The Mahoyo Collective

We first heard of Mahoyo a few years ago when we saw stunning pictures of the collective floating around the web. Mahoyo is a combination of the Mandarin and Somali words for mother– “Ma” and “Hooyo”.  Araweelo Abroad wanted to catch up with fly girl Farah Yusuf, one of the two founding members of Mahoyo (the other member being MyNa Do). We asked Farah about Mahoyo’s origins, identity, DJing, and what the future holds for this bomb creative duo.

IA: How did the Mahoyo Collective come to exist? What drew you to the word Mother when naming the collective? 

Farah: Mahoyo came to exist through a shared desire to start something me and my best friends could call our own. Mahoyo started as a blog and a web shop; carrying small and selected streetwear fashion brands from around the globe, and then it has evolved to what it is today.

We played around with a lot of different words, Mahoyo just sounded right, and I think that, for me at least I saw it as a tribute to my mother. I always want to make hooyo proud, and I hope to do so through the work of Mahoyo.

IA: What was growing up in Sweden like for you and how did it influence your creativity?

Farah: I grew up in a small city, southeast of Sweden and had from an early age been very active both within sports but also singing and dancing. It wasn’t the most inspiring environment, but I was lucky to grow up during the 90s when black sitcoms were mainstream and MTV showed music videos. THANK GOD FOR BLACK ENTERTAINMENT!

 IA: We know that in the past ya’ll have expressed feeling like outsiders in Sweden or challenging the narrative of what it means to look and be Swedish. How has fashion helped you challenge this narrative? Do you think fashion served as a survival tactic for you?

Farah: Yes, in a way I think that it has. When I started to get into fashion and style I started to care less about fitting in and more about being myself. 

IA: Much like your experience with being told that there is only one way to be Swedish, Somalis in the diaspora are told that there is one way to be Somali. How do you personally re-define and disrupt this notion of what it means to be Somali woman?

Farah: I grew up with very few Somalis around me, and even then I have always been perceived as a bit "too much” or "too alternative”. Very often people; especially Somali, mistake me for another ethnicity and that has a lot to do with the way I look and express myself. This bothers me because it’s like saying all Somali look the same or should look/act in a certain way to be as a "real" Somali. I am so happy to see the growing number of young Somalis daring to be whoever they feel like popping up everywhere on social media. 

IA: What motivated you to get into DJing and who are your do or die favorites? 

Farah: We (Mahoyo) always get inspired by other women. It was during a trip to Tokyo 2009 we got inspired by the djs there, and when we got back to Sweden we decided to start learning the craft of djing. This was also during a time when there was a lack of women in the dj scene, and we wanted to change that. My do or die favorites when spinnin tracks has for the past few have years been “come to me baby” by Verse Simmonds,  “Sous les cocotiers” by Bab Lee and Busta Rhymes “Put ya hands where my eye can see.” I have also come to love the new Missy Elliot remix for “I’m better”.

IA: So, we know Mahoyo is a creative duo. We also know that Mahoyo engages in other work, often around the idea of empowering women. How has feminism shaped you and your collective?

Farah: Mahoyo used to be a creative collective consisting of me, MyNa Do and Pia Do, but since a year ago we have become a duo (Farah and MyNa). Mahoyo is our creative space, where we can do everything we love, such as DJ, styling, photography and The Mahoyo Project documentary. For us intersectional feminism has helped opened open our eyes, it has made us understand so much about ourselves and about the world we live in. It has become a lifestyle, a way for us to see structures and also a tool to change it for the better.

IA: In terms of identity, you are Somali ethnically, Swedish nationally, and a sort of citizen of the world with all of the traveling you do. Do you identify as a third culture kid? How has the exposure to so many cultures challenged or inspired you?

Farah: I feel comfortable defining myself as a third culture kid. The exposure has been extremely inspiring because I don’t have to be just one thing and I can and will define myself as whatever I want, but also hard because I often feel that I don’t belong or rootless if you will. Through the travelling I have been blessed to meet so many amazing souls out in the world with similar background to share experiences with and that has been very empowering.

IA: In the past, Mahoyo visited South Africa to connect and work creatively with some of the local women. How did the idea to go there come about and can you speak about the work that ya'll did?

Farah: It all started after a trip to South Africa early 2013. We were inspired by the vibrant street culture in Johannesburg, and we felt the need to share what we experienced with the world. We also felt like it was important to uplift the women within the scene as they often tend to be forgotten. 

We were in Johannesburg to make a documentary called The Mahoyo Project. It is a collaboration with production team Flip Flop Interactive ( that explores the urban youth culture within dance, music and fashion in Johannesburg and Stockholm. We touch on subjects like gender, race and location and our goal is to break stereotypes. We have worked with people that inspires us, and stories we want to uplift. The whole experience was so amazing and something that I will never forget.

IA: What motivated ya’ll to film a documentary of your experiences and efforts in South Africa?

Farah: We saw this as an opportunity to contribute to a more nuanced image of South Africa (Africa in general) and also people of color in Sweden. The Mahoyo Project is basically a tool to tell stories and illuminate people that normally are marginalized, it's a reaction of the current narrative of minorities. We use culture as a weapon. Our goal is to take the concept of The Mahoyo Project to other parts of the world. It is a big dream of mine to go to Somalia and capture beautiful stories from our people. Insha'Allah it will happen soon.

IA: What role does mentorship play in the structure and outlook of Mahoyo? Who mentored you or had an influence on you? 

Farah: Someone who has had a really big influence on me is my dear hooyo. She is the bravest and strongest person I know. Her story is just unbelievable. 

IA: What advice do you have for Somali women who are seeking to be their authentic selves?

Farah: This is a hard question, and I don’t really have a perfect answer. But what has helped me feel comfortable with being myself is my lovely friends who always got my back but also understanding social structures. Since I started to study black feminism and postcolonial studies I see the world with different eyes. From this a strong sense of self love and pride has emerged. 

IA: What do you have in the works for the future both individually and with Mahoyo?

Farah: This year started off really nice for us, we had the pleasure to show case a teaser from the documentary at the Gothenburg film festival. At the moment we are in the middle of planning and researching the second destination to shoot the documentary, hopefully it will happen before year is over. During this year we will also explore more of our artistry as we been invited to do an Artist-in-Residence for Grafikens Hus. We are so excited to see where this journey takes us. As for me individually, I relocated to another city (Malmö) so I’m busy exploring and enjoying my new city to the fullest.

IA: What's on your summer playlist? 

Farah: Here comes a short list, enjoy!


east african wave

missy elliot

jojo abot 

fat Joe & remy ma


kendrick lamar

sammy & johnny bennet

Ifrah Ahmed is an Editor of Araweelo Abroad.

Marawa The Amazing

Araweelo Abroad got a chance to speak with the globetrotting ball of energy that is Marawa the Amazing. We talked to her about the Guinness World Record, being a television star, fashion, and the circus. 

IA: Hello, Marawa! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us especially considering how many different time zones you fly through each week! If you were asked to define what you “do” in 2 words or less, what would you say?

Marawa: Professional hoola-hooper (it’s kinda three words…but kinda two.. is that ok?!) 

IA: Is it true that you are a 5 time Guinness World Record holder and hold the world record for spinning the most hula hoops at once? How did that happen and how does it feel to hold a world record in something?

Marawa: It’s true! It’s my favourite thing on my resume - I read the book as a kid - always trying to work out what I could do. I spent nearly 2 years working on the record for most hoops so I was super happy when I finally made it! 

IA: You’ve collaborated with some big names in the fashion world. Everyone from Opening Ceremony to Kenzo to Monki. What form do these collaborations usually take and what do hulu hoops and fashion have to do with one another?

Marawa: It’s just a great fit with any fun brand that uses interesting design, stretch fabrics, or bright colours. They just kind of work well together. All the brands I work with are young fun brands so it seems to make sense. We have done everything from shows instore to workshops with the brands. 

