the first screening of Somali films at The Somali National Theatre in Mogadishu, on September 22, 2021, which has been opened for the first time to public after its inauguration in 2020. (AFP)
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Viewers wait for the first screening of Somali films at The Somali National Theatre in Mogadishu, on September 22, 2021, which has been opened for the first time to public after its inauguration in 2020. (AFP)
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Somalian scriptwriter and actress Kaif Jama speaks to media representatives ahead of the first screening of Somali films at The Somali National Theatre in Mogadishu, on September 22, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 23 September 2021

‘Historic night’ as Somalia screens first film in 30 years

  • Although Mogadishu was home to many cinema halls during its cultural heyday, with the national theater also hosting live concerts and plays, the seaside capital fell silent after civil war erupted in 1991

MOGADISHU: Somalia hosted its first screening of a movie in three decades under heavy security on Wednesday, as the conflict-ravaged country hopes for a cultural renewal.
Built by Chinese engineers as a gift from Mao Zedong in 1967, the National Theatre of Somalia has a history that reflects the tumultuous journey of the Horn of Africa nation.
It has been targeted by suicide bombers and used as a base by warlords.
And it has never screened a Somali film. Until now.
"This is going to be a historic night for the Somali people, it shows how hopes have been revived... after so many years of challenges," theatre director Abdikadir Abdi Yusuf said before the screening.
"It's a platform that provides an opportunity to... Somali songwriters, storytellers, movie directors and actors to present their talent openly."
The evening's programme was two short films by Somali director IBrahim CM -- "Hoos" and "Date from Hell" -- with tickets sold for $10 (8.50 euros) each, expensive for many.
According to sources contacted by AFP, the evening passed off without any security incidents.
Although Mogadishu was home to many cinema halls during its cultural heyday, with the national theatre also hosting live concerts and plays, the seaside capital fell silent after civil war erupted in 1991.
Warlords used the theatre as a military base and the building fell into disrepair. It reopened in 2012, but was blown up by Al-Shabaab terrorists two weeks later.
The Al-Qaeda linked terrorist group launches regular attacks in Mogadishu and considers entertainment evil.

After a painstaking restoration, the authorities announced plans to hold the theatre's first screening this week.
For many Somalis, it was a trip down memory lane and a reminder of happier times.
"I used to watch concerts, dramas, pop shows, folk dances and movies in the national theatre during the good old days," said Osman Yusuf Osman, a self-confessed film buff.
"It makes me feel bad when I see Mogadishu lacking the nightlife it once had. But this is a good start," he told AFP.
Others were more circumspect, and worried about safety.
"I was a school-age girl when my friends and I used to watch live concerts and dramas at the national theatre," said a mother-of-six, Hakimo Mohamed.
"People used to go out during the night and stay back late if they wished -- but now, I don't think it is so safe," she told AFP.
The jihadists were driven out of Mogadishu a decade ago, but retain control of swathes of countryside.
Attendees had to pass through several security checkpoints before arriving at the theatre, inside a heavily guarded complex that includes the presidential palace and the parliament.
But for some, the inconvenience and the risks paled in comparison to the anticipation of seeing a film in a cinema after such a long wait.
"I was not lucky to watch live concerts and or movies in the theatre (earlier)... because I was still a child, but I can imagine how beautiful it was," NGO employee Abdullahi Adan said.
"I want to experience this for the first time and see what it's like to watch a movie with hundreds of people in a theatre."


What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

Updated 18 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

In March 1946, some of the greatest minds of the 20th century — among them John von Neumann, Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, and Walter Pitts — gathered at the Beekman Hotel in New York City with the aim of constructing a science of mental behavior that would resolve at last the ancient philosophical problem of mind and matter. The legacy of their collaboration is known today as cognitive science.
Jean-Pierre Dupuy, one of the principal architects of cognitive science in France, reconstructs the early days of the field here in a provocative and engaging combination of philosophy, science, and historical detective work.
He shows us how the ambitious and innovative ideas developed in the wake of that New York meeting prefigured some of the most important developments of late-20th-century thought. Many scholars, however, shunned the ideas as crude and resented them for being overpromoted.
This rejection, Dupuy reveals, was a tragic mistake and a lost opportunity.


Artists, critics join Riyadh Art Memento Exhibition discussion panels

Updated 18 October 2021

Artists, critics join Riyadh Art Memento Exhibition discussion panels

  • Exhibition showcases artworks and paintings of Saudi artists over the past five decades

RIYADH: Saudi artists, academics and critics will take part in five discussion sessions as part of the Art Memento Exhibition being held at the National Museum in Riyadh until Nov. 6.

