There has been a piece of weaving in the Cedar Commons lately. I wasn’t sure what it was, except that it was strips of fabric woven through wooden dowels. There is a group of Somali women and moms who meet down there every Thursday afternoon and Sunday. They gather for conversation and community. They eat and listen to music, exercise, drum and dance, and share crafts they are working on. I have seen the beautiful knitting and beadwork they are working on. And I have enjoyed their sambusas and Somali tea. I have listened to their music in person and through the floor in my office. And I have been amazed by their graceful dancing, so graceful that I haven’t had the nerve to join them, yet.
They are always so grateful when I join them. I always leave having been enriched by their beautiful creations, food and company.
But I couldn’t figure out what the weaving was. It’s about four feet high with bands of cloth woven between dowels that are just a fraction of an inch apart. I had only seen it between their gathering times all rolled up.
Last Thursday I found out what it is. The piece was unrolled and was about 15’ long. It had been in process for several weeks and clearly involved a lot of weaving, and devotion. Some of the women were working on it. Seated on chairs they were carefully weaving the different colors of fabric in and out between the dowels.
It turns out that it is a wall. For an aqal, a Somali hut. During the summer there has been an aqal in the old neighborhood of Cedar-Riverside. The women had been gathering there each Thursday until the weather became too cold. They are now in Trinity’s lower level, the Cedar Commons until warmer weather returns.
They are preparing for this coming summer, when they will resume meeting at the aqal. During the previous months that the aqal had been standing the weather had taken a toll and the fabric that had been on the wooden frame of the aqal had, for all intents and purposes, fallen apart. These women were working on the new wall for their aqal.
In warm weather they gather around the aqal for conversation and community. They eat and listen to music, drum and dance, and share crafts they are working on. And they talk. They invite anyone who is walking by to join them. The community comes together for support and for fun. This wall woven with memories from Somalia is becoming a place for their dreams of the future and for their lives here and now.
This coming summer there will be a bright, new wall.
This kind of wall I like. In fact, it is a beautiful wall. If only all walls brought people together rather than keeping them apart. The world definitely needs more aqals like this one.
Original Journal Entry Date: 1/16/19
© 2019 Jane Buckley-Farlee