IA: What has the reaction been from both loved ones and strangers regarding your career?

Marawa: I don't always tell people what I do because it always leads to lots of questions and always the same questions! Which gets exhausting or boring. “WHAT ?! You are in the circus?!” “Your full time job?!” “Hoops?...hula hoops?!”, etc. But I get it- it’s not something people hear about normally as a day job. My mum has been super supportive at every step of the way. My dad is still slowly coming around. It took me a long time to come clean about what I was doing to him - I don't think he planned on sending his daughter to private school to have her then study at clown college.

IA: You’ve been on both Arab’s Got Talent and Britain’s Got Talent. How have you dealt with the fame that has come with being on TV? What is the strangest thing that has happened to you as a result?

Marawa: With so much social media etc, it’s weird seeing what people say, write, and discuss online I try to avoid it pretty much – It’s great reading emails from fans that tell you stories about how you inspired them - that’s the best stuff ! The strangest things to me are the photo-shopped images! People will insert me into their pictures - or put their head on my body that’s hooping - so weird?! But funny! 

IA: You have also taught all over the world. Everywhere from Paris to Poland. But we are curious to know how you were able to get into and teach in North Korea and what that was like!

Marawa: It’s amazing! It’s not THAT difficult to get in there, you just have to go on a tour. So the tour people help you organize all the visas and then you have to really stick to their itinerary - you don't get to go off by yourself, ever. But it was an amazing opportunity and experience. I wanted to see the mass games - that was my whole reason for going. I took the hoops because I figured it was too good of an opportunity not to! when we had a day in the park I brought the hoops out and taught the local kids and adults it was so nice. I don't think they had ever seen anyone like me before so we were all smiling at each other, unable to communicate apart from smiles and laughing. But it was so sweet!

IA: What was your experience teaching hula hoops in Somalia? Any plans to do more teaching in Somalia?

Marawa: I would love to but I can’t say I felt totally safe there. I don’t know - it’s tough. There are amazing people out there trying to make it happen, rebuilding a country and I admire that big time. I took 120 hoops with me that a TV show had given me for a performance. I didn’t need them so when I went to Somalia with my dad I took them and we split them between an orphanage and 2 circuses. I didn’t even know there would be a circus there. I had never heard of them! But I was so excited - I sent them some more circus equipment when I got back to London.  I hope they are still going and YES I hope to teach there again in the future!

IA: Who are the Majorettes and how did they come to exist?

Marawa: The Majorettes are my troupe of hoopers! The performance troupeare based in London but I am planning on starting a troupe in the US later this year. We started the troupe in 2012 when the girls performed for the London Olympics torch relay and they have been going strong ever since! Most of the girls could not hoop at all. But now they perform, teach and hang out together. Last year they all started skating too! I want to expand the group internationally - for performance - but also just for girls that want to get fit, have fun with their friends, and hoop!

IA: You just came out with a new book called "The Girl Guide" which is about learning to love your body. What inspired you to come out with a book and what has the experience been like for you? Also where can we cop it?

Marawa: YES! It has been 3 years in the making. I have been thinking about it for a long time. Like since I went through puberty myself and really wished there was a book to consult that wasn’t all about periods = having a baby. I wanted answers to all the embarrassing questions! I feel like even with the internet around it’s hard to find real stories and information and that’s what this book is aiming to do - give a really realistic personal look at EVERYTHING that happens when puberty kicks in. It comes out June 1st and is easiest to order via amazon! Link below!

IA: What is next for Marawa the Amazing?

Marawa: Another summer bouncing between LA and London - I am trying to settle in LA but keep running back to the UK ! 

Marawa’s book “The Girl Guide” can be found here.

Ifrah Ahmed is an Editor of Araweelo Abroad.


Style Feature: Nawal

What inspires your style?

My hair! I have a tendency of changing my hair to reflect my growth, attitude or change in life it's almost like physically starting a new chapter. With a different hairstyle comes a new fashion style but one thing that's never changed and will always remain the same is my love for baggy clothes. I love to be comfortable and plus I've always been a tomboy. My personality, interests and hobbies all play a part in my character which also reflects my choice of style. 

How did you get into styling and fashion design?

It was actually my teachers and friends from secondary school that noticed and pointed out that I was good at art and design. Art was always my favourite subject too. From there I stuck by it with the intention of becoming an architect. Later on whilst studying an art course in college I grew a love for graphic design, architecture and fashion. I couldn't decide what to specialize in and my tutor pointed me to the right direction and advised me to look into fashion textiles: surface print design. It gave me the perfect option to do prints for fashion or interior design and that's what I chose to study in university and I loved it!

What's one thing everyone should have in their closet?

Everyone should have a bomb-ass-go-to jumpsuit for the days where you can't decide what you want to wear and you can't afford to be late. You just throw it on and get on with your day in style. 

What's on your summer/spring style mood-board? 

Baggy jumpsuits, over the shoulder tops and anything with ruffles! I'm really loving maxi skirts and those mini cross body bags, I want them all! 

You can follow Nawal on Instagram: @neauxwal

Beauty Business Spotlight: MUD & MUSK

Recently we fell in love with a dreamy Perth, Western Australia based brand called Mud & Musk. Mud & Musk was established in March of 2016 and is the brainchild of Haweya Ismail. We love Mud & Musk because of its commitment to organic and ethically sourced ingredients. Sometimes, organic is also a synonym for expensive, but that’s not the case here. Mud & Musk is also committed to affordable and accessible DIY skincare and they ship worldwide.

The inspiration for the brand came to founder Haweya when she was an environmental student and came across a documentary about the environmental consequences the Frankincense industry was having on Somalia. After learning about the impact of frankincense over-harvesting, Haweya decided she needed to find a way to support sustainable and fair trade industry by directly sourcing ingredients. Haweya believes it is import to work with farmers in Somalia directly and support sustainable fair trade practices. Make sure to support this dreamy Somali owned beauty brand! 

Want to learn more? Check out our short convo with Mud & Musk founder Haweya, below.

In the beauty industry, it is common for companies to cut corners and use unnatural ingredients. Why is Mud & Musk committed to creating ethical and natural skincare products?

Haweya: Organic skincare is not just a hipster niche anymore; it has become mainstream. People are becoming significantly more educated on dangers of synthetic ingredients and want to have greater control over what they are putting on their skin. I think in 2017 we have the technology and information needed to empower people to safely have that control. We are committed to creating ethical skincare products because I think businesses have the greatest potential to improve livelihoods and protect the environment, and being able to create a brand that does these things have been a passion of mine for a while.

Using both qasil and huruud as beauty products is something that has been passed down in Somali families for centuries. Often, when brands take something that has been cultural knowledge and use it to create their products, they don't acknowledge where or who that knowledge came from in the first place. Why and how is Mud & Musk committed to acknowledging the traditional roots of this ancestral cosmetic knowledge?

Haweya: We are committed to highlighting the traditional roots of the knowledge to ensure those the communities benefit first and foremost. We are doing this by travelling to the region, documenting and showcasing the unique skills and traditional knowledge of locals and demonstrate the harvest and use. We conducted interviews with the harvesters, farmers and discovered how the harvest benefits the region.

How would a first time customer choose the best product for them and how would they use it?

Haweya: The HARGEISA DIY kit is a 5-step customizable kit. The first step allows the customer to select their skin type, and this guides the customer by recommending what ingredients would be suitable for their skin type in the following steps (conditioner, essential oil, extract and after care).

What's next on the horizon for Mud & Musk?

Haweya: The HARGEISA DIY kit is the first of many customizable skincare kits that we would like to make available for our customers. Over the next year we will also be expanding our selection of ingredients and tools so that eventually our customers will also be able to choose from our ingredients for their own recipes.

Bomb Hair Spotlight: Ayan Jamal (Stockholm, Sweden)

You are a bit of a style chameleon. No matter how adventurous you always manage to slay. You also play with color a lot. Who/what inspires your looks? 

