Somaliland: Youthful Westerners in a Mission to Preserve Local Arts and Break Negative Stereotyping

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 Philip Schutz and American Philip Smith with Najib shunuf C at Alem an open Cafe opposite state printng agency in Hargeisa

By:Yusuf M Hasan

HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – “In a nutshell Somaliland is its people who are warm, persevering , friendly and peaceful in one of earth’s most volatile region.

This was the unanimous vocal opinion of two youthful foreigners Philip Schūtz from Switzerland and Joshua Smith from the USA who are in the country on a mission to Preserve Somaliland’s sign arts and Culture by collating and archiving through visual and still pictures for future generations.

These revelations came during an interview with the duo at Alem Ethiopian café a popular eatery opposite the state printing agency in Hargeisa where they informed Somalilandsun about their activities that were also incidental in bringing them together having first met in Ethiopia where they currently reside.

According to Swiss Philip Schūtz whose ultimate goal is to write a book on the vibrant sign art which he terms indigenous to Somaliland, his desire started after showing friends in Europe pictures of various sign paintings he had taken in Hargeisa during a visit late 2012.

Swede Philip Schutz briefs on his Somaliland Sign paintng book project“The passion I hold for my self-sponsored project of writing a book on the unique sign paintings of Somaliland was given by friends who saw my earlier pictures and were privy to my profession” said Schūtz who is an art director with Ayaana publishing in Addis Ababa Ethiopia.

With no pre-research commission the Swiss who is not sure of getting a publisher to sponsor his work is determined in seeing the book printed one way or another thence preserve the sign paintings of Somaliland that are gradually being phased out by the introduction of modern screen printers.

But on a more positive note Schūtz having spoken to a number of local sign artists who opinionated that business is picking-up again after a 2 years hiatus which ensued after introduction of automated art, is upbeat that the sign paintings unique to Somaliland are here to stay.

According to American Joshua Smith the main intent of his mission is a long term documentary project focusing on Somalilanders and geared towards breaking the abundant collective and negative stereotyping of communities associated with Somalia.

Says he, “To break the negative stereotyping my organization Visual Peace Maker is focusing on showing the beauty and dignity of local people rather than the usual concentration on pirates and terrorists”

The Texan who opinionated that most everybody in the world lumps all Somalis as pirates and terrorists is resolved on negating this perception through portrayal in visual form of the positive things that are happening especially the beauty of the culture, poetry and arts among other things.

To achieve his mission Joshua Smith is collating his material through photographs, videos and interaction with related stakeholders within the diversified spheres of his work initially in the Somaliland capital Hargeisa and in future other parts of the country.

The Swede and American say Somalila d is more secure than their own homelands

With concentration on Sign paintings, arts, oral traditions and culture, impact of diaspora input in goading economic development and quest for recognition the recent unanimous vote to recognize the sovereign of somaliland by the Sheffield City Council came in as a handy god send break for his documentary.

Bearded American Joshua Smith is currently stationed in Ethiopia where he works for Visual Peace Maker he non-profit organization that has commissioned the documentary that initiated Jigjiga city of in the capital of the Ethiopian Zone five administrative regions where he resides.

Apart from their professional quests the youthful foreigners are also intent on portraying the serenity, beauty and culture of Somaliland to Joshua Smith briefs on his documentary projectthe outside world that equates everything from this region with piracy and terrorism

On their take on the security in Somaliland the two are again unanimous in their opinion that it is far much better than in their respective countries of Sweden and Texas in the USA.

For more details on the organizations in which the Swiss and American provide their professional services visit www.ayaana.net and www.visualpeacemedia.org respectively

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