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Drawing (Dhaanto or "Dance") by Hassan Nor, Minneapolis artist.

Drawing by Hassan Nor
Drawing by Hassan Nor

I had the good fortune to meet Hassan Nor, through his daughter, and saw his raw kind of art I would describe as art brut. Adeer (Uncle) Nor's drawings depict his memories of life in Jubbaland, Somalia, before the civil war when he was young.

Nor is a wonderful storyteller when showing his drawings; he has names for all the characters. His elaborate tales, based on real life —- but often a bit embellished and humorous at times —- are drawn from memories of home. In this drawing, the young people gather outside of the city to dance.

Over many years of meeting, sometimes with interpreters, I learned from the elder artist, born in 1936, about his life and his drawings. Without the benefit of interpreters we had conversations where we communicated mostly through our art.

Adeer Nor strived to bring his art to a wider audience, and we ventured forward with several exhibitions & collaborations. The first was at Capitol Cafe on Franklin Ave in Minneapolis, to a crowd of about 80 Somali-Americans. Next was a collaborative exhibit we created together, Dwelling, in a downtown store window, sponsored by Made Here (Hennepin Theatre Trust).

Following this he exhibited his work in an event at Third Place Gallery.

In 2016, When I had the opportunity to meet Mia's curator of African art, Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers, I advocated for a museum exhibition of Nor's work. Assisted by artists and friends, who acted as interpreters, Halwa Hussein, and Awes Osman, we brought Adeer Nor's and his work to a larger audience in the first show of Somali art in a Minneapolis museum. The exhibit, "I am Somali" (2017-18) featured seven of Nor's narrative drawings.


"I am Somali" -- Three Artists from the Twin Cities ~ Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN 2017-18