I am truly a style chameleon, thank for noticing! I don't like to limit myself to a certain look. I'm not a person with a bunch of rules but I would say that is the only one. Whether it's about what kind of hairstyle, opinions or the music I choose to listen to I wanna have the opportunity to try it all or at least change my mind. 

I am all about youtube & pinterest and also, I have zero patience so whenever I come across something that I like I just try it. I will tell you now, you can never be 100% certain about anything, sometimes you win but the joy of it all is knowing you got the power to make whatever happen.

What has your hair journey been like? What's your routine or what products do you use? 

Growing up in in the north of Sweden in an almost all white community feeling weird was a state of mind. So to not make too much of a fuss I felt it was crucial that I got my hair relaxed. I didn't wanna be the fat, black, Somali, Muslim girl with the fro. So I became the fat, black, Somali, Muslim girl with Scandinavian looking hair…lol. I often look back at those days as a reminder that I will never correct myself to any standards to satisfy a norm that I will never  fit. That is the best routine I can give you. 

What hairstyle is on your mood board for spring/summer?

I will shave my head again and dye it blond and whenever i feel like something else I will just pop one of my wigs on. But definitely be bald. That saves me so much time and it will help me keep my head cool.

What advice do you have for those who wanna experiment more with their hair/beauty looks but are scared?

I would say that you should never let your looks define who you are. Take control and try different things. The blessing it that you can always change your mind and that’s okay. Go on youtube and be inspired.

Follow Ayan on social media! Instagram: Ayanjamalwarsame Spotify: Ayaaan





Natural Somali DIY Beauty Methods

 by Leyla Bile

Four years ago I had a health scare when my GP told me that my cholesterol actually surpassed beyond the extremely high cholesterol level, which is around 7.8 and mine was around 9.5. That became the wake-up call I needed and kick started my journey towards a more healthy living. I changed my diet, exercised more and gradually also started making my own natural DIY beauty recipes by watching several YouTube tutorials made by natural hair gurus such as ‘Hey Fran Hey’. I became more and passionate about making my own stuff like body creams, facemasks and body scrubs because I wanted to know exactly what was going into my body wouldn’t cause me any harm. Plus they give me a tremendous joy to make them and satisfaction I get that I made it.

The more I got into practicing self-care, the more I started to realize this natural DIY beauty culture was already ingrained into my Somali culture and that I didn’t need to look further for inspiration. I just had to look and see how my own hooyo (mother) practiced it. Soon enough I started incorporating what can found in most Somali households like qasil, xabatasoda, qaxwo banaadir and saliid macsaro.

For the following recipes I will be using the above-mentioned ingredients and more for a Somali inspired facemask and coffee body scrub. I will also go into further detail what those ingredients are and their benefits. Most of them are easily found in Somali shops or your local African and Asian shop.

Somali Coffee Body Scrub

I use coffee and sugar body scrubs at least once a week to get rid of the dead skin and to get that silky smooth feeling.


•    4-5 table spoons of qaxwo banaadir (Somali coffee)

•    3 table spoons of dark brown soft sugar

•    2 table spoons of ginger powder

•    1 table spoon of xabatasoda (nigella/black seeds)

•    2 teaspoons of saliid macsaro (sesame oil)

•    2 tea spoons of xabatasoda saliid (nigella/black seed oil)

•    15-20 drops of peppermint essential oil

•    15-20 drops of eucalyptus essential oil


Before you start mixing the ingredients together make sure you grind the nigella seeds using mortar and pestle, called kal iyo mooy in Af-Soomaali. After that mix all the ingredients into a bowl starting with the dry ingredients and store the mixture into an airtight 400-500 ml glass jar. Use the scrub once a week before your regular body cleanser and notice the difference it makes to your skin.


Somali coffee

Besides the exfoliation coffee offers to get rid of dead skin, it also has another benefit: caffeine. It helps to tighten the skin, which can minimize cellulite because it restricts the blood vessels and reduces swelling and inflammation. Caffeine is also full with antioxidants, which can help us with wrinkles, sun spots and fine lines.

Make sure that the coffee grounds you use are fresh and of high quality with plenty caffeine content.The reason for using this Somali coffee mixture over the others was because it also contains cardamom cinnamon and ginger powders. By mixing all those different textures it will give that extra friction needed to create better circulation for the body and an amazing smell of those spices.

Dark brown soft sugar

Many body scrubs I have used before had hard granulates sugar, which I find too harsh on the skin. Because of that I replaced it with dark brown soft sugar, also called Muscovado sugar which contains molasses. Like most sugar it does not contain enough minerals and vitamins to have substantial health benefits but it can have a healthy impact on our skin when applied directly as a scrub.Homemade sugar scrubs softens the skin, prevents acne, whiteheads, blackheads, breakouts and other skin blemishes. By getting rid of the excessive oil, dirt and dead skin, which clogs the pores. The skin exfoliation it provides removes all those things without leaving the skin dry.

Ginger powder

Dry ginger powder contains anti-inflammatory properties that help with joint pain. Although the Somali coffee mixture already has ginger powder I think you can never  have enough of ginger powder. It is also anti-bacterial and very useful to unclog the pores.

Nigella seeds/black Seeds (Nigella Sativa)

The seeds contain essential fatty acids like linoleic and linolenic acids, which can replenish your skin texture.

Sesame oil

The benefits of sesame oil on our skin are immense. It contains fatty acids, linoleic acid, vitamin E, D and B complex. They also have high amount of viscosity, which makes them good for massaging, they are capable of penetrating deep into the pores of skin and thereby regulating the circulation of blood. It prevents bacterial infections, repairs damage skin cells, slows down skin aging process and is a natural sunscreen.

Black seed oil

Black seed oil nourishes the skin with its vitamin A, B and C. It reduces clogged pores, provides moisture, prevent scarring and reduces dark spots.

Peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils

Besides their uplifting properties peppermint and eucalyptus also provide pain relief for sore joint and muscles. Like most essential oils less is more and is always recommended to not use directly into the skin without it diluting it first with carrier oil. Too much of it can cause skin rashes, respiratory problems and even poisoning.

Somali Facial Mask

Lately I’ve started incorporating more of the clay and powder based facemasks into my natural DIY beauty routines. Before my mother introduced me to the Somali qasil powder I was mainly using rhassoul clay and activated charcoal as the base until I realized it was less drying and more soothing to the skin. It leaves my face looking even toned, hydrated and glowing.



•    1-2 teaspoons of qasil powder (shredded leaves powder)

•    1 teaspoon of aloe vera powder

•    1-2 teaspoon of honey

•    1-2 teaspoons of almond oil

•    1-2 teaspoons of aloe vera gel

•    5 drops of vitamin E oil

•    half cup of filtered water

•    a quarter cup of rose water


Mix all ingredients in a small glass bowl, starting off with the dry ingredients. Use it once or twice a week depending on your skin type. Unlike turmeric it does not stain so it can be applied using your fingers but it is better to use a brush for less mess. Always wash your face with a gentle cleanser before you apply any facial. A clean surface will provide better absorption of the benefits of the mask.

Leave it on between 20-60 minutes again depending on your skin needs and its type. Besides the added oils will provide extra moisturize to limit the drying effects of the powders.

Wash it all off with warm water to open the pores and seal the pores again by washing your wash with cold water. Gently dry your wet face preferable with a microfiber towel or a old t-shirt. Follow it off with your preferred moisturizer. I use rose hip oil or vitamin E oil as a moisturizer. I quit using store bought facial creams the same time I started making my own natural products and I have noticed significant skin improvements ever since.


Qasil powder

Qasil is made of the shredded leaves of the Gob tree, which is native to Somalia and Somaliland and countries that share similar environment. It is called the natural soap due to its gentle cleansing components. It leaves the skin feeling clean and soothed.

