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Aar Maanta & Minneapolis’s Cedar Cultural Center Win $50,000 Joyce Awards

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Ordway Center for the Performing Arts and the Cedar Cultural Center

Win $50,000 Joyce Awards

Grants Awarded by the Joyce Foundation Will Support New Works Focusing on Diverse Cultures by Musician Aar Maanta and Performer Rosy Simas

CHICAGO, Jan. 17, 2018 —  The Joyce Foundation announced today that two art collaborations – the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts and Rosy Simas Danse, as well as the Cedar Cultural Center and Aar Maanta – have each been awarded a 2018 Joyce Award to activate their respective community engagement artworks in the Twin Cities.

The Cedar Cultural Center will partner with Somali musician, Aar Maanta, to produce what is believed to be the first bilingual album of children’s songs tentatively entitled,Children’s Songs from the Somali Diaspora.

The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts will commission Rosy Simas (Seneca, Heron Clan) to create “Weave,” an intersectional Native dance project that examines the interwoven and interdependent nature of our world.

The 2018 Joyce Awards marks the Joyce Foundation’s 15th year offering the prize. Started in 2003, the Joyce Awards is the only regional program dedicated to supporting artists of color in major Great Lakes cities with the goal of elevating their visibility and recognition in their craft. A distinctive feature of the Joyce Awards is the call for commissioned artists and their host institutions to include a robust community engagement plan as a main component of their projects. Maanta and Simas will engage in community forums, workshops, panel discussions, and one-on-one conversations to create their productions.

“These new works will provide storytelling in fascinating mediums for those young and old,” said Ellen Alberding, President of the Joyce Foundation. “It is so important to support these Twin Cities artists and organizations so they can bring to life the diverse stories of the communities their work highlights.”

The competition has awarded nearly $3.25 million to commission 59 new works and collaborations between artists and cultural organizations in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Minneapolis/St. Paul. The $50,000 award is used towards supporting an artist in the creation and production of a new work and providing the commissioning organization with the resources needed to engage potential audiences, new partners, and their surrounding communities at large.

Minnesota has seen the most Joyce Awards winners with 20 of the 59 total awards to date, delivering $1 million in artistic funding.

“The Twin Cities consistently bring forward impressive projects that position artists as community illuminators and problem solvers,” said Tracie D. Hall, Culture Program Director at the Joyce Foundation. “We are not only excited for the work that Aar Maanta and Rosy Simas will produce but also for the impact these projects have the potential to leave behind.”

The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts & Rosy Simas Danse

Rosy Simas is a designer and director of dance, a solo and collaborative performer, and a multidisciplinary teacher, curator and mentor of diverse artists.  A Native feminist, Simas critically centers Native cultural/political persistence while engaging a range of political, social, cultural and personal subjects.

In “Weave,” individual histories will be woven into a performance that envelops the audience in an immersive experience of story, dance, moving image, and sound.  It will be presented in January 2019 as part of the Ordway’s Music & Movement Series.

“Receiving the Joyce Award not only makes possible the Ordway’s commission of ‘Weave,’ but will also support engagements that draw people deeply into both Rosy’s creative process, and the artwork that she and her collaborators create,” said Jamie Grant, President & CEO of the Ordway. “We couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the project, and we are very grateful to the Joyce Foundation.”

“My work furthers an ancestral model of dialogic, peaceful and cross-community-centered direction in my creative process,” said performer Rosy Simas. “Weave will begin in, and return to, community as a way of giving back and remaining engaged with Native people.”

“Weave” collaborating organizations include the O’Shaughnessy Auditorium at St. Catherine’s University.

The Cedar Cultural Center & Aar Maanta

Aar Maanta is a Somali musician whose activism, work and creativity led him to become a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Refugee Council (UNHCR), while leading one of the only active live bands in the world that plays Somali music. His work includes the recent UNHCR campaign about irregular youth migration in the Horn of Africa, Dangerous Crossings, for which his song “Tahriib” was reproduced and performed in collaboration with leading artists from Africa.

