COMMUNITY VOICES | Portraits of Somali elders pay honor and bridge communities

I have worked in the local community of Somali elders as a healthcare worker for six years. Most of the elders don’t speak English, and my work is accomplished through interpreters. For that reason, I have been learning af-Soomaali (Somali language). As I get to know the elders in our community I have started to portray them in my art, along with Islamic designs, also of my creation. I’m fascinated by the resilience, intelligence, and humor of these elders, and mean for the portraits to serve as an introduction and a means of integrating them into the community.Although there is an aniconic tradition in Islamic culture, the elders I have painted have asked me for their portraits, since recognizing me as an artist. I don’t ask them, out of respect. Continue Reading