Aloe Vera powder

In both its powder and gel form aloe vera contains anti-bacterial, anti-aging and anti- inflammatory properties. It sooths and clears the skin when applied topically.


Honey is yet another food that contains many benefits for our skin. Its anti-bacterial so great for acne treatments, is full of anti-oxidants which works great for anti-aging and it is extremely moisturizing and soothing.

Aloe Vera gel

The aloe leaf contains a gel that heals wounds, sooths skin, treats sunburn, acts as an moisturizer, treats acne, treats different types of dry skin and lessens the appearance of stretch marks.

Almond oil

Sweet almond oil can be used to get smooth, flawless skin, deep cleansing, to remove dark circle, to relieve eczema, psoriasis, treating skin rashes and to reduce fine lines.

Vitamin E oil

It acts as moisturizer, reverses premature skin aging, treats sunburn, lightens dark spots and acts as a cleansing agent.

Rose water

Besides its hydrating properties like regular water, rose water also has anti- inflammatory and anti-bacterial benefits which sooths and cleanses the skin.

Shea Luxuries is my soon to be launched natural skin and hair line, which focuses on Shea butter body whips, coffee body scrubs and soon to pretty also a self-care gift box.

For information about the product line please contact me via the Facebook page for your custom made natural products.

Style Feature: Fatima

How would you describe your style?

I would describe my fashion style to be comfortable and simple. I just wear anything that makes me feel like a queen. I love long coats and I have been wearing wide pants a lot lately.

Do you have any style icons?

I wouldn't say that I have a style icon but I do get inspired by people on the streets and social media all the time. 

What clothes/accessories do you see yourself reaching for the most this summer?

Wide pants for sure have been a favourite of mine this summer. They are super comfortable and look good with everything. I have been trying to wear more colour and yellow, red and orange have been my favourites.

What's one thing in your closet you can't live without?

I love my oversized coats! Not only do they keep me warm but they turn a basic outfit into something fabulous.


You can follow Fatima on Instagram: @fetabulous



Ifrah's Homemade Deep Conditioner Recipe:

I made up this deep conditioner recipe a few years ago after I became serious about taking care of my hair. I never really used to do much with my hair before that, but then, hair health became really important to me. I found out that my hair didn't seem to be getting the best nutrients from store-bought conditioners, so I decided to just make my own deep conditioner from scratch. After all, nature provides us with many wonderful gifts that can be used for both health and beauty. In the quest to make my own deep conditioner, I did some good old internet research for weeks on end in order to find out which natural foods could be used to improve hair health. There were many different options, so I decided to just put together all the most frequently mentioned foods in order to make a super-deep conditioner. The Beyoncé of homemade deep conditioners, really. This recipe has been tweaked over the years; especially as my hair length has dramatically changed. Feel free to adjust the ingredient portions to best match your hair needs. I have very fine curls that are 3A, 3B, and 3C mix. Now that my hair is short again, I only require about half of this recipe. A few months ago when my hair was longer, I needed as much deep conditioner as I could get! I encourage you to experiment with proportions until you find what works for you! Remember though, you can deep condition all you want and take care of your outer body but internal health is also really important for hair health. That means drinking lots of water, eating your fruits and veggies, exercising, and getting enough rest! When we take care of our whole health, your whole body benefits. 


1 medium-large ripe avocado

3/4 can of coconut milk (make sure it doesn't have any strange extra ingredients)

3 or 4 good squeezes from a honey bottle

1 egg

3/4 cup of olive oil

1 banana (optional)

Lavender flower petals (optional)


1. Grab a ripe avocado and cut it in half. Remove the pit and squeeze the avocado meat into a blender.

2. Crack an egg and also put it into the blender, on top of the squeezed avocado.

3. Take 3/4 cup of olive oil and pour it over the egg and avocado mix.

4. Grab the honey and give 3 to 4 good squeezes of the bottle and squeeze into the blender.

5. Open a can of coconut milk and pour 3/4 of the can into the blender.

6. If you have an amazing blender, feel free to peel and throw in one banana into the blender. Also feel free to add in any other aromatic oils or flowers. I like to do lavender because I love the smell.

7. Puree and blend all ingredients until a smooth and light green hair mask forms.

8. Apply deep conditioner to damp hair; squeeze out excess deep conditioner and tie your hair into a high bun.

9. Wrap your hair in a scarf so that the conditioner doesn't drip everywhere. 

10. Let conditioner sit in your hair for 30 minutes to an hour and then rinse it out. Follow your normal hair routine after this. 


Avocado - This is a super ingredient. I call it a super ingredient because even using it in your hair by itself can really improve your hair health. Avocados are awesome to eat but they are as equally awesome for hair. They revitalize your scalp, the natural oils are great for damaged and dry hair, and it can give your dull looking hair a shiny boost.

Coconut Milk - Another super ingredient. Like avocados, you can use coconut milk by itself as a deep conditioner. Sometimes, if I am feeling too lazy to make this deep conditioner, I'll just let my hair soak in coconut milk and it gives it a wonderful boost. Plus it rinses right out! Coconut milk is amazing because it penetrates the hair follicles really well making it a bomb moisturizer! It also helps with hair breakage and it promotes hair growth.

Honey - Truly a gift from nature. I can just go on about its benefits. It contains antibacterial qualities, it helps your scalp retain moisture, and it is a natural emollient. It also encourages hair growth by providing nutrients to the hair follicles. 

Egg - Protein rich and can improve the strength of your hair. The ends of our hair are usually the oldest and most brittle. I use eggs specifically to help strengthen the bottom portion of my hair to prevent breakage. 

Olive Oil - This is cool because it has multiple benefits. Everything from decreasing dandruff, softening the hair, and providing extra moisture needed to keep those ends from splitting as quickly.

Banana - Great because they are rich in natural oils, are great for an itchy scalp, naturally helps add volume to your hair, and it protects the elasticity of your hair. The only downside to bananas are that they need to be blended extremely well before being put into curly hair or you'll have dried banana chunks in your hair for a few days. I'm not speaking from experience...a friend told me...I swear. If you have a shitty blender and are feeling desperate for some banana in your deep conditioner, banana baby food might be a chunk-free option.

AA Beauty List


1. Jojoba Oil: I use jojoba oil for so many different things! I rarely wear make-up, but when I do I have found that it's a natural make-up removal option. Jojoba oil mimics the natural oil our own skin produces and that's why it doesn't feel greasy when you put it on. It's Magic! 

2. Mac Liquid Concealer: This concealer has saved me from perpetual dark under eyes! I normally will only use it if I am going out.

3. Trader Joe's Coconut Body Butter: This body butter is the truth! It's whipped to perfection. It also leaves my post-shower skin feeling flawless, soft, and non-greasy. I am sure one could easily make this body butter, but for now I'm buying it.

4. Tropical Isle Jamaican Black Castor Oil: This oil is what I like to call "blessings on blessings on blessings". I've been using this Jamaican black castor oil for 5 years now and I swear by it. It's a really thick oil. My curls suck the oil up and my hair feels so soft afterwards. My split ends have almost gone away totally and it's amazing for growth and for thickening edges. Don't be living your life on the edge, girl!


5. Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance: I've never really been into makeup as I'm generally a very lazy human being but I've been experimenting with eyeshadows lately (the attempt to glow up is real) and this palette is everything. From simple daytime looks to dramatic eyes for the night, it has it all. It's the only palette I own so maybe this is cheating but I think everyone should have this. 

6. Nars Tinted Moisturiser: This is perfect for the summer (and every other season) as it's sheer, has decent coverage as well as SPF and comes in a shade that actually matches my skin tone yay! I can't wear foundation because I don't like the feel of it on my face so this is a really lovely alternative.

7. RMS Beauty Living Luminizer: I can't leave my house without wearing this. It's a gorgeous cream highlighter that makes you look like you're literally glowing from the inside. Put it on the high points of your cheeks, below your eyebrows, your cupid's bow and even your collarbones. Glow to the heavens this summer my sisters! This is the perfect highlighter for those of you who want to look dewy - not glittery. 

