OUR STORIES | Sheeko: Documenting Somali youth diaspora stories

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Fartun Abdi is passionate about preserving her generation’s oral histories. Abdi is a member of and researcher with the Sheeko Project, which started in 2011 to document and digitize oral stories of Somali diaspora youth. The project is a collaboration between the University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center (IHRC), campus faculty, staff, and students.

“What does it mean to be Somali? Somali American? Somali diasporan? That’s what this project tried to accomplish,” she said.

“Sheeko” means story in Somali. Abdi’s role in Sheeko came out of her own research on young Somali identities. Later, with guidance and support from the IHRC, Abdi worked with a group of student researchers to record oral histories of Somali Americans and British Somalis between the ages of 18 and 25, in the Twin Cities, Minnesota and London, England.  

Some of the themes of Sheeko’s oral stories include education, religious identity, understanding one’s homeland, and gender issues particularly in relation to women in Islam. Abdi presented some of the findings at IHRC’s Somali American Research Series in late April.

A digital archive of the edited video footage is now available on the IHRC website, and the Sheeko project has its own website, which is available for the public to see for generations to come.

“Trust me, five years from now, ten years from now these experiences are not going to be similar to youth in the near future. They’re going to experience completely different struggles,” Abdi said.

She encourages everyone to document their community’s stories: “If you don’t have anything like that for your community, make sure you do it.”