Ifrah Mansour on art and community in 2020 at the Cedar Cultural Center and beyond

Multimedia artist Ifrah Mansour is a member of the Cedar Cultural Center’s Cedar Artist Collective. We spoke about The Cedar and their upcoming Give to the Max event (happening Nov 19 at 7:30pm) with Minneapolis Somali group Thunder Band. And more.

Ifrah has a fascinating story. Originally from Somalia, she moved here as a child and I still regret not getting tickets to her sold out performance of How to Have Fun in a Civil War at the Guthrie Theater a few years ago about the journey. She has a way of telling a story that is so meaningful and now I have a better idea of why she is so good at it. She’s a deep thinker. And she notices the details. In fact, she notes that humanity rests in the details. She takes a universal action, like making a cup of tea or coffee, to draw in the audience and then piques the interest by showing how differently that simple task can be done.

Ifrah creates art that creates community. Last year, she offered a range of programs in the plaza outside The Cedar – a constant was a Somali hut that she set up to reside in the plaza for the duration. She built the hut with the community, encouraging different generations to join. People worked together, talked and developed an ownership for the hut. When strong winds knocked it down, youth lifted it up. When older folks walked by, folks who perhaps built similar huts in their youth, they tightened a knot. One woman wove a cover. We saw it, it was gorgeous. Her project brought together strangers to build community but also it brought together family and gave them a new way to interact.

Ifrah’s art is a tool against capitalism. She offers people an opportunity for richness is humor, in empathy and imagination. She talked about the role of art in getting Minnesota and the world to rethink the constructs that are holding us back such as the politics of pandemic, police-community relationships, climate change and other outside forces creating more refugees and the difficulty in being a refugee.

We also spoke about The Cedar and their role in developing and promoting community too. Because the Twin Cities has the largest Somali community in the US, they are in a unique position to lift up that culture nationally and well as promote diverse music and art to the local community. Again – you can support them on Thursday at the online Thunder Band show. You can also follow Ifrah to learn more about her upcoming projects around the Cities.

Tech note: there is a hiccup in the interview where my broadband cut out. Appreciation for Zoom that somehow supports a host that drops outs and saves most of the event.

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