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Sheeko Somali! is the result of a year-long project to improve mental health and well-being, writes Rosy Moorhead
Come to Somalia - not a pirate in sight.
The play Sheeko Somali!, the result of a year-long project by Mind in Harrow, aimed to do two things: improve the mental health and wellbeing of Harrow’s Somali community through the performing arts; and to show a Western audience that there is more to Somalia than we see on the news.
"The project was about supporting Somalis living in Harrow," explains producer and director Emily Hunka, "giving them the opportunity to tell their stories. It’s an exploration of exile, the war and what it’s like to be a migrant, and also about the history of Somali - how it became what it is today."
Sheeko Somali! tells the story of Aisha, who has been in Harrow for 10 years and has spent the last six months in the local psychiatric ward. She refuses to speak - no-one can reach her until one day she receives a surprise visit from Somali folk legend Igad Cigal, the greatest coward in the land. He takes her- and the audience - to the burning deserts of Somaliland, where in the nomads’ huts stories unfold, poems are told and songs are sung - and where Aisha might just be able to heal.
"The Somalis are a nation of poets," says Emily, "theirs is an oral tradition and I put together a script from all their stories and experiences."
As well as the community cast and crew, the play features a professional English storyteller and legendary Somali musicians Fuad Omar and Saed Hussein.
"Being in the project and the play has benefitted those involved very powerfully," says Emily. "We came into it with a Western perspective on how performing arts benefit mental health but they taught us how empowering it is for them to tell their stories and honour their culture and history."
Sheeko Somali! is on in the Studio Theatre, Harrow Arts Centre, Uxbridge Road, Hatch End on Thursday, June 28 at 7.30pm. There will be free Somali food after the performance. Details: 020 8416 8989, www.harrowarts.com