National Theatre

The National Theatre of Somalia is located in central Mogadishu, Somalia. It opened in 1967, and served as an important cultural landmark in the national capital. The institution closed down after the start of the civil war in the early 1990s, but was later intermittently renovated by the local authorities. In 2013, the Somali and Chinese governments signed an official cooperation agreement as part of a five-year national recovery plan in Somalia that will see the Chinese authorities reconstruct several major infrastructural landmarks in Mogadishu.

The building of the National Theatre of Somalia was built by Chinese engineers as a present from Mao Zedong in the 1960s. The building was finished and opened in 1967.

After Siad Barre came to power the National Theatre became an important institution within the socialist vision of a new Somalia. Siad Barre claimed that he wanted to overcome the clan-based society of Somalia. Therefore people from all the different clans have worked in the National Theatre and have developed its unique aesthetic.

The National Theatre didn’t have a single ensemble, but several bands were working and performing there. In the Somali theatre tradition music and theatrical representation are closely linked, therefore theatre companies are usually referred to as “bands”. The most famous of these were the Waaberi which evolved from the combination of the band of Radio Mogadishu and General Daud band that belonged to the military forces and was named after Daud Abdulle Hirsi. Waaberi included such well known artists as Ali FeiruzAbdullahi QarsheMagoolMaryam MursalHassan Sheikh Mumin and Abdi Ali (Bacalwaan). Other bands that performed in the National Theatre or that were part of it are: Horseed (the band existed already before the independence under the name Ex-bana Estro), Halgan, Onkod, and Iftin. All the bands belonged to an institution of the state, for example, the Iftin band belonged to the Ministry of Education and was therefore also in charge of the musical education of school teachers.

When the civil war broke out in July 1991, the National Theatre was amongst the first buildings to be destroyed. In the first months of the war there was even a show in the destroyed building that was called “You Destroyed the Roof, So Don’t Look Up”. Later through the war the theatre did not work at all. The ruins subsequently served as a stock for weapons and as an unofficial public toilet.

In the fall of 2011 Jabril Ibrahim Abdulle, director of the Centre for Research and Dialogue Somalia started to gather former artists from the National Theatre in order to plan the reanimation of the theatre. After provisionally reconditioning the building a reopening ceremony was held on 19 March 2012. The ceremony was broadcast on national TV and about 1000 spectators came to see the ceremony that included a play that was written by former members of the different bands: Dardaarwin Walid (Parents’ advice). As of 2013 the renovations of the building are going on and Abdiduh Yusuf Hassan the current director of the theatre launched a program called Hirgeli Hamigaaga Faneed (Awaken your inner artist) that is basically a kind of Somali Idol – a talent show.Within these activities he supported a reopening celebration of the National Theatre of Somalia in Exile in Vienna in 2013.Abdiduh Yusuf Hassan hopes to revive the Somali performing arts through this program.

In September 2013, the Somali and Chinese foreign ministries signed an official cooperation agreement in Mogadishu as part of a five-year national recovery plan in Somalia. The pact will see the Chinese authorities reconstruct several major infrastructural landmarks in the Somali capital and elsewhere, including the National Theatre, a hospital, and the Mogadishu Stadium.

The National Theatre 3D Model

 

 

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