Last year, I met an amazing artist, an elderly gentleman named Hassan Nor (goes by Nor), who draws his memories from Jubaland, Somalia, before the war; when life was peaceful, and food plentiful.
After meeting with his daughter, I met with Nor, and since have had several opportunities to chat with him. His daughter, Farhio, interprets for us. I learned that Nor had been drawing his whole life, since age 19 (he's now 76); he is self-taught; he has become interested in showing and selling his art. Since last fall, I have searched for opportunities for him -- written some applications for exhibitions, and reached out to some curators who had helped me in the past, on his behalf.
The artist's daughter was a catalyst for our meeting. Earlier, she had given some of her father's drawings to her neighbor, whom she met at Neighborhood Night Out. When the neighbor was preparing to travel out of the country for a year, he reached out to me on FB -- where he knew me only through my art.
The neighbor brought some of Nor's drawings over to my studio, and I was blown away by the artworks, which depicted nomadic and village life back home, in Jubaland and Kismaayo, where Nor was a pastoralist, a tailor, a farmer; also, there were drawings of the artist's life here in Minneapolis, where he has lived for 14 years.
|Drawing by Nor|
|Detail of drawing by Nor|
|Drawing of Wedding, by Nor|
As I received some nibbles of interest, I began to understand that some funds would be needed to frame his work, which were primarily works on paper and neon cardboard, and prepare it for exhibition. I did not have the funds to assist with this, and didn't quite know where to turn.
Late in 2015, I heard of the Awesome Foundation, and wrote a grant for Nor to move his art forward. The Awesome trustees loved his work, and appreciated that I wrote the grant specifically to benefit another deserving artist. When the foundation contacted me in January with an award, I was thrilled for the support and encouragement this would bring to Nor's ambitions and aspirations. The grant was just what was needed to frame the work, purchase art materials, bring his art to exhibition, and make it more archival. A small amount of money remained, which provided honorariums to the artist and interpreter (what we call 'food money').
The interest in Nor's work seemed to propel this artist into new realms, increasing his detailed observations and nuances in his storytelling. With assistance from the grant, I was able to bring him new kinds of papers and markers to experiment with, to frame artworks, buy easels; but the other gift that developed was the dialog between us, often in the common language of art.
As Paul Wellstone once said, "We all do better when we all do better." -- this is especially true for artists, and one reason I enjoy collaboration. Our application to Made Here, Represent was created after an idea of Malidoma Patrice Soma, "Being born into this world in a particular place is like having the signature of that place stamped upon you." - from the Healing Wisdom of Africa. Our showcase, Dwelling, is rich with pictorial narratives of home and homeland; along with memories, dreams, and fantasies of the places we call home.
I'm honored to show my work with Nor downtown, in a place of high visibility, and for the premier exhibition for this exceptional artist. Dwelling will be on view both day and (lit up at) night, installed in a window and viewed from the street, in a building on the corner of 8th and Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN.
The exhibit will remain up all summer, until 29 September.