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Artist Sana Ashraf Sharif Muhsin promotes images of peace in Somalia

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Posted at 2:09 AM, Oct 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-27 11:03:45-04

Among the once-taboo professions emerging from Somalia’s decades of conflict and Islamic extremism is the world of arts, and a 21-year-old female painter has faced more opposition than most.

A rare woman artist in the highly conservative Horn of Africa nation, Sana Ashraf Sharif Muhsin lives and works amid the rubble of her uncle’s building that was partially destroyed in Mogadishu’s years of war.

Despite the challenges that include the belief by some Muslims that Islam bars all representations of people, and the search for brushes and other materials for her work, she is optimistic.

“I love my work and believe that I can contribute to the rebuilding and pacifying of my country,” she told the Associated Press.

Sana, a civil engineering student, began drawing at the age of 8, following in the footsteps of her maternal uncle, Abdikarim Osman Addow, a well-known artist.

"I would use charcoal on all the walls of the house, drawing my vision of the world,” Sana told the AP.

But as attention toward her work has grown, Sana has encountered some tensions, particularly from others in Somalia who don't understand the arts.

Her work at times explores the social issues roiling Somalia, including a painting of a soldier looking at the ruins of the country’s first parliament building. It reflects the current political clash between the federal government and opposition, she said, as national elections are delayed.