8. Cantu Leave-In Conditioner: I recently did a big chop (best idea ever) and have been rocking short curls since then. I used to wear Shea Moisture products on my hair when it was long but after my BC, they felt super heavy on my curls and I decided to try out Cantu products. Y'all - this line is life changing honestly. My curls are bouncy and shiny without feeling heavy or crunchy, a little goes a long way and they're usually half the price of the Shea Moisture products. what are you waiting for? Buy some! 

Bomb Hair Spotlight: Hamdi Lilah (Seattle, WA)

What does your hair routine consist of? 

Shea butter leave in conditioner.

Organic Root Stimulator Hair Mayonnaise once a week!

Have you always had natural hair? 

Yes, my hair has always been naturally curly. However, I did not always embrace it because as child my hair was too wild, thick and frizzy for me. Luckily, my mother was obsessed with my hair! She brought me all the 'Dream Kid' olive miracle products. And, I remember getting my hair combed and braided every morning before breakfast. It's interesting, those products have the cutest little girls with braids and straightened-hair which was how I would want my mom to style my hair. However, my mama didn't approve of the flat-iron and she would say "that's too much heat for a child, you don't want your long hair to start breaking off." But she would put red henna which is this green powder that smells like hay and give you a lustrous shine. That was my thing! 

Future hair goals? 

Currently, my hair is under rehabilitation from black hair dye damage. Also, I'm working on getting my length back. I'm shampooing less, once every two weeks, because I feel over the years my hair got stripped of its natural oils from repeated shampooing. The goal is to keep my hair break free, therefore, I am washing less and oiling more. Also, I'm doing a deep treatment with the Organic Root Stimulator  Hair Mayonnaise once a week. Lately, my hair-style has been more big loose beachy curls, kinda like Diana Ross.

Style Feature: Warda

How do you describe your style?

I would describe my style as quite eccentric and 90s-esque.  My style is very casual even when I’m going out; I replace my converses for heels.

What's on your radar for spring/summer fashion? 

Prints, prints, and more prints! I have just come back from Africa and I have collected a variety of colourful prints that I can't wait to wear. 

What are some of your influences?

I love the 90s, so my style is reflective of that.  I love wearing dark lipstick, MOM jeans and t-shirts. My mother is another influence; she has a collection of cool outfits that she rocked from the 80s and 90s.

What's one thing in your wardrobe that you can't live without?

I think I can't live without my MOM jeans, like I wear them all the time. You can dress it up or dress it down.  


You can follow Warda on Instagram: @thequirkykind


Editors letter

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Dear Araweelos,

We are so thrilled to be able to share Issue 03 with you! We’ve poured our hearts into this issue and we are incredibly proud of it. We’re hella excited for you to be back in this space and to have you read what we’ve been working on! We’ve missed our community of Araweelos and we are so touched by how many of you have contacted us and supported the magazine over the years!

As you may have noticed, we are back from our self-imposed hiatus. If you’re new here, you might be wondering: Who is we? We are two first-cousins living on opposite ends of the world. Araweelo Abroad was born in 2014 after we spent much time dreaming up a unique and ground-breaking culture magazine for our community. Although we had no blueprint or examples to work from other than our own vision for the magazine, we were armed with a commitment to our community and a DIY attitude.

Araweelo Abroad is a true passion project and it was born out of an intense love for our Somaliniimo and a desire to celebrate all the different ways to be Somali. A lot of work goes into making Araweelo Abroad happen and that work is done almost entirely by just the two of us. After two incredibly successful issues, we needed to hit the pause button to each focus on school, work, and our lives. But we always knew that it was just a pause. We want to thank each and every one of you who emailed us, tweeted at us, DM’d us and kept asking for more issues. We love your love and we thank our community for seeing us.

Issue 03 is our biggest issue yet! So what will you find in this issue? So much amazing content that we can only give you a small taste in this letter! We have an exclusive interview with Celeste Dos Santos, daughter of Somali punk rock icon Poly Styrene of X-ray Spex. We spoke to Celeste about her mother’s legacy as a punk rock pioneer. In this issue you will also find an interview with Momtaza Mehri, a brilliant poet and essayist who was kind enough to share some of her work. For all the art babes out there, we spoke with Mariane Ibrahim on what it’s like owning a successful art gallery. Ask An Abaayo is a new section we are introducing. We encourage all of our abaayos who are in need of life advice to write to us!

We also can’t leave without commenting on how the global political climate is a hot mess right now and how it’s an especially bleak time to be Somali in the United States. So, we got in touch with a few Araweelos to talk about Trump, the Muslim travel ban, and what self-care looks like in response to the Islamophobic, xenophobic, and anti-black targeting of the Somali community in the U.S.  

Right now more than ever, it is critical for platforms like Araweelo Abroad to exist. We believe in Somalis being in charge of our own narratives. We believe in content created by us, for us! That’s why we’re absolutely thrilled to announce that we will be bringing Issue 04 to you both digitally and in print. Economic/class privilege is a real thing in our community, so that’s why we’re committed to keeping Araweelo Abroad accessible for everyone.

Araweelo Abroad was created to showcase and celebrate the complexity and the diversity of the Somali experience in the diaspora. We will continue to do this work and make sure that this platform remains available to all of ya’ll. After all, we created it as a cyber homecoming for all Somalis: the Baati babes, our queer Somali fam, the womanists/feminists, Somali creatives and tastemakers, the ones with anti-capitalist/anti-racist politics, the religious kids, the bomb ass hijabis, transgender and gender non-conforming Somali fam, the hooyo mataalo/say wallahi gang, the commies/socialists, the indie kids, the art babes, etc. We created Araweelo Abroad for all our (Somali) niggas in the whole wide world.

Welcome to Issue 03 and thank you for continuing to support our work!


Sagal and Ifrah

Editors of Araweelo Abroad.

Survival in the Age of Trump

Illustration by Mohammed Fayaz

Illustration by Mohammed Fayaz

Since he announced his presidency, many people have been living with the fear of life under a Trump administration. For some, fear of the state is not new. Others are experiencing for the first time the fear that marginalized people live with on a daily basis. Either way, our collective dystopian fears became a reality as Trump won the 2016 U.S. Election. Wasting no time, the Trump administration began to target marginalized communities in an emboldened way by taking racist actions such as issuing the Executive Order that created the Muslim Travel Ban. The original travel ban had a list of several countries whose citizens were not to be permitted entry into the United States. Somalia was on that list.

The administration demurred at the accusations that the Executive Order was racist, Islamophobic, and specifically targeted Muslims. Instead, the administration continued to state that the purpose of the Executive Order was to protect the U.S. from foreign “terrorist” entry. Despite Somalia specifically being named as one of 7 countries on the travel ban list, the targeting of Somali Americans and our homeland is not new. Somali Americans exist at the intersections of Blackness, our Muslim identity, and the experience of being Refugees. Despite what a bleak time it is to be a Somali in the United States, the reality is that our community has always been resilient. We spoke with several Somali-American Araweelos to see how they’re holding up and practicing resiliency and self-care in the face of the blatant xenophobic, islamophobic, and anti-black targeting of the Somali community.


1)     Hamda Yusuf, graduate student.

I was living in Austria when Donald Trump won the election. I remember I had made the decision of going to an election party, despite the fact that I was teaching in the morning. I had left the party around 3am, distraught but still hopeful. The time difference meant that we wouldn’t know anything final until the next day. After sleeping for a few hours, I woke to dozens of messages on my phone. The first was a BBC headline, nice and simple: “Donald Trump new President of the US”. I screamed. Like a real sitcom scream that only lasted a second until I quickly clamped my hand over my mouth. Being abroad meant that while everyone back in the States was reeling from this news, the people I was around couldn’t care less. My students, however, were outraged. In my lessons I was confronted with their demands to know how this could have possibly happened. They asked, “Are Americans really this stupid?” and perhaps more accusingly, “How could America have let this happen?” I wanted to tell them that America had always operated this way. That whiteness had the power to convince its people that everyone is trying to take something away from them, even if they’re the ones doing the taking. I wanted to explain that the United States had been built on this fear and that it would continue to build on this fear.