The dialogue sessions, organized by the Saudi Ministry of Culture, will focus on the history of visual arts in the Kingdom and the factors that influence artistic development, along with the role of what was previously known as the General Presidency of Youth Welfare in supporting art and artists over five decades.

The first of the dialogue sessions will be held on Monday under the title “The Journey of Art Collections from Youth Welfare to the Ministry of Culture.” Dr. Suzan Al-Yahya and Dr. Hanan Al-Ahmed will take part in this session as panelists, while Dr. Maha Al-Senan will be the facilitator.

The second session, “Towards a Better Organization of the Acquisition of Artworks,” will be held on Tuesday, with visual artists Mohammed Al-Saawi, Sara Al-Omran and Abdulrahman Al-Sulaiman as panelists and Hafsa Al-Khudairi as facilitator.

The third session will be held next Sunday under the title “The Features of Saudi Visual Arts from Modern to Contemporary,” and will feature Dr. Mohammed Al-Resayes, Dr. Eiman Elgibreen and Faisal Al-Khudaidi as panelists and Dr. Khulood Al-Bugami as facilitator.

“Fostering Arts and the Extent of their Cultural Impact on Society,” the fourth session, will be held next Tuesday, with Ehab Ellaban as panelist and Dr. Hanan Al-Hazza as facilitator.

The fifth and final session will take place on Nov. 2 under the title “The Journey of a Saudi Artist Between the Local and International Scenes.” It will feature Dr. Ahmed Mater, Bakr Shaikhoun and Maha Malluh as panelists and Dr. Noura Shuqair as facilitator.

The Art Memento Exhibition showcases artworks and paintings of Saudi artists over the past five decades, documenting the history of the Kingdom’s visual arts for public display.

Saudi artistic development is highlighted in terms of form, subject and ideas, while the exhibition also celebrates the efforts of leading artists and founders, preserves their history and presents their work to a new generation.

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Updated 18 October 2021

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Beeto is a new multi-diverse content social media platform dedicated to Arab users.

Under the slogan, “express freely,” the app allows users to speak their mind on any topic via text or visually, and have their information secured.

Launched last year, the platform claims to be different from many others in not having a word count limit. Users with quality content can be verified if they bring original material to the table, and the app encourages feedback to help meet user expectations.

One example was the introduction of a desktop version of the app after a user requested it.

Another feature of the app is its categorization of topics including comedy, fashion, lifestyle, culture, sport, and books, with users picking what they like to see.

Three days after its official launch, Beeto ranked first in app stores in many countries, and it has proved popular with Saudis and Iraqis in particular.

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What We Are Reading Today: Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion

Updated 16 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion

Author: Elizabeth Carolyn Miller

The 1830s to the 1930s saw the rise of large-scale industrial mining in the British imperial world. Elizabeth Carolyn Miller examines how literature of this era reckoned with a new vision of civilization where humans are dependent on finite, nonrenewable stores of earthly resources, and traces how the threatening horizon of resource exhaustion worked its way into narrative form.
Britain was the first nation to transition to industry based on fossil fuels, which put its novelists and other writers in the remarkable position of mediating the emergence of extraction-based life.
Miller looks at works like Hard Times, The Mill on the Floss, and Sons and Lovers, showing how the provincial realist novel’s longstanding reliance on marriage and inheritance plots transforms against the backdrop of exhaustion to withhold the promise of reproductive futurity. She explores how adventure stories like Treasure Island and Heart of Darkness reorient fictional space toward the resource frontier.


What We Are Eating Today: Lazy Masoub in Jeddah

Updated 15 October 2021

What We Are Eating Today: Lazy Masoub in Jeddah



Lazy Masoub is a newly opened restaurant in Jeddah offering Saudi street food with a contemporary twist.
Inspired by the banana carts found in downtown Jeddah, the eatery’s name refers to a traditional dish made of mashed banana and chopped saj pie, topped with honey or cream and usually eaten as a dessert.
The restaurant’s signature masoub dish is served with a variety of toppings and extra banana, mango, strawberry, avocado, and nuts, and the outlet also offers a range of authentic Saudi recipes with international and Middle Eastern touches including masoub konafa, foul baba, mutabbaq trio pepperoni, and liver tacos.
The food is served in Korean stone and pottery bowls and on plates with dried ice fog adding to the presentation.
The restaurant opens at 8 a.m. and further information is available on Instagram at @lazymasoub.