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Somali Museum of Minnesota
Matxafka Soomaalida Minnesota  (Somali)
Somali Museum of Minnesota-Minneapolis, MN USA.jpg
An exhibit at the Somali Museum of Minnesota
Former name Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum
Established 2009 (2009)
Location 1516 East Lake Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Collections Somali art, Culture of Somalia
Public transit access Bloomington Ave & Lake St, Metro Transit (Minnesota)

The Somali Museum of Minnesota (also known as the Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum) is a cultural institution in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. The Minneapolis–Saint Paul metro area is home to the largest Somali immigrant and refugee population in the United States, after civil war in Somalia prompted large-scale displacement of the Somali people. The Somali Museum of Minnesota presents a collection of around 700 traditional nomadic artifacts from Somalia, as well as educational programming about Somali culture, arts events, and cross-cultural activities. It may now be the only museum in the world dedicated to preserving Somali culture and traditions.

Mission and history

The Somali Museum of Minnesota was incorporated as the Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum in December 2011. Prior to that date, the museum's director Osman Ali carried out cultural preservation activities independently, by collecting artifacts and presenting lectures about Somali culture around Minneapolis and Saint Paul. In 2013, the Somali Museum opened a public gallery on Lake Street, which is the museum's present location. In 2014, the Museum co-presented a pop-up gallery in downtown Minneapolis as part of the Made Here project of Hennepin Theatre Trust In 2015, the Museum celebrated its gallery's 2nd Anniversary with a community celebration featuring Somali performers from around the world, including Mama Fadumo Nakruuma, Mahamad Barastimool, Hodan Nalayeh, and Nasteexo Indho.

The Somali Museum offers programs classes in cultural education through weaving, dance and poetry, as well as touring exhibitions and outreach events in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metro area. The Somali Museum was voted Minnesota's "Best Mini-Museum" by Mpls.St.Paul Magazine in 2015.


The Somali Museum displays a collection of artifacts from nomadic society in Somalia, as well as contemporary paintings created by artists in Somalia and the diaspora. Its galleries feature exhibits of milk and water vessels, weaving, artifacts associated with women's work and care for camels, and religious items. The museum also displays two traditional houses: one nomadic home (aqal Soomaali in the Somali language) and one village home (called a mudul). The aqal Soomaali was built first on Lake Street in Minneapolis, then installed at the Somali Museum in July 2014


The Somali Museum's executive director is Osman Mohamed Ali. Ali is an entrepreneur and community figure, and co-owns the Sanaag Restaurant in Minneapolis. Ali began his career as a water resources manager in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and moved to the United States in 1995. He founded and managed Ali's Driving School and Ali's Catering, both businesses serving the Somali community, and worked as a community organizer for the Neighborhood Development Center. According to interviews, in 2009 Ali traveled to Somalia to visit an ailing relative and was saddened by young Somalis' lack of knowledge about traditional Somali culture. When he also discovered that the only cultural museum in Somalia was destroyed, he started collecting artifacts to start his own.

The Somali Museum is also led by a nine-member Board of Directors and committee of advisors.

Notable visitors

In 2015, Boqor Burhaan, a regional king from Puntland, Somalia, held a reception at the Somali Museum as part of a visit to the Somali community in Minnesota. Other notable Somali guests to the Somali Museum include former Prime Minister of Somalia Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, former Minister of Defense of Somalia Hussein Arab Isse, singer Cadar Kahin, singer Aar Maanta, comedian Abdihakin BR, and poet Said Salah Ahmed. Said Salah Ahmed also sits as chair of the Somali Museum's board of directors.

Notable guests in Minnesota government include U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison, U.S. Senator Al Franken, Mayor of Minneapolis Betsy Hodges, Minneapolis City Council Member Abdi Warsame and Minnesota State Representative Karen Clark.


The Somali Museum is housed in the Plaza Verde, a building owned and maintained by the Neighborhood Development Center, a non-profit small business incubator based in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Resident artists

Resident artists at the Somali Museum have included traditional craftspeople, performance artists, painters, and storytellers. Artists Ardho Ismail, Hawa Ahmed, Amina Shire, and Halwa Daud weave textiles in a traditional nomadic style, teach weaving classes, and lead nomadic craft events at the Somali Museum. The museum gallery also displays paintings by Minnesota-based painters Aziz Osman and Madaxay. Oral poets who have performed and taught at the Somali Museum include Ahmed Ismail Yusuf and Said Salah Ahmed. Performance artists Ifrah Mansour, Abdihakin BR, Maxamed Barastimool, and Cadar Kahin have also presented at events.

The Somali Museum's logo, which depicts a dhiil, or traditional nomadic milk vessel, was designed by Kaamil Haider. The colors used in the logo echo colors of the iconic nomadic costume guntiino.

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