Art & creativity, Libraries  |  1 Jul 2022

Shocked, surreal and excited.

Those are the words of first-time artist Samira Ahmed as she watched her print being delicately hung up on show in Tūranga.

Samira is one of eight Somali women aged between 20 and 70 whose art is now on display in the Gurigeena: Our Home Somali exhibition held by the Canterbury Somali Association on the libraries’ ground floor.

“I don’t think any of us know how good our artwork is. At the time I didn’t think it was a big deal but seeing it up there is impressive,” Samira said.

The exhibition is one of the ways the association is giving a voice to the Somali community in Christchurch, particularly in the wake of the 15 March 2019 terror attacks.

Samira’s work is “pretty much” a self-portrait, she said.

“She’s deep in thought and whatever she’s thinking about, it’s very deep. Maybe world peace or something like that.”

Samira says the class was so great for the group’s well-being and gave her a little “me time.”

The group of women attended eight two-hour classes hosted by artist and art teacher Janet Molineaux.

“A lot of them are from quite nomadic backgrounds and they’d never done any art. They’re elderly women or young mothers and have not been able to escape their domesticity. This was for their wellbeing,” Janet said.  

For the women it was a time to get together, listen to traditional music in the background, talk, and work on their art.  

They were presented with different Somali prints and each woman chose an image they connected with.  

Once they’d each chosen their images, Janet took them through the process of print-making.

“A lot of them don’t speak English so I was teaching by demonstration. To begin with my ladies were really shy but towards the middle of the term they’d gotten used to me and there was a strong connection,” Janet said.

“Even now they’re finished, they don’t realise what they’ve created because they’ve never done it before. It’s not a big collection, eight prints, but what it does for this group of women is huge.”

Once they were finished, Janet said she knew they needed to be made public and approached Christchurch City Libraries who leapt at the chance to host the exhibition.

“It’s so fabulous to see the beautiful works of art showcased for the public. We urge anyone and everyone to come and check them out,” Christchurch City Council Acting Head of Libraries and Information Elaine Sides said.

The work is on display in Tūranga until August.