Working with his band and other musicians from Minnesota, Aar Maanta will collaborate with Somali youth in Minneapolis’s Cedar Riverside neighborhood to write and record the first-ever bilingual Somali children’s album, which will be released and performed live at the Cedar in 2019.

“This project was inspired by the creativity and passion of the young people I worked with during my previous Cedar residencies, and more recently in refugee camps of Horn of Africa,” said musician Aar Maanta. “I am very excited to get to work more closely with Minneapolis youth and children on this project. It will be a groundbreaking collaboration because it will channel their own experiences into a beautiful album that can speak to young Somalis and children in the United States and throughout the diaspora.”

With millions of young Somalis growing up in diaspora communities around the world, the album aims to provide affirmation and connection to the Somali American youth experience.

“The Cedar has been building a cherished relationship with Aar Maanta for many years,” said Jessica Rau, Program & Artistic Director at the Cedar. “Our past residencies with him have been significant and meaningful for all of the people he has reached through his time in Minneapolis. The Joyce Award will deepen this impact by allowing Aar Maanta to collaborate with youth in our neighborhood to produce a tangible album of new work that will reach people around the world and last for generations to come.”

 

Additional 2018 Award Winners

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit will commission a new theatrical work entitled Salt City by poet and playwright jessica Care moore, reflecting on themes of gentrification and cultural erasure, a much-debated effect of the Motor City’s economic revitalization.

Dancer and choreographer, Onye Ozuzu, will be commissioned by Chicago’s Links Hallfor a production that looks at black migration and the city’s unique connections to Haiti and Louisiana.

To view the Joyce Awards’ 15th Anniversary video, please click here.

For more information on the foundation and the Joyce Awards, please visitwww.JoyceFdn.org.

About The Joyce Foundation

The Joyce Foundation invests in policies, informed by evidence, to improve quality of life, promote safe and healthy communities, and build a just society for the people of the Great Lakes region. The Chicago-based foundation pursues those goals through grants to help prepare the region’s young people to thrive in education, career, and community, and to advance racial equity and economic mobility. The private, nonpartisan foundation centers its grant making in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, and seeks opportunities to collaborate on promising policies in other states or at the federal level. It pursues policy and systems reform in five program areas: Education & Economic Mobility, the Environment, Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform, Democracy, and Culture.  Joyce was established in 1948 by Beatrice Joyce Kean, sole heir to the Joyce family of Clinton, Iowa, which accumulated its wealth in the lumber and related industries. Joyce has budgeted charitable disbursements of $50 million in 2018, on assets of approximately $1 billion. For more information, please visit www.JoyceFdn.org, or follow us on Twitter (@JoyceFdn) or Facebook (/JoyceFdn).

Arts & Culture

This Somali Culture Zine Looks Amazing

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Photo by Ikram Mohamed via 1991

Safy Hallan Farah’s ‘1991’ zine will feature beautiful images and writing culled from the brightest young minds across the Somali diaspora.

Safy Hallan Farah didn’t think there were enough images of Somali people in media, so she took things into her own hands. In the summer of 2017, she conceived of the 1991 zine to “create the images” she wanted to see in the world. Farah, a writer who’s been in published in The New York Times, Vogue, Nylon and Paper, will release the first issue of 1991 later this year. She co-founded 1991 with Mia Nguyen—”even though she’s Vietnamese, she’s really passionate about the project,” Harrah explained—and is working on the zine with former VICE writer Sarah Hagi, model Miski Muse, Hadiya Shirea, and other Somali writers and artists.

“1991 is a Somali culture zine,” Farah told me in an email. “The name comes from how 1991 was the year the civil war broke out in Somalia, ushering a new beginning for Somalis everywhere. My collaborators and I would like to curate and edit work that plays with time and memory. From collage art that explores forgotten vestiges to writing by modern storytellers, 1991 will be at once a time capsule and an exploration of a Somali futurism that reconciles with the tumult of its past all while highlighting the creativity, style, resilience, and tenacity of Somali youth across the diaspora.”

Safy Hallan Farah | Photo by Nancy Musingguzi
VICE caught up with Safy over the phone to talk about her inspirations, growing up Somali-American in Minnesota, and Somali futurism.

