After prolong armed conflict and the many past attempts at peace building, the arts-based peace building and community outreach programme was designed and implemented in Mogadishu as one of the most innovative and holistic approaches to peace building by using music and poetry (performing arts) as well as paintings and public murals (visual arts) as unique tools for conflict transformation. It is a nonviolent approach that creates space where people in conflict can express themselves, and it also helps in healing and reconciling the society.
Theatres and recreation facilities where put up across the country with a view to promoting performing arts. The process culminated in the establishment of the National Theatre in Mogadishu that became a mirror of Somalia and one of the most revered centres of performing arts in Africa. The National Theatre was used by diplomats and heads of State who visited Somalia. In particular, the delegates who attended in the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Assembly of Heads of State and Government annual meeting in Mogadishu in June 1974 were entertained by local musicians in The National Theatre.
The Theatre was unfortunately one of the main casualties of the civil war. It was heavily damaged and vandalised during the prolonged conflict, and has laid in disuse for 21 years. It was not until mid-2011 that the Ministry of Information and Communications in conjunction with Center for Research and Dialogue (CRD)- Somalia turned their attention to the theatre with a view to restoring and rehabilitating the facility. As a start, CRD has organised public/symbolic opening attended by all Somali arts and living musicians. The event was followed by an emotional symbolic attendance by many Somalis.
For the first time in 21 years, well known Somalis artists, national icons come together at the theater. Abdi Tahliil Warsame, one of the most respected Somali singer arrived in the national theater assisted by friends. He was paralyzed and blind, he could not hold his emotions. He started singing well know Somali nationalist songs that brought everyone present in tears. Over the past 20 years or so over 500 Somali arts are killed, assassinated or died natural death. The average age of Somali artists is 56 years. “We are facing serious challenges, Somali culture is becoming extinct” said Abdi Dhuux, the famous Somali playwright.
At the opening theater, the entire Mogadishu came to standstill. Indeed, it has created a new momentum for peace in Mogadishu. The proceeding was broadcasted live via Somali national TV and radio. Holding such event in old destroyed national theater with no roof was defying moment with overwhelming emotion and jubilations. People could not hold tears as national team started singing well known Somali-nationalist songs in ruins of national Theater. “I think this what Mogadishu residence needed in this difficult time” wrote a Somali diaspora blogger based in the US.
Revival of Somali music and artists bands/groups
The first eight months of the project life were spent on mobilizing artists and musicians by reviving and forming music bands. This has been such a success that no major event takes place in Mogadishu without artists and music being part of it. In addition to entertaining audiences the bands are increasingly passing peace and unifying messages to the community. Within the public sector for instance, the Onkod band of custodial forces is playing music to promote peace; while Waaberi national band have recently conducted a series of concerts carrying anti-rape messages. Similarly, the Horseed Military Band is entertaining residents of Mogadishu as well as boosting morale of federal forces by singing nationalist themes. These bands did not exist few months ago.