About Golol Gallery Center of Somali Art

Golol Art Gallery was the first and last independent gallery of its kind ever established in Somalia and based in the capital city Mogadishu.

Historical Background

Historically the Somalis have been collecting, preserving, minting, weaving, drawing and painting artifacts with archaeological value since time immemorial as Mogadishu is known to have been a commercial hub linking the ancient traders from East Asia, Persia, India, China, Middle East and Africa.

In the olden days Museums served the ancient civilization as the commercial Bank, mercantile court, drawing, dressing and kitchen ware.  The minted gold, silver and bronze artistically crafted with heads of kings were used as trade currency commonly shared by ‘block trading partners’ from the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden, Mediterranean, and Persian Gulf.

 

The ancient Museum also preserved elephant tusk, animal skin, hides, drawings, colorful traditional regalia, preserved historic documentation such as records of trades, agreements of kings and queens in ceremonial gatherings and the exchange of gifts and presentations. It also displays the cultural weaponry such as spears of all sizes, swords, bows, arrows, horse-carts, pottery, sculptures with ancient and medieval origin.

 

Archaeological excavation in Mogadishu testifies that such relics filled the national Museum of Somalia both pre-colonial and post-colonial era. The long history of the city dates back to the Persian and Egyptian civilizations as Somali archaeologist with international expert found through their research that Mogadishu wasn’t only a trade hub, but was a cultural center.

Somali National Museum

The Somali National Museum has been modernized and re-launched (with the help of the Omani Sultan of Zanzibar, Barghash Ibnu Sa’id) by Somali Sultan Ahmed Yusuf of the Geledi Sultanate. However, the governor of Mogadishu Suleiman bin Hamed commissioned the work in 1872. The Museum in the period of the Sultanate has collected more Islamic civilization in terms of artifacts, documentation and trade laws.

When the Italian fascist captured Somalia in the early 18th century, the focal point was to capture the Museum, Mogadishu Royal Palace and the Fort and the Towers. Soon they gained access of all the gates of the city and the chief among them was the national Museum. The Museum (after looting and embezzlement) was reconstructed and opened to the public in 1933 by the colonial governor of Mogadishu Maurizzio Rava.  Museo Della Somalia was turn into a National Museum when Southern Somalia took its independent from Italy in 1960.

Since then the Museum operated as Somali National Museum until 1985 when the Museum again renamed as Museo Della Geresa a name known to the Museum before the period of Somali Independent. Then in 1985 the Socialist Government divided the Museum into three departments namely: The National library, the National Theater and the National Achieve and has been open to the public until 1991 when Somalia descended into a civil anarchy.

It is this period when the National Museum was looted its relics and historical artifacts. The lost artifacts included paintings, pictures, drawing, historical films, sculptures, pottery and other artistic work among others. However, some of the ‘art-work’ in possession includes pictures, drawings and films taken in the early stage of Somalia’s civil war.

Vision of the mainstream leadership

Golol Gallery aspires to gather Somali artists, revive and reproduce their art which halted during this quarter century. Golol Gallery aims to exhibit Somali Artists work, preserve, and to share experiences. We have a vision to create an art Gallery which will unite the Somali artists and help them exchange information and ideas on their profession to market their products, create a platform, reproduce, collect, preserve and exhibit refined Somali artifacts and share with exhibition centers worldwide. The aim is to ‘give and gain’ experience, exhibit fine art with historical connection, which is rustic, rare and has an archaeological touch that has been collected over the years by renowned Somali artists, photographers and historians.

Mr. Ali Said Hassan who resides in UK is a Somali Historian, artist, filmmaker and photographer who is (to this day) well connected with the forgotten Somali Artists and is committed to the welfare of Somali artist. He still assembles them, is involved in their work and speaks on their behalf in any events gathered by regional or international artists.

Somali artists in Mogadishu, through his leadership, are very active in collecting, tracing, appraising and recovering some of the lost artifacts in the last quarter century. The Artist Union in Mogadishu has now established a good relationship with some of the art institutions and the colleges to encourage student to take up art related professions. Somali artist are facing challenges to fundraise the ever-increasing number of art students whose parents can’t support their higher education. So there are challenges to set up the next generation of artist and historians who will take the helm of art institution.

It is also intended to alleviate the plight of Somali Artist (who suffered during the 22 years of civil war) and have a decent representation in which they can contribute their gift and talent to the advancement of World Artifact Community and gain themselves credit as an artist who is part of World Artist Movement.

 The Goals of Golol Art Gallery

The goal is to create a more culturally oriented society that adopts their heritage, historical background (old and contemporary) and facilitate civil transformation to produce an uplifted and a creative Somali youth who can overcome the impasse of the inherited oral communication.

 The Idea of Parallel Art Gallery

 Golol Art Gallery was established in 1987 by renowned Somali artists and intellectuals to promote and sustain the cultural identity collected by generations of Somali historians. The aim was to protect the Somali heritage from malice and as propaganda by the socialist government to suit its own selfish ends.

For example, those days the interest of the ‘oil rich Arabs’ was to assimilate culturally and religiously the Somali people using the failed Scientific Socialist leaders and risk the cultural identity of the Somali people. Therefore the club of the historians whose ideas were to preserve artifacts of national value, upgrade talent of Somali artists, advance human development and sustain Somali identity have come up with the idea of forming Golol Art Gallery to safe-keep and safe-guard the national identity and the history of the Somali People. The founding artist desired to develop the art and artifacts representing culture, history and identity of the Somalis.

Therefore, Golol Art Gallery was born from that point as a non-profit, charitable organization. Golol Art Gallery was the first and the last independent Gallery of its kind ever established in Somalia. It is based in the capital city of Mogadishu and was opened to the public in 1987. The Gallery contained over 1123 different artifacts and valuable paintings before the collapse of the government. However, I was able to redeem and preserved only 34 pieces out of 1123 collected artifacts. We do hope that these paintings carry a missing historical and cultural link, which will give interest to both the community and the scholars.

The long-standing Somali civil war and the preceding collapse of the last military regime resulted in an unimaginable devastation and near total destruction of the nation’s heritage. Which ruined cultural memories, archives and historical centers such as the National Museum, National Academy? Since the demise of the military government, Somalia has had no functional authority that could support the restoration and preservation of precious fine arts and paintings, nor does the country have an embassy anywhere in the world to promote its culture/tradition and community cohesion.

The nature of this kind of work is beyond the capacity of individuals or small organizations. In order to share these priceless artifacts with the Somali community in the UK and the wider international community.

We hope that exhibiting these works will have a paramount importance to, not only the young Somali generation born and bred in the UK, but the international community as well to understand the destruction of a culture and the life of the Somali Society.

The Somali youth have known nothing but destruction and violence in their country of origin. It is in this belief that the exhibition may also generate enormous interest in the artists among them, scholars and the international community. In this regard, we welcome any assistance and support received from any concerned individuals and statutory organization in the UK.