It doesn’t matter what you go through you can still make it with a smile.
That is me jumping – I am always hype! I am on the outside a jolly person, a happy person, but deep down I am not happy in myself, and that is why we have these things inside my body.
I call my hair the Medusa hairstyle. I feel it is free. I do not really get to open my hair. It is just covered every day, even when I am in the house in my room, when I have locked myself inside. Through the painting, I got the chance to show my hair – to see it be free, the colour and everything. It is a painting, but I feel like the air is going through my hair. I feel like I am connected to the painting. I just feel free, just seeing my hair like that … I believe it is not necessary for you to cover up as a Muslim. Islam is deep down inside your heart and not the outside. That is what I believe.
What I can say about the face is that I can smile through everything. The bluish grey symbolises my darkest times. Whenever I remember that, it hits me like a wave, and, for me, resisting is being strong.
The flowers look pretty, but the red colour is about pain. There was a time, when I went through female genital mutilations. It was painful. That is what red stands for. The white colour is to symbolise the talent that I have from my hands and the peace that I am looking for. The black is my favourite colour. I believe that black suits me.
This is the blackbird. I put it here because it is from my heart. When I was growing up, I was often called the blackbird (black crow) because I was the darkest in the family. So, I told myself, as a blackbird, I can fly, I can be free and go to places. Blackbirds protect each other. When one blackbird dies, they gather to protect it.
Blue and white is for the Somali flag. The white trousers and the blue top are to say that deep down I am a young Somali. But sometimes I don’t feel I am safe as a Somali in Kenya, and I would think twice before saying that I am Somali. I wonder what will people say and whether they will think that I am from Al-Shabaab, trying to kill them or to get information from them.
The star, the red cross and the word ‘hope’ are about hope for Somalia. I still have hope for change and peace in Somalia. In fact, one of the meanings of my name is ‘hope’ and I never give up. You people have taught me how I can express my feelings through colours and symbols.
I put a bus on my knees because, once, when I was travelling from Wajir to Nairobi by bus, I was stopped, harassed and even slapped by a police officer. He accused me of carrying fake identity documents. Because I was a Somali, he stood me aside from the other passengers and accused me of wanting to go to Nairobi to kill people.
That is me wearing an abaya, going to the community youth centre for work and volunteering, I go there really early in the morning just to sit and watch the trees to just calm myself down. It’s like a yoga thing for me.
On my right hand, this is the Kenyan flag. Kenya will always be my right hand. It does not matter where I go, it would be home for me. The sky, the blue – this is the blue sky. My happy. On the left side, I put yellow. It is a happy colour and my nephew likes it. I believe I have enough space to be happy. I put some people there too, to make them happy. I also put, there on top, things and activities that I do just to make myself happy.
I love mosques. The mosque used to be the safest place in the world, but now I do not feel like it is as safe as before because of attacks and violence.
I put the words that hurt my feelings, the things that drag me down, under my legs because I jump through this. I put them together. The hands are my hands, but at the same time, I am talking about people that are dragging me down, so the hands are like reaching to me to grab me. Jumping means resisting. I made it to the sea.
I learnt a lot through this process. I felt that am loved and I learned that I could talk through painting. It taught me to trust people and to smile through whatever. Because all women go through such things. It taught me to find myself, to resist and to share with others. I had stuff inside me, and you showed me how to paint them on canvas. Taking them out on the canvas, felt like life changing. I can see myself almost doing this every day of my life. I feel so alive, like a new person. Yesterday, when I went home, I was smiling for no reason, and my mum was asking me “Are you on drugs?” Why can’t I be happy? Why can’t a woman be happy? I never knew I would like this workshop. But, day after day, I felt more and more comfortable. I never really felt comfortable like this before. No one stopped me. I felt so connected with myself and others. I am stronger.