Safy Hallan Farah | Photo by Nancy Musingguzi

VICE: Why did you title the zine 1991?
Safy Hallan Farah: I didn’t want people to project onto the name. I also didn’t want to marginalize the project by giving it an obscure Somali word as the name. And I like numerals. When things are in order, they tend to come first. 1991 is a palindrome, so it’s very stylistically interesting to look at. I was keen on not having something look ugly on the magazine because I think some words are ugly, some words won’t look beautiful to the wrong audience, and we want to cultivate a diasporic audience that isn’t necessarily Somali. Having it be called 1991 would be an interesting way to get a message across and have people ask us [about it instead of asking], “What does that word mean?” They’ll ask, “What is the significance of 1991?”

What is the significance of 1991?
We had this dictator named Siad Barre and he was ousted by people who were really mad at him, for good reasons because he sucked a lot. Then a civil war broke out, and that’s why there are so many displaced Somali refugees in countries like the United States, England, Australia, and pretty much everywhere. Somalis are everywhere.

Why is it important for you to have a zine that represents Somali voices?
It’s about [Somali] images. There aren’t images of Somali people that I want out there in the world. A magazine project can help create the images I want to see. Something I’m always thinking is, “Where are the Somali photographers who shoot in the particular styles that I happen to gravitate toward?” Through 1991, I’ve been able to connect with really amazing photographers I didn’t know existed and models. I’m interested in putting more diverse images out there of Somali people, particularly women and youths.

Tell me a little about your personal journey. How did you reach the point where you decided to create 1991 and felt the need to boost the voices of other Somali writers and artists?
I always felt like it was in my best interest to keep my head down and do my work and not create anything of my own, and keep doing what I have been doing, which is publishing articles at different publications, mostly because I felt like I didn’t necessarily know if it was the right time in my life to helm a project like that. I was inspired by my friend Kinsi Abdulleh who runs an organization in London called NUMBI Arts. She started this amazing Somali zine in 2010 called Scarf and she gave me a bunch of issues when I met her in Wales in 2015. Had I not been introduced to her work, I would not be doing this kind of project. It really got me thinking about creating community and creating spaces for Somali people and through just thinking about that over the course of the last three, four years, it’s gotten to the point where I am now, where I can focus on a project like [ 1991].

Image by Ikran Abdille via 1991

Can you tell us about your upbringing as a Somali-American in Minnesota, your relationship with your ethnic identity throughout your life, and how it led you to creating this zine?
Fun fact: I didn’t really speak Somali until I was nine. That’s because I only spoke Somali as a kid and my parents didn’t teach me English, but they taught me how to read [in English] before I was four. When I started kindergarten, I actually realized, “Oh shit, people speak English, I’m a weirdo, I don’t know how to communicate with anyone.” So I learned English really quickly, and I graduated from ESL class after the first couple months of first grade, and then I didn’t speak Somali for years. I completely disassociated from speaking Somali. This is something that happens with a lot of immigrant kids. When I moved to Minneapolis [from San Jose] when I was nine-years-old, I learned Somali because Minneapolis has a huge Somali population. I was going to pretty much all-black, all-Somali schools, and then I learned how to speak and write in Somali. Now I speak pretty fluent Somali. I think my relationship with my culture changed when I started being around more Somali people.

Why did you gravitate toward the medium of collage?
There are going to be a lot of written pieces, but I just like the idea of having that DIY aesthetic that a lot of zines have with collage. But also being design-minded. I really love Apartmento Magazine and The Gentlewoman. I want to strike a balance between good design and DIY.

You’ve mentioned “Somali futurism” in your description of the project. Can you explain what that is?
I remember when I was a senior in high school—most of my friends were Somali and most of my classmates were Somali—and everyone would be like, “Well, I’m gonna study this because then I get to go back to Somalia and do this.” Everyone would say stuff like that. Even though a good chunk of those kids weren’t actually born in Somalia, but everyone was always thinking of Somalia’s future and what’s next for us and what we can do for Somalia. What really interests me is what kind of voices will emerge in the diaspora that will push toward more progressive politics, more interesting sounds and textures and visuals. I’m more interested in the ideas that are going to go back to Somalia, rather than the people and the jobs.

