The Somali Peace Band Project
Royce Ng

Curated by Louise Neri, Alexie Glass and Pip Wallis

Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne, Australia Exhibition Dates: 12 – 26 October 2013 Presented by the Melbourne Festival, 2013


Somali musician Abdi Mohamed Abdi spent sixteen years in a refugee camp in Kenya where he formed the Somali Peace Band with singer Daacad Rashid. Their music made them famous. Today Abdi lives free in Melbourne while Daacad lives in Nairobi, in constant fear of death threats from Islamic fundamentalists while awaiting the outcome of his application for asylum in Australia.
In 2010, Chinese Australian artist Royce Ng saw Abdi perform in Melbourne and became involved in putting him back in touch with Daacad in Kenya, and re-recording the songs of the Somali Peace Band.
Gertrude Contemporary and Melbourne Festival present The Somali Peace Band, an immersive three-channel video installation, an experimental ethnographic film using footage and sound collected over four years with animations recreating memories and stories told by Abdi Mohamed Abdi to the artist. Using the poignant beauty of their music as a vehicle, The Somali Peace Band project questions the limits of activism and advocacy within the context of art and explores the various forms of 'the law' that bind individuals across history, cultures and geography.
During the festival the Front Gallery at Gertrude Contemporary will be converted into an open social space with events programmed by the Somali community that will feature shared food, artist workshops, music recording, a poetry reading, a guest curated video reel and an archive of Somali texts.

SOCIAL UTOPIAS AND SOCIAL AGENCY PANEL DISCUSSION: Tuesday 22 October 2013
Art and political agency, where do they meet? At this time of increased urgency for interrogation of legal and political structures surrounding seeking asylum, the Social Utopias and Social Agency Panel Discussion will question the limits of activism and advocacy within the context of art and explore the various forms of 'the law' that bind individuals across history, cultures and geography. Artist Royce Ng, Australian Somali community member Fuad Jama, Director of the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre Jana Favero, Academic and Curator Dr Vivian Gerrand, and Curator Louise Neri will reflect on art and the social, and the experience of displacement, and cultural identity as explored in the Somali Peace Band project. Somali musician Abdi Mohamed Abdi spent sixteen years in a refugee camp in Kenya where he formed the Somali Peace Band with singer Daacad Rashid. Their music made them famous. Today Abdi lives free in Melbourne while Daacad lives in Nairobi, in constant fear of persecution while awaiting the outcome of his application for asylum in Australia. In 2010, Chinese Australian artist Royce Ng saw Abdi perform in Melbourne and became involved in putting him back in touch with Daacad in Kenya, and re-recording the songs of the Somali Peace Band. The project, presented by Gertrude Contemporary and Melbourne Festival, includes Ng's immersive three-channel video installation and an open social space with events programmed by members of Melbourne's Somali community.

BITTER AND SWEET: SOMALI LANGUAGE AND POETRY: Thursday 24 October 2013
Gertrude Contemporary is delighted to announce an evening of Somali language and poetry readings presented by artist and Director of Burji Arts Nadia Faragaab. The migration of many Somali from their homeland has created a need to recognise the importance of Somali language as a living cultural record. Because of the nation's love of oral communication Somalia is also known as a nation of poets. Today, the Australian Somali community faces the challenge of reconciling the Somali and Australian language and culture. Nadia Faragaab is currently developing the Somali English Dictionary application through the Burji Arts Somali Language Preservation Project. This major linguistic project involves the collection of Somali words from all dialects. This initiative has recently been awarded the Vice Chancellors Award from the University of Melbourne. In her discussion Nadia will reflect on cultural archiving and the shifting nature of contemporary Somali language in the context of changing communities. Poems will be read during the evening by Australian Somali poets Said Farah AKA Shirwa and Munira Jate. Burji Arts is an organisation dedicated to celebrating Somali art and culture through visual art, performance and Somali language. www.burjiarts.com

THE SOMALI KITCHEN, TALK AND TASTING: Sunday 20 October 2013, 3 – 5pm
The Somali Kitchen will present an afternoon of talks and tastings on Somali food culture as part of the The Somali Peace Band. The diversity of contemporary Somali food tells the histories of the Somali landscape, Arab and Persian trade routes, British, French and Italian colonialism, the nomadism of the Cushitic culture, civil unrest and relocation in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen, Egypt and Australia. The Somali Kitchen is a collective of Somali nomads living in Melbourne who share their love of the rich and diverse Somali cuisine through their recipe blog www.somalikitchen.com Abshiro, Mariam, Shukri and Abderazzaq will talk about their favourite Somali dishes and the stories behind the recipes. Join us on Sunday 20 October at 3 - 5pm to taste the dishes and hear the history of Somali cuisine.

MOBILE REKODI SITUDIO BEAT-MAKING WORKSHOP: Saturday 26 October 2013, 10am – 5pm

Royce Ng and John Bartley of Brother Sister Records will present a free workshop on DIY beat making, lyric writing and recording vocals for young local musicians. This is an opportunity for musicians aged 10 - 14 years old to engage with Somalia's rich and varied musical heritage. Somali music features collaboration between beat makers, lyricists, and vocalists. Through the partnership between Brother Sister Records and Gertrude Contemporary, participants in the workshop will have the chance to actively engage with Somali culture and contemporary music making. Key skills in making and recording music will be covered in the program.


2013 Royce Ng, Somali Peace Band, 3-channel video installation, 19:06


In 1990, fleeing from Mogadishu with the onset of the Somali Civil War, Abdi Mohamed Abdi and his wife travelled 5000km by tractor to his hometown in the Bajun Islands.

Somali archive, social space with public programs, workshops and performances

Opening event performance by Abdi Mohamed Abdi and the Aussom Band

Mogadishu Cathedral was built in 1928 by the Roman Catholic Church while Somalia was still an Italian colony. It was destroyed by Islamic insurgents in 2008.


The Somali Peace Band was formed in the 1990's by Abdi Mohamed Abdi, Daacad Rashiid and Sahra Omar while they were living in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. They practiced together at night in their tents to avoid attracting attention

2010, Abdi Mohamed Abdi, fabric applique, 200cm x 100cm

Osmanya Deco font for the Somali language designed by Royce Ng for the exhibition


Remix of the video installation 'Somali Peace Band' with text by Daisy Bisenieks for a performance by the Somali Peace Band at the Iwaki Theatre in Melbourne with Cumbia Cosmonaughts, 18-06-2014. Here set to the music of Abdi Mohamed Abdi's Mogadishu funk band in Dur Dur.



Opening performance by Abdi Mohamed Abdi and the Aussom Band.

Interview with Royce Ng by Dr. Vivian Gerrand on the Somali Peace Band Project, multiculturalism and the Somali Diaspora. Download PDF

Testimonio Royce Ng
Special thanks to Abdi Mohamed Abdi, Daacad Rashiid, Sarah Omar, Abdifatah Bule, Ronald Koo, Niall MacKinnon, Rafiq Copeland, Nadia Farragab, Vivian Gerrand, Deb Kunda, Kate Jama, Fuad Jama, Abdirazzaq Noor, Susan Forrester, Mohamud W Mohamud, Sidney Mangongo, Daisy Bisenieks, Pip Wallis, Louise Neri, Alexie Glass and Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne and Kuona Trust Art Space Nairobi