SPOTLIGHT: MOHAMED MOHAMUD, FOUNDER OF SOMALI SIDEWAYS
How would you define Somali Sideways?
Somali Sideways is a platform where Somalis from across the globe can share personal stories, so people can either relate or learn. Somali Sideways aims to connect, as well as re-connect Somalis on social media. We live in a world where technology and social media are booming every day and I thought now would be a great time to bring Somalis from the Diaspora together and to share experiences and stories to one another. Primarily this initiative is aimed at young Somalis. However, I would like to get Somalis of all ages in the future insha’Allah.
What prompted you to provide a platform for Somalis that showcases not just yourself, but the greater Somali diaspora? What I find so intriguing about it is the branding and the fact that you’re sharing a space with many people.
In the two years, I’ve been going to quite a few Somali cafes, restaurants and events and I noticed amongst other things is that everyone I’ve met has a profound story to tell me or a lesson for me to learn. Until recently I wanted to somehow bring my photography skills into something and that’s when I thought it would be a good idea to bring my skills as well as the stories I’ve heard. To be honest deep down I’ve always been that person. There was a book I read a couple of months ago and one of the sentences that stood out to me was ‘Life is about selflessly helping others’. That is something I firmly believe in.
The stories showcased range from reflections to epiphanies to tributes to musings of diasporic nostalgia. They all seem to center around Somalinimo in all its complex manifestations. What has your experience curating these stories been like?
Personally, I can relate to most of these stories, especially reflections. I believe it is important to be in constant reflection as this will enhance your personal development in the long run.
What is Somalinimo to you? And how has your Somalinimo shaped your work and your decision to create Somali sideways?
I was never someone who was interested in anything that was related to Somalis or Somalia as a whole. I wasn’t interested in helping people, whether they were Somali or not. As I started to know about myself, I realised it is important to know where you are from; connecting your roots constantly throughout your life. A lot of people ask me, ‘How did you do it?’ And to be honest I didn’t do it. I just connected things. Steve Jobs once said, ‘When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things’.
What responses, criticisms, and/or reactions have your received about your work?
In the beginning, I posted a few photos on my Instagram just to see if people would respond well to the idea. Wallahi, I’m surprised at how well it’s going. People from around the world, Somalis and Non-Somalis, have congratulated me on this initiative. They’ve told me to carry it on and insha’Allah I will. Some people have criticised me on this, but then again: not every project is for everyone.
What do you wish the Somali community to gain from reading Somali Sideways?
I want the Somali community whether on a local, national or international level to know that young Somalis have incredible stories and lessons to teach.
Lastly, what’s the significance presenting the subject of the photograph sideways?
The sideways element was a creative idea. It brings thoughtfulness, reflection and expression to the photo. It illustrates that the person is thinking of that story in that precise moment. I wanted to also bring in the location of the photo to show the area of where the photo was taken.
This interview was conducted by Aisha Jama.