Somali photographer’s community documentary earns broad display

Self-taught photographer Mohamud Mumin had his first solo show in 2012, when the Whittier Gallery in Minneapolis, showcased his photographs for three days. His work has now found a much bigger stage.

Mumin’s 2012 documentary project “The Youth/Dhallinyarada” is on display at the Weisman Art Museum through Feb. 9, 2014. It consists of 13 black-and-white portraits of young Somali men living in Minnesota and making positive contributions to their adopted homeland.

Abdirizaq Ahmed is one of thirteen Somali men featured in Youth/Dhalinyarada. Ahmed is an athlete and a mentor in the Twin Cities Somali community. (Photo courtesy of Mohamud Mumin)

Mumin, 36, said getting his work into a museum like the Weisman was a personal and professional honor. But he’s more excited about what it means for the Somali community as a whole.

“One of the yardsticks with which an immigrant community’s presence is measured here in America is not just through demographics, but how well they are represented in institutions big and small,” Mumin said. “The Weisman Art Museum is a cultural institution and to be given a platform to inject the other faces of the community into its programming is such a huge accomplishment.”

Photographer Mohamud Mumin unrolls his work. Each portrait is at least five feet tall. (MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel)

“The scale of the portraits is monumental,” said Erin Lauderman, marketing and communications director at the Weisman. “But because of the level of technical detail and the authentic poses of the subjects, Mumin maintains a level of intimacy. Each face fills the whole frame and emphasizes the uniqueness of each man’s personality.”

Mumin’s camera captured artists and teachers, a youth ambassador to the White House and the founder of the Somali Basketball League. All of them came to Minnesota as refugees. Having these men’s images on the walls of the Weisman, he said, is a way to share their stories with the greater population in the Twin Cities.

“In essence, it is not just my work up there,” Mumin said. “It is also about the stories of the young, Somali-American men featured in the work, and ultimately it is about who we are.”

Ahmed Hirsi and his wife Ilhan Omar pose in front of the photo of Hirsi at the Whittier Gallery in Minneapolis, Minn., on March 24, 2011. Their son Adnan entertains himself with his parents’ smartphone. (MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel)

A recipient of a 2013-2014 McKnight Artist Fellowship for Photographers, Mumim is busy with a number of new photography projects. But he’s also dedicated to helping other Somali-American artists make their way into the Twin Cities arts scene.

 “Our task now,” he said, “is to figure out how we can nurture and cultivate the talents of the next persons from within the community.”

You can see more of Mohamud Mumin’s work on his website.