Arts and Culture

Young Somali woman becomes the first Somali American artist to perform at the Minnesota State Fair


August 25th, 2015 – Minneapolis full of young and upcoming artist and this includes many young Somali artist. Ifrah Mansour is a Somali American multimedia artist interweaving text, movement, sound, digital media and visual installation.

On Sunday, August 30th, Ifrah Mansour will become the first Somali artist to perform Minnesota State Fair. Minnesota State Fair is a 10-day festival that saw a record number of people last year. Nearly two million people attended last year.

“How to Have Fun in a Civil War” is a live satirical play about a Somali girl’s adventures during her family’s escape from Somalia’s civil war. Inspired by Mansour’s life experiences, the play explores child survivors’ perspectives and their often hidden and untold narratives during war. On why it is important to reframe the war narrative from a child’s perspective, Mansour says “Children experience war in very different ways from adults. I have never seen a peaceful Somalia. I do not have the nostalgia that my elders and parents do. As children and young people, we suffer not just displacement, but also a loss of history.” So, how do children survive and live through a time of war? This question is at the center of Mansour’s play. The protagonist, played by Mansour, imagines that her family is on vacation as they flee their home in search for safety. As her family travels to her affluent aunt’s home, the young child imagines that she is on an adventure.

When she looks back at her memories of Somalia’s Civil War, performance artist Ifrah Mansour remembers playing in broken tanks with her siblings. As a child that was simply the place she lived. She remembers having fun and all the joys that childhood brings, despite the unst able world she lived in.

Loosely based on her own experiences, How to have fun in a Civil War, is a solo piece reflecting on how a child experiences war. Her story speaks to those of her generation; people who were children during that unsettled time, and remember it differently than their parents.

“Our history is being told as one sad sob story,” she says. “It’s told from the elders’ perspective of the war and their version of the history.”

Those elders are the ones who remember a peaceful Somalia before the war, and the pain of seeing that world torn apart. For Mansour and others her age, all she remembers growing up as the war was taking place.

“I remember my mom would call us inside to play,” she says, recalling the bombs that were dropping near them. “I can’t even imagine her feelings and emotions then.” Mansour’s memories are much more innocent; she was having fun.

So Who is Ifrah Mansour:

Ifrah Mansour is a Somali American multimedia artist. She uses art to explore and expand perceptions of beauty, womanhood, and her East-African Diaspora identity. With her art, Mansour invites an understanding of her culture as she shares her lived experience. Her work is at once provoking as it is playful as she navigates difficult topics influenced by her life as a refugee. She was recently named amongst a global list of “Ten Somali Artists and Entertainers To Watch In 2015” Born in Saudia Arabia in the late 1980s, Mansour moved to Somalia prior to the war and lived there for four years before moving to Kenya and then the United States. She is a bilingual teacher who also enjoys gardening and cycling.
Recently, Ifrah’s Corn for Ayayo was displays as part of “The Blacker the Berry,”  exhibit currently displayed at Intermedia Arts. Corn for Ayayo, shaped as a woman wrapped in a red cloth, the figure leans forward over a plate full of corn. Made of willow sticks constructing the armature of the sculpture, the figure has an opening near where the corn is placed on burlap, so that the figure also acts as a kind of hut. Accompanying the work is a piece of writing about a Somali woman, named Axado, who refused to leave her corn farm and continued to feed the rebel men, despite her corn being stolen countless times.

Corn for Ayayo, both in its size and the poignant gesture of the figure, offers a startling image, which Mansour’s narrative complements in a satisfying way.

Ifrah’s recent works include: Somalia’s Balloon, Esug, Ethnically Trendy, God! Make Me A Boy, Corn for Ayayo, Global Taxi Driver, and IM series. Upcoming shows include: How to have fun in a Civil War, Started from the Toes, Alma Lights, Freedom Daze, IM Series, Teachers’ Wanted, Feminist Pet, and Cedar Cypher.

In fact, this month alone, she performed Somalia’s Balloons at Midtown Farmers Market and for Shanta Links Annual Gala, a professional Somali foundation that raises scholarship for young Somali students in Minnesota.

The piece is about 10 minutes, but Mansour eventually wants to extend it to a full length work. At the Minnesota State Fair, she’ll be showing the short version, followed by information panels providing more information about Somalia. Mansour will also be handing out bookmarks that give more history and information about Somalia. Below is information related to Ifrah Mansour’s debut performance at the Minnesota State Fair. WHAT: Play “How to Have Fun in a Civil War” debut WHEN: August 30, 31st and September 1st at 3pm, 4pm, 5pm and 6pm WHERE: Minnesota State Fair Grounds(1265 Snelling Ave, St Paul, MN 55108) Education Building Courtyard COST: FREE (with state fair ticket) Production Company: Bedlam Theatre
Portions of this story was related from City Pages. Full Story can be read here:


All Things Somali
All Things Somali (ATS) was launched for one simple reason: to create a medium for content about Somalis in their daily lives and in their inspiring moments.

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