In the poor country, the cinema is a luxury for a few. Yet for many, they are a sign that the good times are returning.
In 1991, civil war broke out in Somalia after President Siad Barre was overthrown in a coup. It paved the way for Islamist extremists like al-Shabaab. They banned all public entertainment.
The average age of Somalis is about 17 years. This means that a fairly small proportion of the population remembers what it was like when you could go to the cinema to see both Somali and foreign films.
So it was a huge event when Somalis, for the first time since 1991, were finally able to go to a public screening of a film in their home country.
But far from all Somalis can take advantage of the new cultural offer. Tickets cost 10 dollars, or about 85 crowns. In a country where 43 percent live on less than a dollar a day, cinema is a luxury few can enjoy.
Movies at the cinema are also only for those who live in big cities. This is where government forces have good enough control to protect the population from attacks by the Islamist al-Shabaab movement. Islamists still control much of the countryside and are a constant threat to the government.
Fear and love
– This is important for everyone, for me too, said Kaif Jama, 24 years old. Reuters.
He has lived most of his life in exile, but returned to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, with two films in which he has written the script and played the lead roles. It was Jama’s films that were on the Somalia National Theater program.
One is a horror movie called Below, the other a comedy called Hell date.
In recent decades, Somalis have only been able to watch movies on television, in their own living room. Public events have been banned. The Islamists’ interpretation of Muslim morality also prohibited viewing the World Cup on television.
Like a history book
The Somalia National Theater is a good example of the recent history of the war-torn country.
The theater was a gift from the Chinese communist dictator Mao Zedong in 1967. Somalia is strategically located in the Horn of Africa, at the entrance to the Red Sea. Therefore, the great powers were concerned with gaining greater influence over the country.
Somali politicians were good at pitting the great powers against each other. This is how they obtained financial support and weapons from both the United States and the communist states.
In 1969, Siad Barre took power. He ruled the country like a dictator. Barre did a number that wanted to build a bridge between the various clans of the country. The theater would become a symbol of this goal. Therefore, people from all the major clans got jobs there.
In the 1980s, Pan-African film festivals were held at the theater.
When the Civil War broke out in 1991, the theater was attacked and destroyed. One of the last performances was called You blew the ceiling so don’t look up
In the following years, the theater was used as a base for various warlords and later as a public bath.
In 2011, African Union soldiers captured Mogadishu. As a symbol of the restoration of peace, the theater was to be restored.
In 2012, a couple of performances were staged before a suicide attack killed ten people.
Now the Chinese are back in Somalia. They reached an agreement with the authorities to rebuild the theater.
Far from peace
The reopening of the cinema is no guarantee that the country is entering a more peaceful period. Last week he wrote Foreign policy that events in Afghanistan could be a warning of what could threaten Somalia.
The country is threatened by many underlying conflicts between the powerful clans. Foreign Policy believes that Somalia, like Afghanistan, depends on foreigners contributing to stability.
The future of the country depends on developments in three areas, according to the magazine. The first is the strength of the Islamist uprising. The second is whether the federal government manages to do its job.
The last is whether the countries that contribute to stability are patient enough.