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David Bowie’s Widow Iman attends Black Panther premiere

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DAILY MAIL — She has made a gradual return to the social scene, after taking some time away from the limelight, following the January 2016 death of her husband David Bowie.

And Iman showed off the supermodel prowess that first caught the eye of her late rocker husband, when she attended a special screening of Black Panther of Tuesday.

The 62-year-old beauty looked radiant as she arrived at the Museum of Modern Art in a shimmering silver floor-length gown, which she teamed with a stylish head wrap.

She has made a gradual return to the social scene, after taking some time away from the limelight, following the January 2016 death of her husband David Bowie.

And Iman showed off the supermodel prowess that first caught the eye of her late rocker husband, when she attended a special screening of Black Panther of Tuesday.

The 62-year-old beauty looked radiant as she arrived at the Museum of Modern Art in a shimmering silver floor-length gown, which she teamed with a stylish head wrap.

Iman made a triumphant return to the spotlight last year, following the death of her beloved husband David in January 2016.

Last summer, she paid a moving tribute to the late musical icon on what would have been the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary.

The Somalia-born beauty shared a post to remember her singer love, who tragically died aged 69 after a secret battle with liver cancer.

Alongside a black and white picture of the pair, a short piece of text read: ‘I would walk forever, just to be in your arms again.’

The image was captioned by Iman with the simple words: ‘June 6th #BowieForever’.

Bowie and Iman officially married in Switzerland in April 1992, but held a church ceremony in Italy on June 6 of that year.

They had one daughter together, Alexandria, who’s now 17. She is also the mother of 39-year-old daughter Zulekha, from her marriage to marriage to former basketball star Spencer Haywood.

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History Theatre’s ‘Crack in the Sky’ shows the struggles immigrants face

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Jim Walsh

Last Sunday afternoon, as most of America was fixated on downtown Minneapolis and the Super Bowl, a group of Somali-American and African-American actors quietly milled about the History Theatre stage in downtown St. Paul and talked about the importance of storytelling and their own families’ immigration tales.

It was one of the last rehearsals for “Crack in the Sky,” a new play based on Ahmed Ismail Yusuf’s life story and his 2013 book, “Somalis in Minnesota,” that makes its world premiere Saturday at the History Theatre. And while Yusuf’s story of a young shepherd boy’s journey from Mogadishu to Minneapolis is getting the full theatrical treatment, the focus of the play is on the power of the written word.

“A book can change your life, and teachers are not your enemies; they are your best friends,” said Yusuf, who learned to read and speak English when he came to the United States from Somalia as a high school dropout in the late 1980s. He discovered Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and devoured it over two weeks, using the Somali-English dictionary to translate Angelou’s poetic words about overcoming hardship and seizing the day.

“Ahmed is really interesting, because a lot of Somalia people today travel here to seek refuge in Minneapolis,” said Ashwanti Ford, the actress who plays both Yusuf’s mother and Angelou. “Ahmed moved to the States before all the terror and the war broke out in Somalia. He came here to seek an education, and when he was here the horrible things started happening in his country. So this is taking place in the ‘90s, when he hasn’t seen his family in years or months, versus today, when we can be a Facebook click away from seeing someone.

“He’s inspired by Maya Angelou to write, because he read her books and he said to himself, ‘If she has overcome all of this stuff in America, then I can overcome what I’m going through now and I can write my story.’ So it’s him, coming to America and seeking an education, and learning that he wants to be a writer. Through teachers and family members, he learns that he wants to tell his story, a really significant story that is so empowering, and inspire people to keep pushing forward and remain resilient. When I got the call to audition, I was so excited because I’ve always loved Maya Angelou. My mother was a poet; she has all her books.”

‘So many hoops to go through’
“A Crack in the Sky” is being staged at a time in America when Donald Trump — who disparaged the Somali community in Minnesota when he said, “Everybody’s reading about the disaster taking place in Minnesota” just before he won the White House — has issued travel bans and made immigration difficult at best.