When I went home that day I found myself having to reassure my white friends. I had to hold their hands and tell them surely everything would be alright. This too made me want to scream. Not a sitcom scream but a deep down in your gut, ancestral scream. Here I was, a Somali Muslim woman who surely would be far more affected by this presidency than these people, and yet I had to be the one that reassured them.  I had to be the one who did the emotional labor for these white women who it seemed only yesterday discovered there was injustice in this world.

After the election I began burning frankincense more often. All I knew was that I wanted everything that I owned to smell like my mother. This was my first act of self-care. My second act was a larger undertaking, refusing to do emotional labor for others. I thought back on the countless conversations I had with people who eagerly played devil’s advocate. I thought about those who came to me with what they saw as innocent questions, but what I saw as their unwillingness to discover anything on their own. In the end, I knew two things to be true: 1. that my people were resilient, and 2. that I was a product of this resiliency. These things continue to be true with the addition of a final one, 3. I will fight back.


2)     R. Haji, graduate student.

I didn't start being fearful and anxious about Trump coming into power until the end of January. I remember sitting on a bench outside the library crying after hearing about the banned countries- how Somalia was on there. I don't have family in Somalia; most of them live in Kenya, the U.S. and other countries in Europe. A professor came up to me to joke as we usually do when we see each other. He saw me crying and hugged me. I explained my fears about members of my family, especially my dad cause he is a dual citizen, getting sent back regardless of being legalized citizens. I was sad for that whole day and isolated. 

That was it- I gave myself two days in that week to feel and to feel deeply. My friends and I, we all were trying to find ways of caring for one another and being present for our own selves. This looked like not talking about what was going on. Grief, to me, is a very easy and accessible state to be in... reminding myself of all the possibilities that lie in the world and to see my family members doing their everyday activities. We play, send memes, talk shit, send nudes to each- we are just girls together. And so, that's what I did and still do. Practicing aliveness. It's not utopic nor is it escape from feeling and confronting this reality. It's an acceptance of all the terror in the world but still recognize the beauty and aliveness in just living. Assata Shakur, in her poem "Affirmation," she writes, "I believe in living." That's how I practice intimacy and care for myself- and for all the people around me who are moving in the world– upset, hurt, happy, in love, sad, alone– all of this is our full recognition of living and of being. 

And then there is this poem. A remainder though there need not be a reminding of something that we all know- our aliveness. 



“We are pursuing an investigation here on the subject of crying as an expression of the emotions, and should like very much to learn about its peculiarities among the colored people. We have been referred to you as a person competent to give us information on the subject. We desire especially to know about the following salient aspects: 1. Whether the Negro sheds tears...”


           he do
           she do
           they live
           they love
           they try
           they tire
           they flee
           they fight
           they bleed
           they break
           they moan
           they mourn
           they weep
           they die
           they do
           they do
           they do


3)     Lula Dualeh, content marketing strategist & writer.

 If I had to choose which of the stages of grief I currently fall into, I would be somewhere in between denial and anger. I wake up some days panic-stricken with disbelief that Trump is our president but at the same time, he has awaken a new hunger for liberation within me. Trump is an everyday reminder of what white male privilege looks like in modern times. Although, at times it’s easier to forget about the systems that are constantly work against us, I'm no longer afforded that luxury especially as a first-generation Somali-American millennial Muslim woman. Every time I refresh my feed, I'm reminded that hate has not only been green-lighted but encouraged at the expense of people who look like me. 

More than anything else, I'm fearful for my mother. Every day we hear new stories of hate crimes against immigrants and undocumented individuals, especially women of color. The reality that one day I could get a call that my Somali-hijabi mother has been assaulted or worse is a heavy burden of worry I carry around with me every day. My greatest solace lies in prayer because Allah (swt) knows best. I try my hardest to leave my fears with him because I know, ultimately, I can't function in this world with it. I can't have any space for fear especially when dealing with this new evil that consumes our country. It's a work-in-progress but my faith in God and love for humanity gives me strength to resist another day. 


4)    Ugaso Sheik-Abdi, web developer.


On Trump’s Election: Fear. For myself, and for my people. We convince ourselves that the next generation will have an easier time, that the bigots will slowly kill themselves with their hate, that our progeny will not experience the same trauma’s we have. How terrible and short our memories are.

One example: I’m lucky to have a 9-5 job where I can afford to travel. I started going into panic mode: where was my passport? Oh shit, it’s expired! I spent a couple weeks getting my renewed passport and passport card, and looking into TSA Precheck. Who knows how long passports with my kind of name will take to process, in this new administration.

Right before the election, I had taken small steps to practice self-care and start my journey healing from childhood trauma. I was not prepared (who was?). My therapist recommended practicing harm-reduction. Here are some steps I’ve taken to stay sane in the age of Trump:

·      Limiting time on social media and the constant stream of information, outrage.

·      Doing tangible, actionable things: making art, cleaning, planting succulents.

·      Practicing mindfulness: I attended a mindfulness retreat for people of color recently, that taught me techniques to reduce stress and tension.





Araweelo Abroad x Momtaza Mehri

Momtaza Mehri is a poet, essayist and literary studies researcher. Her work has been featured and is forthcoming in Poetry Society, PANK Magazine, Bone Bouquet, The Rialto, DAZED, and Queen Mob’s Tea House. Her chapbook sugah lump prayer was published in April 2017 as part of the New Generation African Poets series

She has been shortlisted for the 2016 Brunel African Poetry Prize and Plough Prize and won the 2017 Outspoken Page Poetry Prize. A Complete Works Fellow, she will be anthologised in Ten: Poets of The New Generation (2017). She also co-edits Diaspora Drama, a digital platform showcasing international immigrant art. She has performed her poetry in universities, literary festivals and conferences.  Currently, she is working on her first full poetry collection. With a background in biomedical science, she has worked as a health educator, language teacher and editor. She tries her best not to believe in astrology or borders.



SA: How did you get into writing poetry?

Momtaza: I was always surrounded by poetry, in the lyrical gabay sense as well as the general musicality of the Somali language. It's always been a grounding presence in my life and something I return to, wherever or however I find myself. I definitely got confident enough to put pen to paper during my emo phase, with the help of Vampire Freaks forums, Full Metal Alchemist YouTube fanvids & fanfiction sites. The anonymity of URL culture gave me the freedom to share my first poems. Honestly, I think as a Somali I was born into poetry. I just had to exercise this particular limb I inherited.

SA: Are there any themes you like to adhere to when writing?

Momtaza: Thematically, I'm interested in the many lies we tell ourselves, as well as the lies that are told about us. The entitlement we sometimes feel to the stories of survivors, to reliving their pain whether they've asked us to or not. The awe I feel when I think about how much our community has gone through, and continues to go through. How mundane and every-day displacement and transgenerational patterns of heartache are. I’m interested not so much in violence, but how we still lean back and giggle after its repetitive occurrence. Lately, I've been writing a lot about faith, flirting and those spaces where language fails me.

SA: Has there been a specific moment in your life that has influenced your poems in any way?

Momtaza: Too many. My life is an extension of everyone who has invested time and love into me. Like many eldest daughters, I grew up too fast. So, yes, I have many stories. That's not to say my poetry is 100% confessional but there's a lot of shit I'm still processing. I will write about seeing a possessed woman scratching the walls getting the jinn exorcised out of her. About men who refuse to talk about how they lost all their fingers. About constantly moving to and from somewhere. Documenting these stories is my way of record-keeping. I don't want to sound like a parasite but I learn a lot from the heartbreaks of those closest to me. I want to honour their survival and daily joy. The women of our community, especially, amaze me every day with stories of what they’ve had to overcome, the dreams they had to shelve and what they’ve spent lifetimes protecting us from. Their stories mean so much to me.


