Kate McDonald

Ifrah Mansour is a multimedia artist and teacher living in Minneapolis. Much of her work centers around the Somali refugee experience.  She read her poem “I am a Refugee” at Twin Cities Refugee Day, where these portraits were taken.

She spoke with me about the story behind her work.

KM: Can you describe your own experience as a refugee?  

IM: I was a child when my family and I fled the civil war in Somalia. No know should ever have to go through what a refugee experiences.

KM: Why did you decide to write this poem?

IM: I wanted to respond to the global refugee politics that is often harsh and dehumanizing. I just wanted to write a poem that listed all the blessings and the lessons refugees teach us.

I really hope that regardless of race, religion, and circumstance that we learn to see all humans as individuals who should have equal rights to find a safe home and the pursuit of happiness. The refugee experience is diverse and unique for every individual. When a person is forced out of their homes, all that they know is the fear, hunger and danger on their entire world.

KM: Is this poem based on your personal experience or is it a more general of the refugee experience?

IM: This poem was inspired by the new refugees that I work with and the diverse individuals I see on the metro transit. There is a mixture of hope and perseverance. There is this unapologetic strength of “we’ve survived civil wars, famines, and tyrants. We’ll get through this as well”

KM: What was challenging about writing this poem?  

IM: I wanted to capture the resilient spirit of refugees around the world, but I also wanted to be honest about our current harsh politics towards refugees.

KM: What do you hope for the refugees of the world?

IM: I really wish for every refugee to find a safe home, peace, and belonging somewhere. Is it that what we all want?