The theme of this year’s Nuit Blanche art installation show, “Breaking Ground,” uses art to express the state of climate change and the urban landscape of Toronto. One exhibit, “Dhis Bulshada,” which translates to “build our community,” showcases ancient Somali art and culture dating back 200 years.
One of the artists is Yasin Osman, founder of Shoot for Peace, a non-profit, art-based organization for the East African community.
A documentary photographer known for his candid and intimate portraits, Osman grew up in the Regent Park neighbourhood of Toronto, which inspired him to document the changes in his community as it underwent revitalization.
He said his inspiration comes from “a desire to change the negative narrative surrounding his home country, Somalia, and to showcase the beauty and generosity of its people through photographic art.”
Osman’s work has evolved over time, initially focusing on capturing the changes in his neighbourhood and later expanding to document various communities and campaigns worldwide. More recently, his art focuses on humanitarian photography. His showcase documents the lives of older adults in his community.
What fuels his artistic drive is a desire to alter the prevailing negative narrative about his home country, Somalia. He uses the medium of photography to illuminate the inherent beauty and generosity of the Somali people, in contrast to the often stereotypical portrayals seen in the media.
Ayan Bashir, another Somali artist in the “Dhis Bulshada” exhibit, said she has been creative since 2015.
“Henna was my first medium of choice. It teaches me discipline, how to have clean, straight lines and how to be organized,” Bashir said. “I then decided I like other forms of arts, like graphic illustration and visual art.”
Tribute to her mother
Being unconventional is important to her, something she learns from her mom, who is her greatest inspiration.
“For the people who have been blessed with mothers on this earth, everything is a blessing or prayer from our parents, and we should not take that lightly,” Bashir said. “Everything I have achieved is through Allah’s blessing.”
“I went about creating the art for Nuit Blanche using henna and to bring it back full circle. I had to think about how to use the henna whose hands I wanted to use,” she said. “Of course, I used my mom’s hands because she was the very first person who trusted and allowed me to apply Henna on her back in 2015 before I was even good at it. This is a tribute to her.”
For Osman and Bashir, this art reflects their inner values and culture embraced by the Somali community.