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Art imitates life for Somali teens
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Tay C. and Najma share the same bedroom in Snapshot Silhouette. As the play progresses, their tense relationship boils over. (Photo courtesy of CTC, photographer Ron Levine )
Immigrants to the U.S. often arrive with a tremendous hope for a new life, as well as a deep sense of loss for the one left behind. Those themes, plus culture clash and the resilience of youth, are at the center of the play, Snapshot Silhouette, a production of the Children's Theatre Co. in Minneapolis. The play has been providing Twin Cities students a glimpse of what life is like for some of the region's newest immigrants. It is built around two 12-year-old girls -- one Somali and one African-American -- who find themselves living together in the same Minnesota home.

Minneapolis, Minn. — To get a better sense of how the issues the play addresses resonate with the Somali community we talked this week with four Somali teenagers -- Hibo Fahra, Hamdi Sahal, Mulki Mohamed and Adawal Ahmed.

They all attend Abraham Lincoln High School in Minneapolis, a special school exclusively for immigrant children. From the perspective of these Somalis, relations with Americans of African descent are no better than with others.

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Image Somali students

One experience that separates these students from others is that many have a mother or other close relative still back in Somalia, waiting for immigration visas and often in dire straits. These teens often work after school to send money home to Somali relatives.

It's an issue the Children's Theatre play highlights with much emotion from the central character, a girl named Najma. It struck a nerve with the Somali students.

For Somalis here, the reality of starvation plus the chaos and death from civil war are imprinted on their memories. These Minneapolis teenagers were mostly too young to remember, but do want Somali history to remain fresh in their own lives -- the bad and the good.

The Children's Theatre Co. production of Snapshot Silhouette runs through April 17.

To listen to David Molpus' conversation with the group, click the audio link in the right column.

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