SA: Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems?

 Definitely. I'm glad I stumbled across such a variety of forms. Poetry that isn't afraid to toy with language and draw from so many worlds. You don't have to be confined to borders or other people's fantasies of what a refugee or diasporic poet should sound like. I am not responsible for the crisis in anyone's imagination. Of course, #diasporablues is very real and I too sometimes feel like my entire life is an out-of-body experience. But that’s not the only kind of poetry we can produce. Being reduced to that can mean your work or craft is being read only as anthropology. I tried to read my way backwards as well as searching out contemporary experimental poets to give me a good idea of all that is possible. Then, I started seeing poetry where I didn’t expect it.  Poetry is how we're still singing Tala' al-Badru 'Alaynā more than 1400 years later. It's how Somali girls turn into the best hype-women when their friends are dancing. It's our intra-diaspora jokes about who has the worst accent. It’s what hooyo sings under her breath as she does the laundry. It’s habibi Frank Ocean telling us he ain’t gone wallahi. You can write about all of that and it's OK. It's all poetry, all Gucci.

SA: Who do you read or what poems do you turn to in times of need?

Momtaza: Essex Hemphill because there is so much communal love in his words. Akilah Oliver because she was so terrifyingly sensitive. Her poetry is like remembering a dream after you've woken up. Faysal Cumar Mushteeg because I have to shout out the OG's who speak of love and loss in the language of my grandparents. Also don't think I can continue without naming Mahmoud Darwish as I learnt so much about the absence I and those around me felt in our bones through him. Sandra Cisneros and Lorna Dee Cervantes for my borderlands feels.

SA: What are you currently reading and/or working on?

Momtaza: Right now I’m working my way through; Jasmine Gibson’s Drapetomania, i be, but i ain't by Aziza Barnes, The Consequences of My Body by Maged Zaher and In the Wake: On Blackness and Being by Christina Sharpe, the last of which I’ve been dipping into and digesting bit by bit. I would also recommend Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans to anyone else in a love-hate relationship with rappers. In my research, I’ve been reading Rashad Hashim’s work. He’s a Sudanese poet who's also technically British as he was born in and references London. He and his love and fellow poet Zina Mahjoub are like the Sudanese Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes, but with henna painted hands.

Currently, I'm working on my first full collection which will hopefully be out before the world ends. I'll also be published in a few upcoming anthologies so Alhamdulillah overall.

SA: What advice would you give to other young women who want to start writing poetry?

Momtaza: You've probably heard it before but READ. Then READ some more. Lose yourself in women who look like you, who speak like you, who hurt like you. Ignore everyone who tells you this is a small bubble. I can guarantee you their bubble is even smaller. Then branch out to your heart's desire. Write from the centre. You are the centre. Have the confidence of a token black man in an artsy crowd. Weaponize your longing. Weaponize what makes you different. You don’t have to only write truth to power, you can turn your back on it too. There are more options than you can imagine. Most of all, find/create a network of women to remind you of how necessary your work is on the worst days.


Sagal Abdulle is an Editor of Araweelo Abroad


By Ahlam A.

january 2013 

i thought about my family. i thought about the complexities of my fucked up identity. i thought about my queerness. my somaali-ness. my relationship with allah. i thought about jamila. i grab my headphones from the depths of my backpack. i try my best to hold back tears. but i cried a cry that i could feel throughout my spine.

august 2013

the train halted at its final stop. i grabbed my belongings and rushed down the aisle towards the exit door. the air was cold and breezy. i remember the conversation i had with aabo last week over the phone. i could hear in his voice that he’s aging and that he’s heartbroken. i don’t speak much. i haven’t told him about jamila. we never speak about marriage and we never speak about hooyo. after a long pause he says, “i haven’t seen you in so long, when will you come see me?” i remember the smell of his ‘attar, his hearty laugh, and sad eyes. “soon aabo, i promise, soon.” we hung up the phone with silence lingering on both ends.

february 2014

i came home to the smell of warm caanjeero and lianne la havas plays lightly throughout our shabby apartment we called home. i slip off my shoes and toss my hijab over the couch. i make my way towards the kitchen. i kiss her temples and grab her waist. she laughs. i hold her tighter. through her skin i can smell jannah and home. jamila loves me. every night after we recite our duas together, she whispers to me, “macaanto, don’t forget i love you.” 

june 2014

“hey love, come home soon. i need to know you’re alright.” jamila sends me a text. and i rush to the nearest taxi. my palms start to sweat. i run up the seven flights of stairs with my heart sitting in my throat. i struggle finding the house key to open the door. i yell for her name. last week jamila told me she wanted to tell her family about us. about our love. she sits with her phone in her hand shaking. “i was going to wait and ask you first, but i didn’t want you to stop me.” i wasn’t mad. i was looking at her deep brown eyes. and then her soft lips. “jamila, what did they say?” she looks at me with earnest eyes with grief painted on her face. “hooyo told me she is sending curses upon us.. abdirizaq told me to fuck off and to never claim somaali again. ruwaydah says she will never claim a dyke as her family.” she paused. she hadn’t mentioned her ayeeyo. “and ayeeyo says she’ll pray that allah shows us mercy and that he’ll find a spot for us in jannah.” she fell to the ground yanking her hair and screamed.

december 2014

last night i found jamila huddled in the corner of the shower. her hair matted against her face. water was running with red streams. i grab her hands furiously. she told me she stopped. i ran to grab the first aid kit inside the kitchen cupboards. i shut the water off and wrapped her in a soft yellow towel. i gently wrap her arms with an ace bandage and apply pressure. i kiss both her arms and pick her up to the bed. i grabbed her favorite baati, the one i brought with me from my visit with my auntie, and dressed her. she’s unresponsive. i walk towards the stereo and turn surah al-baqarah on. it plays softly throughout the house. “i’m sorry,” she manages to say through her quivering lips. i lay her down and tuck her into bed. i shut the blinds and dim the lights. she gestures for me to lay by her. i grab my gold and black quran and place her head into my lap. i read to her until she drifts off to sleep. i turn the lamp off and say my duas for the both of us. before drifting off to sleep, i whisper, “i love you macaanto. may allah sustain us both.”

may 2015

jamila left yesterday to do umrah. something has changed with her. i lay in bed naked smoking a cigarette i bummed off a man at the train stop. i haven’t prayed in 3 weeks.

june 2015

we made love three times that night. until our sweat was the only thing familiar between us. 


photo credit:


5 Films about Black Women

by Samiira Garane

We consider ourselves to be film fans here at Araweelo Abroad. While we lean more towards art house/ international films/ classics, we always prioritize films about the black diaspora generally and black women specifically. Here’s a brief list of 5 films/docs we love. Turn one of these on the next time you’re lost in the Netflix/Hulu/HBO black hole looking for something to watch!

1)     What Happened Miss Simone? dir. Liz Garbus (2015)

What happened to the most exquisite musician to have ever graced the stage? What Happened Miss Simone? is a heart-breaking tale of one of the most gifted musical artists of our time. On full display are Nina Simone’s turbulent relationship with her family and her attempts at seeking refuge fromboth her stardom and the racism that plagued African Americans during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. What Happened Miss Simone? Is an intimate portrayal of Nina Simone. Garbus masterfully crafts an answer to the question many of Nina Simone’s fans have been asking.

2)    Daughters of the Dust dir. Julie Dash (1991)

The name of this gorgeous and lush independent film by Julie Dash resurfaced when Beyoncé referenced it in the music video for her album Lemonade. The film itself is an expressionistic tale of three generations of Gullah women wo are preparing to make the migration north. The film gained praise for showcasing the Gullah people and how they’ve managed to preserve their African heritage, culture and rituals. It also gives a peek into the lives of these three generations of women and how they deal with troubles within themselves, their own communities and navigating desires that might steer them away from their history.