Ahmed Ismail Yusuf

“The play is not exactly confronting it, but it shows the struggles an immigrant faces,” said Yusuf. “There are so many hoops to go through that maybe a normal American, an ordinary person, might not even notice it. But it is just quite out there for an immigrant. An immigrant is not exactly the leeches that Donald Trump has painted them to be. They are people who are contributing; they are people who are appreciative of the opportunities they have when they are here.”

“I just hope that when people come to our play that they will realize that not everyone decides to wake up one day, pack up their bags and go, ‘OK, I’m going to emigrate. I’m going to leave everything I’ve known my whole life behind,’” said actor Mohammed Sheikh, who portrays the young Yusuf. “Nobody does that. It’s not an easy thing that you can just decide. It’s not a road trip, you know? It’s a decision that can cost you your life, that can cost you identity, that can cost you happiness, that can cost you just about everything.

“And I just hope that when people come, they will realize that regardless of our skin color, regardless of what we believe in, regardless of how we pray, we’re all fighting the same battle, which is to survive to see another day.”

A Somali proverb
“A Crack in the Sky” gets its title from the Somali proverb, “If people come together, they can even mend a crack in the sky.” Not only does the play detail Yusuf’s immigration tale, it tells the story of what many Somalians and Somali-Americans have faced coming to America over the last two decades. These days, however, daily headlines about deportation and racism provide a stark background to Yusuf’s mostly joyous tale of coming to America.

“I’m getting something more valuable than any prize” by being part of “A Crack in the Sky,” said Sheikh. “Lessons, motivations, and the determination to succeed as a first-generation immigrant in this beautiful country.”

Mohammed Sheikh

He continued his monologue animatedly, as if writing his own story for the stage.

“I’ve been in the United States for three years, and I’ve worked for six months now. I’m basically going through the roller-coaster right now that the character that I’m playing is going through: sending money back, being here, young in your 20s, having ambitions to accomplish a lot, but at the same time the little that you’re making, or the little that you’re getting, you have to divide it into many portions, you know?

“So my family is back in Africa, my mom and my siblings are back in Africa; my dad is here, so it saves me a lot of the trouble that my character experiences. I haven’t seen my youngest siblings or mom for three years. I want to see them, I want to touch them, I want to be with them, but hey, it is what it is. And that’s exactly the same thing Ahmed has dealt with. There are a lot of scenarios and plot twists that I can relate to.”

Angelou wrote, “Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible,” and, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Both truths will be brought to life through March 4 at the History Theater, which has been telling immigrant stories for 40 years.

Impact of travel bans
“I was hoping to have my family join me this year, but with the travel bans going on, I might not be able to for two or three years or until Trump leaves office,” said Sheikh. “It has a huge impact, to be honest with you. A lot of us are trying to bring our families over for the sake of giving them a safe sanctuary, for our kids to become someone, to study without worrying about gun violence or the city being overtaken by another militia.

Ashwanti Ford

“Trump is a hateful person, that’s all I have to say. He’s a hateful person and whoever agrees with him or sides with him, I would hope they would evaluate the humanity and look deep within because you can only imagine I haven’t seen my baby sister since she was 5. She turned 7 last month and she’s, ‘When are you going to come visit me? What are you bringing me?’

“She thinks it’s just a bus away or a simple plane ride, but it’s a lot more than that. Now I’m forced to wait until I get my citizenship because with everything that’s going on today. … You know, I’m Muslim, I’m young, I’m black, my country’s on the ban list, my grandmother’s 78 and I haven’t seen her for 17 years. My grandfather’s 91 and I haven’t seen him since I was born; he’s the last grandparent I have from my mother’s side.

“I have my green card, I could go. But my family keeps on telling me, ‘No, you don’t have to do that with everything, the FBI agents, the undercovers, the travel ban, everything, just wait until your citizenship.’ It’s painful, but I have to do it.

“I’m grateful, man. It could have been worse. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before we see another day.”

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