Self portraits

Self portraits

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Cad iyo Caano

For the past six years, I've taught elders from east Africa about diabetes and carbohydrates, exercise and frostbite, but (as is the case with teaching. . .) I learn a lot along the way. The folks who lived in rural Somalia lived healthier lives in many ways than we do here -  there was not much diabetes or obesity, and, routinely folks tell me that when they return to Africa they lose weight that they gained here.
Waxaan ku hadlaa wax yar af-Soomaali (I know a little Somali language.)

Back home, traditionally, one-third of our Somali elders were agricultural; one-third nomadic, and one-third city-dwellers. The agrarian folks grew their own maize and ground it into meal to make the staple food, cangeero. They grew pumpkins and greens, as well as sorghum, which was eaten as a grain. (Check out for more info -- including recipes -- on Somali cuisine.)  The nomads traded meat and milk from their goats and camels for grain and vegetables with the agricultural folks, and both traded with city-dwellers for other things they needed. There is an insulin-like substance in camel milk, which partially explains the lower incidence of diabetes back home. Herbs and barks were used as medicine, to treat everything from GI illness to broken bones.

Elderly men who were nomadic earlier on in their lives are still in good health today, defying western medicine with their dietary habits of eating 'cad iyo caano' (pron. 'aad iyo aano'), which means a piece (of cooked goat meat) and milk. But, back home the meat was lean, grass fed, organic, and just moments from walking around to cooking on the fire. The camel milk, likewise, was fresh from grass fed animals, unpasteurized, with the cream on top.

Deg-deg door ma dhasho ~ [Hurry hurry; no blessing (Haste makes waste)]

I am learning af-Soomaali (Somali language) from small groups of elders who live here in Minneapolis, and these discs and small painted objects act as mnemonics. The proverbs are rich in narratives that tell the wisdom of the culture, often as they are spoken by its elders.  They represent my research into learning the language and proverbs from different parts of east Africa, mostly Somalia. These small paintings are made on re-purposed cd's, lp's and airline trays and they are about 6" x 6" to 12" x 12".  These, along with my portraits will be featured in my next exhibition ~ at Susan Hensel Gallery (the window gallery) in Minneapolis (Cedar Ave. S. @ 35th Street) in mid-May.