3)    Pariah dir. Dees Rees (2011)

Pariah is both a coming of age and coming out story. At the center of the film is a Brooklyn teenager named Alike whose attempts at navigating her identity is thwarted by her parent’s rejection and denial of her sexuality. Rees’s film gives us an intimate view of a timid black queer girl in the throes of teenage self-discovery. Adepero Oduyes portrayal of the film’s protagonist makes it all the more heartfelt and compelling.

4)    The Watermelon Woman dir. Chantel Dunye (1996)

Chantel Dunye’s mission to excavate the lives of black women in old Hollywood movies who were often left uncredited goes beyond her search for the actress only know as Watermelon Woman. Dunye’s funny and thoughtful film looks closely at the complicated lives of a queer black women in the 1990s, the 1940s and today.

5)    Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners dir. Shola Lynch (2013)

Free Angela Davis is a riveting documentary about Angela Davis’s time behind bars after her social activism embroiled her in a botched kidnapping/murder attempt. Free Angela Davis and all Political Prisoners illustrates a rare example of when a nation rallied behind a black woman to prove her innocence and set her free.


Samiira Garane is a staff writer at Araweelo Abroad

Garissa / Burning Frankincense

by Sadia Hassan


There was the lorry that carried aye Fahmo and Bahsho across

baked earth, and that too was Garissa.


There were the questions that came back half chewed,

ambapo ni kipanda yako? Where are your papers?


The Swahili we swallowed in terror, the eyes yellowed from heat

darting across skin and the answers panted back slick with sweat: Sujui.                                                                              


I don’t know in one language

Somali-Kenyan in the other.


Garissa, where I’d become a woman

swimming in a language too big for her body

until my body

favoring loss

learned to speak

in absence.


There were the soldiers red-hatted—toothpicks

an extra appendage hanging wet and alert—that tried once

to woo me off a bus with red eyes and a wink.


Told me I’d been the woman

smuggling children yesterday,

and today a baby goat.  


The goat’s not mine, I said,

knowing maybe no longer

was Garissa


nor the refugee camp which housed us

nor the dust lining my toes

nor this language

and the tongue around it


Burning Frankincense


“He showed me how a drop of tequila on its tail can make a scorpion sting itself to death.”

Amy Hempel, reasons to live


We found him after Raxma left,

A moldy pile beneath the covers.


I checked for breath beneath the rubble

and found him wet with sleep and tequila.


Mama checked the walls for shit stains,

found only a film of sweat.


Baba burned frankincense to hide the smell

Of trapped heat and urine. I stood


close to the bed, protective. I stood

over the edge, unmoving.


The radio played Mohamed Mooge

Plucking strings on a tin banjo


In the song, a young man laments

Hadad laheyn maxaad siin?


If you have nothing, what are you to give?


Baba hides his watering eyes behind the smoke.

Mama busies herself with the window.


Sadia Hassan is a Somali writer living Oakland, CA. Her work has previously appeared in The Dartmouth, The Dartmouth Radical, Black Girl Dangerous, Documentum and is forthcoming in VQR and Halal if you Hear Me, an anthology of Muslim writers. She writes obsessively about the geography of loss, about displacement and belonging, wars and borders, trauma, refugee migration, and healing through ritual. She is a graduate of Dartmouth’s African/African-American Studies and Creative Writing program and is a Fine Arts Work Center Summer Fellow and the inaugural Terry Tempest Williams Fellow for Land and Justice at Mesa Refuge. You can contact her at:


Small talk / The unthought has a comb

by Momtaza Mehri


Small talk

you michelangelo’s crouching boy/ you d’angelo’s purr/ you dead currency/ you dead presidents/ you a stick of incense/ you a stick-up artist/ you haraami/ you the hum of a lifetime basined in my lap/ count our tallies of loss backwards for me/ run to the bank & translate it into a lush of green of your choice/ or something else sanctified / or european/ pick the synonym of your choice.

in a traditional sense/ the body holds its arithmetic/ exports its outwards/ to the touch and exhale/ twinned and spent against a groan of concrete/ here, an elevator is our only spiritual ascension/ can i be excused from living so slimly?

i dream you closer too/ besides the honey-coloured dog licking its vulva/ a silent laugh swelling inside your throat/ ask me about blood clots and spun coins/ the cracked skin of heels/ anything but the nightly heartbreaks of / too many addresses/ and all the ways/ i am still auditioning/ for this country’s approval.

The unthought has a comb

Friday night communion looks like washing your hair as the water swallows your people.

Do it anyway. Two picks at hand, MANAFACTURED IN NIGIERIA,

the teeth a fine row of discipline.  Remind me. It hurts. It should.

Olive oil to drip down the elbows, the good stuff,

poured how you were taught. Slicken down the pauses. Shea—spit mix,

for the baby hairs,

set the helical right down to the lid.

Mama gave you a head of hair to write about,

the kind that’s a second passport. We all nurse our blessings.

A new-born dangles between his mother’s legs, the sea his first taste of salt.

This too, a blessing. A woman splits herself apart, an ankle in each time zone.

A meaning in none. 


Claim nothing more than each knuckle’s crack, the Lord’s work in each braid,

to the quick. Loop a finger in coil and split

the shore in half. Bring back those who left.

All their small deaths line the dressing table,

balanced on its lip, and floating.

Prick the greased scalp awake.  Takes a good two hours, sometimes more,

to set the waves in motion.


There is no ‘us’. You, untangling, from inside the island,

the child of rolled dice and fluke,

collapsing yourself into a guilt,

made for your own longing.

One Year and Eleven Months

By Hawa Y. Mire

one year and eleven months

We drive through the winding grave site unable to pinpoint at first exactly which grave ayeeyo is in.

We stop, section 12.

Aabo asks me to jump out and check the number of the grave in front of me. I open the door, drop into crunchy fresh snow and use my fingertips to wipe away snow from slate. Abdullah. Muslim. The right section.

We turn the car around and just as suddenly as nearly two years ago I am back here again, standing over her grave- all of my aunts, her children, around me. Lips moving, Quran under breath. The kind of sobbing that sounds as dry as tinder used to spark fire, the heaves an inhalation of smoke. My legs move, muscle memory. They know precisely the location of her grave.

We pile out.

Aabo, me, my visiting uncle from Australia.

His aunt lying in the ground beneath us.

We huddle around one another. The white snow disappearing into the gravel beneath us and read the requisite prayer over the dead. All I can think about is whether or not she hears us. Whether or not she is sitting up in her grave watching us pray over her.

My father leaves first, first to arrive. I'm next and my uncle follows long moments later.

The boot patterns of melting snow follow us onto the grey speckled pavement. The car is eerily silent until we drive through the same winding roads, and exit from the main gate. The air thick begins to loosen itself around my lungs.

Aabo begins to suddenly speak                                                                                      it was this kind of cold when we buried her but we were lucky, the ground was hard enough, not wet so it made the job easy.

He doesn't talk often of what happened that day after the women left the mosque, and the men went to bury my grandmother.

we made sure to put her in a good sturdy box so she wouldn’t get wet.

In less time than it takes him to utter those words, I’m quickly back in the mosque where I saw her last. Her body shrouded in white, being placed into a large wooden coffin. As the janazah began, and the iman began to intone the familiar words, sidling under his words was the steady pounding of nails into coffin.




The closing of lid, the finality of her body taken from us. That was the first time in weeks I cried, huge rolling tears dripping from my chin to chest.

Sad again, pained again, grieving again, I sit in the back of the car. My father and uncle continue talking about all kinds of everyday things. And I sit, looking out the window, thinking of how our noses go crooked the moment just after death.

And I try not to cry.